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The Tory leadership contest could be the political equivalent of the Grand National

October 4th, 2015

How many will fall at the first fence?

There’s a fascinating article by Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times (££) published today about the attempts to stop a George Osborne coronation in the race to succeed David Cameron, with 18 (yes eighteen) past and present ministers thinking about running against Osborne. Shipman reports

Senior Tories claimed last week that the prime minister would announce he is standing down in the spring of 2019, with the plan to install Osborne as leader at the party conference in October that year.

One cabinet minister, however, told The Sunday Times they would not stand for a “cosy stitch-up” and another condemned the briefing as an example of “George’s ambition getting the better of him.”……

…..A second cabinet minister said: “There will be three candidates. George, the ‘stop George’ candidate, and whoever George runs as the ‘stop-stop-George’ candidate.”

I think one of the reasons we’re seeing so many potential runners in this race is that there are now numerous Conservative MPs who normally wouldn’t have leadership ambitions can easily see themselves beating Jeremy Corbyn in a general election at a canter. That might be hubris or that might be electoral reality given Mr Corbyn’s poor personal polling so far.

With more runners in the race than we would normally expect this might add a new level of uncertainty to the outcome of the leadership race, there is also the danger that all of this jostling makes David Cameron look like a lame duck leader which may lead to him standing down as Prime Minister sooner than he anticipated. Cameron must surely now regret his answer to James Landale’s question about his future during the election campaign.

TSE