Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


The reshuffle has left TMay weaker but has it hastened her departure?

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

There’s still no obvious alternative

The former shadow CON minister and head of ConHome, Paul Goodman, has given his damning verdict on the reshuffle under the heading “The worst-handled reshuffle in recent history – perhaps ever”.

This, of course, follows other PM “set pieces” like her October conference speech and the GE17 campaign that didn’t go according to plan.

He highlights that “for several days, the media was full of stories about why the Prime Minister didn’t rate Justine Greening. If they had been knocked down, the latter might have been willing to stay on.” Undoubtedly TMay has made more enemies and Goodman raises the possibility that Greening and even DGreen might join the Brexit belligerents on the back benches.

So the Conservative’s very tight parliamentary position could get even tighter. If both Green and Greening back, say, a controversial Brexit amendment that reduces the government’s theoretical commons majority by four.

No doubt it adds to the number of CON MPs who are ready at the right moment to write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee asking for a confidence vote.

But Theresa May is still there. She is remarkably resilient and has managed to continue in spite of events that other earlier leaders would have found insurmountable. Losing the Conservative majority in June, her less than successful conference speech in October, and now, of course, this botched attempt to add sparkle to her government.

What saves her is that there is no obvious alternative. The 30% betting favourite following the election defeat last June, Boris Johnson, has now slipped sharply down; David Davis who looked like the best alternative for a long period is now down to just 3% in the betting; and two of the top three that the markets most rate, Rees-Mogg and Ruth Davidson are not even Cabinet ministers. The latter is not even an MP.

Boris is still second favourite but it is very hard to envisage him being able to secure the backing of enough MPs to get himself through to the members’ ballot.

Dominic Raab, who wasn’t given a cabinet position in the reshuffle and remains largely unknown outside the party, is now rated as a 5% chance on Betfair. He’s my long shot bet.

Andrea Leadsom is now down at a 3% chance.

Mrs May, meanwhile, continues to give the impression that she’d like to continue perhaps until tthe next general election. Maybe she will do that in spite of everything.

So I am not betting on her early departure.

Mike Smithson


Why TMay should wait to reshuffle her cabinet

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

There is a good reason why PMs do not reshuffle only 6 months after a GE

One of the easier predictions I thought I’d made in a twitter string earlier this week was that Theresa May wouldn’t engage in a voluntary major reshuffle of her cabinet this year. Within two hours of me doing so, the political twittersphere was alive with speculation and supposedly informed comment that just such a reshuffle was imminent – talk that Number Ten did little to dampen.

Not that Number Ten ever does much to dampen or encourage speculation of this type, which is a serious error. Whatever happens now, May is in a worse position. If a reshuffle does go ahead, ministers have had several days to organise, lobby and plot; if it doesn’t, it looks as if she’s backed down.

    The repeated refusal of the PM’s media team to engage proactively in setting the news agenda is light years from the days of New Labour’s fabled grid – and light years from New Labour’s media effectiveness. It does, however, mirror May.

Certainly, the media has changed since the 1990s but not all that much – and to the extent that it has, it demands even faster, on-the-ball responses to social media trends and 24-hours news.

Commenting on one of Corbyn’s early, botched reshuffles, William Hague identified six Reshuffle Rules in an article for The Telegraph. The first two were (1) reshuffles should come as a complete surprise to virtually everyone, and (2) a leader should never lose a contest of strength in deciding whether or not to move a minister. In being seen to march up the hill but not acting, May has already broken by far the most important rule and has made it more likely that she’ll break the second one too. Both are about the leader’s authority and both identify why reshuffles are so risky: handled well, they will reinforce the leader’s position; handled badly, they leave him or her looking weak and at the mercy of colleagues.

Which is why May should not be indulging in a reshuffle now. The time she should ideally have reshuffled (and would have done had things been different) was immediately after the election but her position then was so weak that she needed all the support she could get and couldn’t afford to alienate any senior figure or their MP supporters – which meant she couldn’t force someone out against their will. In keeping with Rule 2, she therefore didn’t engage in a test of strength that she couldn’t win.

May is not now in quite as weak a position as she was in June. The shock of the election has worn off, the deal with the DUP has been sealed, and she has delivered on the first round of Brexit talks. The timeframe of talk of her exit is in years rather than days. For all that, her majority is marginal and dependent on both the DUP and potentially rebellious backbenchers, and a senior ex-minister on the back-benches could make life very difficult for her. The intensity of the reasons for not reshuffling last June might have faded but the mathematics remain.

One aspect of those mathematics is that if you were wanting to sack some ministers, both because of their performance and to bring in new blood, names that might be under threat could be people like Boris, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Graying. With David Davis having already been sidelined to a degree with May having taken a more direct role in the negotiations, and having already lost Priti Patel, that cumulative effect would be a major blow to the original Leavers, something which would surely inspire at best concern and at worst outright hostility from Eurosceptic MPs and others, worried that the government was drifting towards a very soft exit. There are, of course, far more Leave Tory MPs than the number necessary to trigger a leadership vote. In theory, she could replace the outgoing Leavers with new ones but in practice, it might not be so easy to find square pegs to fit into square holes. Similarly, throwing some Remainers to the wolves in compensation isn’t a viable possibility because she needs their support too.

On the other hand, what would be the point of a reshuffle where dead wood couldn’t be cut off? That too would be a very open admission of weakness. Indeed, it was the very reason she didn’t do it six months ago.

The other reason why prime ministers don’t reshuffle so early in the parliament is because ministers have important jobs to do and in the first year after an election, they’re usually busy setting the agenda for reform and for legislation. This one may be slightly different in that there’s less work of that nature than usual – Brexit, May’s innate caution, and the aborted 2015 parliament all mitigate against a current rush of action – but there’s still work ongoing.

Above all, that means the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. On that score, Davis’ position has to be secure: there simply isn’t the time for anyone else to get up to speed on both the negotiations and the legislation.

None of these structural issues is going to go away any time, which is a problem for May as they will always limit her room for manoeuvre unless she can regain her lost authority. Without that, it’s difficult to see a window opening in which she can conduct a meaningful reshuffle until the Phase 2 Brexit deal is concluded, probably in December.

This isn’t to say there won’t be a January reshuffle; a PM can always instigate one. It does mean, however, that if May does choose to push on with re-forming the government, there’s a strong chance that something will go wrong.

David Herdson


This could be the start of a Stop Gavin succeeding Theresa move

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

The Times is reporting this morning that during the intense negotiations to bolster the minority government after the general election the then chief whip Gavin Williams offered the DUP a cabinet post.

We all remember how long it seemed to take for the negotiations with the DUP to provide supply and confidence went on. According to the Times report, linked to in the Tweet above, the man sent out to secure the deal, Gavin Williamson, went well beyond his brief and is said have offered the DUP a cabinet place.

Apparently the DUP’s Nigel Dodd was being lined up for Liam Fox’s International Trade Secretary job. This didn’t go down well at Number 10 where people were said to be horrified.

    The question we should ask, of course, is why this story should be coming out 6 months later?

It seems like an effort to discredit Williamson who, of course, replaced Michael Fallon last month as Defence Sec. This appointment was highly controversial at the time given Williamson’s lack of any ministerial experience.

As has been reported he is now being called “Private Pike” by his detractors. The source of the story is said by the Times to be “a former senior official”.

Williamson, who played a big part in TMay’s leadership campaign in July 2016, is one of my long shot bets to succeed her.

Mike Smithson


In terms of leadership chances Jeremy Hunt emerges as the winner from the DGreen exit

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Why I’ve had a punt on the HealthSec to succeed TMay

Yesterday I had a bet for the first time on the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as next Conservative leader. I got 23/1 on Betfair.

I know other PBers have been betting and tipping him at longer odds and well done to them.

What convinced me that Hunt might be in the running was that it was he who was sent out to do the Today programme interview only hours after the Damian Green exit from the cabinet. It used to be Green, of course, who did the Today programme interviews when things were a bit tricky for the government.

Hunt handled yourself impressively well and was both frank and clear. One of the things about being a Conservative Health Secretary is that you get used to dealing with tough situations and confrontations.

    What struck me is that Hunt is streets ahead in terms of his ability to communicate compared with the inarticulate DDavis and bumbling Boris Johnson as well as the other ministers ahead of him in the betting for next leader.

The big question course is when will there be a contest. Quite remarkably Theresa May has survived until now but we have to acknowledge that she could be faced with a challenge at just about anytime given the febrile nature of Brexit politics.

Hunt is a great survivor and is one of a very small list who have remained continuously as cabinet members since the Cameron government came in on May 11th 2010.

He’s worth a bet.

Mike Smithson


Making Amber Rudd Tory Leader & Prime Minister might be the only way to ensure she holds her seat.

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Every Tory leader since WWII has increased the Tory share of the vote in their constituency in their first general election as leader except Mrs May

It appears Amber Rudd’s majority of 346 in Hastings & Rye is seen as a bar on her being Theresa May’s successor as some Tories don’t want the symbolic moment of the next general election to be the Tory PM losing their seat. Nor do they want their leader spending most of the campaign in their constituency trying to hang on when they could be more effective across the country.

But if we look at the charts above, we can see every Tory leader since World War Two, except Mrs May, has seen an increase in their share of the vote in their constituency their first general election as leader. It appears being party leader meets with the approval of your local electorate.

On swings to the Tories, every Tory leader has seen a swing to them except Theresa May, John Major, and Edward Heath, the swing against Heath can be attributed to the snap election called by Harold Wilson which say Labour increase their majority.

In 1992 John Major saw his majority increase from an impressive 27,044 to an eye watering majority of 36,230. By contrast in June Mrs May saw her majority fall from 29,059 to 26,459. The notional swing against Major was from the fact that the previous general election the party in second place was the SDP who by 1992 were defunct, and in Huntingdon both the Liberal Democrats and Liberals stood splitting the vote and allowing Labour to come through the middle to take second place, a situation that seems unlikely to happen in Hastings & Rye.

So long as Mrs Rudd doesn’t run a general election campaign as bad as Theresa May’s 2017 campaign, history suggests Amber Rudd will hold her seat if she’s the incumbent Prime Minister and Tory leader, having such a small majority shouldn’t be a bar on her becoming Prime Minister.


N.B. For Alec Douglas-Home I have calculated the increase/swing as the change from the 1963 by election, as he wasn’t the incumbent at the previous general election. I nearly excluded him from the list given the unique circumstances of his ascension to the Premiership


Jacob Rees-Mogg might not even be a Tory MP at the time of the next Tory leadership contest

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Could JRM be without the Tory whip at the time of the next leadership contest?

One of the reasons I’m laying Jacob Rees-Mogg in the next Tory leader/PM markets, apart from the the fact he’s the favourite. There’s also the not so insignificant chance he might not have the Tory whip at the time of the next Tory leadership contest. One of the requirements to stand for the Tory leadership is that you need to be a Member of Parliament in receipt of the Tory whip.

Watching that video in the tweet above it is clear Jacob Rees-Mogg is unhappy and incredulous that Mrs May could be charting such a course of action on Brexit. In the words of Harry Cole it might a case of ‘Backbench blowhards gonna blow,’ but we must remember including Bob Spink, in the last decade the only three Tory MPs to have defected from the party have defected to UKIP, the EU matters quite a lot to some Tories.

Achieving a successful Brexit requires a lot of pragmatism and compromise, so far Mrs May’s recent approach has that in plentiful supply, Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments don’t seem to have much pragmatism and compromise, it isn’t hard to see Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming a self-consumed malcontent over Brexit.

Whilst it might come as a shock to Tim Montgomerie and Nadine Dorries, the Euro-sceptic wing of the Tory party do have a history of rebelling against a Tory government on matters related to the European Union, most (in)famously over the Maastricht Treaty, to the point where Rupert Allason had the whip removed, the following year several more Tory MPs had the whip removed for not supporting John Major’s government on another EU related matter.

When I hear talk of ‘vassal state’ alarm bells start going off in my head about the political judgment of the person making such comments. A country with an independent nuclear deterrent is no vassal state. The fact that Boris Johnson uses the ‘vassal state’ phrase in this morning’s Sunday Times comes as no surprise to me.

The rebels of yore were prepared to risk ending a Tory government, I won’t be surprised if current Euro-sceptics are prepared to bring down the May Government even with the attendant risk of making Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister if they don’t get the pure Brexit they want.

When betting on the next Tory leader/PM markets it might be wise to think ‘Is this candidate likely to have the Tory whip at the time of the next leadership contest?’ It could be the difference between making a profit or a loss.


PS – Hat-tip to David Herdson for being the inspiration behind this thread.


For the first time Scots CON leader, RDavidson, hints that Westminster might be a possiblity

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

The first step to her becoming leader?

The woman who saved TMay’s bacon on June 8th, Scots CON leader Ruth Davidson, has hinted that becoming a Westminster MP might just be a possibility.

For a very long time Davidson has figured highly in the betting and in surveys of Tory members. There’s little doubt that it was her leadership in Scotland that helped the party gain 12 Scottish seats on June 8th. Without the CON performance in Scotland the overall party performance would have looked a bit sick.

Clearly the first requirement for her to be leader is to be an MP.

Mike Smithson


Jacob Rees-Mogg now clear betting favourite to be next CON leader

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The history of the Tory party is that favourites rarely make it

The latest betting chart from is above and shows Jacob Rees-Mogg now clear favourite to succeed TMay but a 14% chance is not that strong. He’s the third Tory to have been favourite since the general election and who knows others could follow.

My first ever bet as a 16 year old (I went into a bookie wearing my school blazer and yes I was breaking the law) was on the 1963 CON contest when there was no electoral process within the party and even MPs didn’t get a vote. The system involved a new leader “emerging” in an apparently mystical process. The hot favourite had been Rab Butler but Earl Home, who later became a commoner and fought a by-election to become an MP, was the winner. My first ever political bet was a loser but that did not stop me.

After the party’s defeat in 1964 the Tories introduced a new system with MPs making the choice. The first to benefit was Edward Heath, who wasn’t favourite, who went on to lead his party to a majority in 1970.

We are in a very strange position at the moment. It is widely acknowledged that Mrs. May will step down after Brexit if not before so the person who will lead the party into the next election is not yet known.

My guess is that we’ll see others move into the favourite slot before a successor is chosen.

Mike Smithson