• Development Intelligence

Tory Leadership Race – Where are we at?

David Sedlecky - CC by-SA 4.0

Boris is the favourite, we all know that. What we also know is that the favourite has almost never won in any Tory leadership election going back to the 1960s. They get stabbed to death by all the other candidates. Fatally wounded, they limp more weakly than expected out of the first round and then implode/withdraw. Moreover, for Boris to triumph, he has to deliver no cock ups for eight weeks. Has there ever been an eight week period when Boris hasn’t said or done something terminally dumb? We still struggle to see the current crop of Tory MPs, having watched Boris absolutely crash and burn as Foreign Secretary, finally letting him be one of the last two candidates that gets sent to Tory members with the racing certainty that he’d ultimately win.

Clearly ‘no deal’ is where the action is right now for the leadership contenders. It is the dividing line between the candidates. Which one can find the words, the nuance, the spin that works its magic on their Tory MP selectors?

There are however some interesting non-starters in the race. Amber Rudd has accepted gravity and realised that her Remainer clique is so small it cannot deliver her enough Tory MPs let alone Tory members, and so rather sensibly has decided not to run. Phillip Hammond likewise. Liz Truss, who has been flexing her Thatcherite Brexiteer muscles for months, has also realised that the Brexiteer fight is too crowded with too many better supported candidates and so is also not running. David Davis, touted not many weeks ago as the perfect interim Brexit deal leader, has also succumbed to reality. (This must be the first Tory leadership race he hasn’t joined in our lifetime!) And our man from the Dove soap adverts, the ego that is Johnny Mercer, has amazingly worked out that he stands no chance so is supporting Boris.

There are of course still some potential joke candidates, those who see something in their bathroom mirror each morning that no other human does; step forward Steve Baker, James Cleverly, Penny Mordaunt and James Brokenshire who are still mulling whether to declare. And of course Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart who have. The names get even funnier with Graham Brady actually believing his reflection. (Please, someone get these people to the opticians!)

Then there are the interesting underperformers: Sajid Javid, anyone? He had it all on a plate when he was promoted to Home Secretary, but he has seriously underwhelmed since. It would have seemed odd if he didn’t run, what with that ‘straight out of central casting’ back story, but that just isn’t enough by itself. Early days though.

There are of course some ‘dark horse’ candidates lurking in the shadows, the ones that few people are talking about and, when all the leading contenders have shot pieces off each other, could slip out into the light and then go on to win. This is the route that Cameron, Major and Thatcher took. There are a couple one could think of here: Kit Malthouse, who has announced he is running; and Damian Hinds, who is expected to join the already crowded field.

It’s a marathon not a sprint and the DI team will give you further updates as the race pans out.