Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


Gove moves into second place as CON MPs prepare to vote for a fifth time

Thursday, June 20th, 2019


Now we are down to the final 4 and CON MPs reject the contender deemed to have “won” last night’s debate

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019


YouGov snap CON debate poll gives it to Stewart amongst all voters by a big margin

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

This raises doubts over BoJo’s ability to win converts

YouGov has published what appears to be the only poll carried out on last night’s CON leader debates. The main details are in the YouGov table above.

While there’s little doubt that the member for Uxbridge does well with Tory voters but the party is going to need much more than them in a general election and that presents something of a dilemma.  That just 7% of Remain voters gave their debate verdict to Johnson is very telling and should be worrying  as it seems set to choose Johnson.

Tony Blair was a hugely successful general election campaigner because he was able to reach voters that other LAB figures had been able to get through to. He won three general election working majorities on the trot.

One of the things that’s always trotted out in relation to Johnson is his success in London. A big factor that helped that, I’d suggest, was that each time his LAB opponent was Ken Livingstone and in 2008 when he first won the London mayoralty Cameron’s Tory party was on a roll.

By May 2008 Brown’s LAB had really run out of steam and the Tories looked as though they were heading for a Commons majority.

Maybe this YouGov poll will help keep Stewart in the race in this afternoon’s ballot of MPs


Mike Smithson





If punters have this right the big loser in the CON debate was Stewart – down from a 9% chance to a 4% one

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Betfair exchange via

For those who didn’t watch just check out the comments on the previous thread.

Overall I don’t think it has changed much. For me the most impressive performers were Hunt and Javid. Stewart didn’t meet expectations and hence his decline in the betting.

Mike Smithson


Maybe Raab’s the one with the best chance of stopping Johnson?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Kitchen Cabinet on choosing between the illness and the cure

Boris Johnson’s election to the Conservative leadership looks almost assured. As I mentioned on a previous thread, Gavin Williamson looks to have done wonders for BoJo’s election prospects. If you are a Boris hater, I might have some good news for you. There is a way he may not be elected. The bad news (for many) is that the only way for that to happen is to have him face Dominic Raab in the members’ ballot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of Raab in terms of electability to the wider public. He comes across as wooden and stiff and non-likeable (although he has an impressive back story). Moreover,  some of his comments around feminism may open him up to attack later, though many in the membership may cheer his stance. However, if you don’t want Johnson as your PM, he is your man.

One way to look at this is to say which opponent, if any, Johnson would like to face in a run-off. Jeremy Hunt would be the favourite.  Easy to characterise as May 2.0, who would flip flop on Brexit and not deliver. Michael Gove would be a close second. The media would love a Gove-BoJo contest but, in reality, it wouldn’t be close. The revelations on Gove are fatal not because he used cocaine (the Conservative membership can be forgiving of personal failings, look at Cecil Parkinson) but because firstly, it shows him to be a hypocrite and, secondly, he looks the sort of guy who used it to impress – not a good look. Oh, and nobody likes a backstabber. Javid might be harder for BoJo but, again, he lacks charisma, can be accused of chickening out on Brexit and the banker angle may be an issue.

That leaves Stewart and Raab. Stewart has been a revelation but, to me, he seems a bit like Game of Thrones – all the luvvies rave about him but the general population couldn’t care less and are watching Coronation Street. His message beyond Brexit is rather vague and he looks odd (mainly not his fault but…). Moreover, BoJo would always be able to use the nuclear weapon of saying Stewart would never fulfil Brexit to persuade the membership to vote for him.

But he could never do that with Raab who could never be accused of threatening to reverse Brexit (at least by BoJo). Raab also has a second agenda he has pushed hard – reducing taxation – which would also be popular amongst the membership and which could win him votes. Boris’ policy commitments are rather, mmm, vague in comparison. Finally, he has been active, both in the media and at the grass roots level, since leaving the Cabinet, which should also help him.

One obvious riposte is that Johnson polls far better than Raab amongst the members. But the real question is how “hard” is that support. I suspect not much. Lord Ashcroft’s feedback suggest that many have negative views on Boris that can be exploited. If Raab pushed hard in a campaign, BoJo May flounder.

The one thing is, though, that I suspect Gavin Williamson is also aware of many of these dynamics and whom would also make the easiest competition for BoJo to face and who wouldn’t. Thus, Raab backers are likely to face subtle hints and threats to withdraw although he may be saved by harder line Brexiteers taking a view that Raab needs to be in the final rounds to stop BoJo reneging on Brexit. We will soon find out.

The Kitchen Cabinet


The CON race is not now about who wins but whether the next PM and leader gets properly tested and scrutinised

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

With Hunt as his postal ballot opponent he’d have a much softer ride than facing Stewart

The recent history of PMs getting the job in a non-contested elections is not a good one. Gordon Brown got his coronation in June 2007 and avoided the probing that would possibly have highlighted his many vulnerabilities. The same happened in July 2016 with TMay.

Both of them,  I’d  argue, would have been better PMs and better general election campaigners if they had had the experience of facing tough contested elections with their party’s members in order to get the job.

That Johnson’s minders feel it is best to keep him away from serious scrutiny hardly gives confidence in his ability to negotiate the most critical issue facing the nation in decades – Brexit. 

From what we saw on Sunday night in the Channel 4 debate and so far during the campaign suggests that Rory Stewart could play a hugely significant role in testing Boris should he make it to the final postal ballot. A programme of hustings and TV debates is planned and the member for Uxbridge would surely prefer to be facing Hunt than his fellow Etonian who has been the surprise of this campaign.

No doubt this is what will be occupying the minds of some Tory MPs this morning as they look towards the second ballot. The result should be known by 6pm.

Mike Smithson



With Johnson looking a near certainty the big betting focus is on who’ll join him in the final 2

Monday, June 17th, 2019

My 13/1 “final 2” bet on Stewart looking promising

Last week I placed a small bet with Ladbrokes on Rory Stewart at 13/1 making the final two in the Conservative leadership contest. The response I got on Twitter was interesting and with most saying I was wasting my money.

Almost whenever I publicise a bet people interpret this a prediction which is not the case. Like all these things it is worth repeating that bets are assertions of value. You have a flutter if you think that chances of something happening are greater than the odds on offer. Given the Ladbrokes price at the time rated him as about a 7% chance my gut instinct that it was greater than that has been shared by others.

After last night’s performances in the Channel 4 debate the price on Stewart getting to the members’ ballot stage has been tightened to 2/1 He’s level pegging with Gove while the favourite to make the postal ballot is Hunt at 6/4. Javid is 12/1 while Raab has eased to 16/1.

Interestingly punters on the Betfair exchange rate Rory better than that.

Given the MP declarations that we know about he has a massive challenge just to stay in the race beyond tomorrow lunchtime. He’s now claiming to have the backing of 33 MPs.

My guess looking forward is that a lot depends on how well Gove does and whether he will shed votes.

I do love Tory leadership races because of the step by step approach.

Mike Smithson



The real driver behind Johnson’s CON MP campaign has been Gavin Williamson, not Lynton Crosby

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

Marf cartoon first appeared after Williamson was sacked

A guest slot by The Kitchen Cabinet

There are some events that seem unimportant and innocuous at the time but which have far reaching consequences on the longer-term. Historically, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 is the biggest example, an event which, at first, attracted little attention but which set off World War I. Another, far less known, is the financial scandals of President Hindenburg’s son, Oskar, which many believe was a major factor in changing Hindenburg’s mind about appointing Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in 1933. We may have our own version right now, not as dramatic (hopefully) in its consequences, but an event that arguably may have changed fundamentally the dynamics of UK politics for good. That event was Theresa May’s sacking of the ex-fireplace salesman extraordinaire and Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson.

Many have ascribed Boris Johnson’s approaching coronation to the skills of Lyndon Crosby. But I would argue that it is Gavin Williamson who has done far more to being about the approach of PM Johnson as his effective campaign manager.

Williamson’s supposed gaffes as Defence Secretary are well known. However, that overlooks his time as Chief Whip, where he was incredibly effective, brokering the DUP-CON pact and ensuring that the Government kept on track. One wonders whether we would have had all the drama with the Withdrawal Agreement if Williamson had remained Chief Whip.

In the campaign for Johnson’s leadership, I would argue that it is Williamson who has won it for BJ and he has again come into his own. It is easy in hindsight to think that Johnson’s route to power was inevitable. But that is not the case. We all know from the comments on this site that Johnson was seen by most (but not all) as embodying the typical perennial pattern of favourites for the next Conservative leader falling at the fence. Few judged he could make the leap. His character was untrustworthy and he would not have the discipline for a campaign. Many of his colleagues disliked him intensely.

Moreover, Johnson’s position as the chief cheerleader for Brexit wasn’t secure. It is easy to mock their campaigns now but both Dominic Raab and Esther McVey could have provided serious competition for that block. Both had been building up their leadership campaigns for months post-their resignations and burnishing their credentials, Raab by constant public appearances, McVey by embedding herself more at the grassroots level. Both had policies that went beyond Brexit to a more overriding vision that would appeal to members – Raab with low taxation, McVey with blue-collar conservatism. Both thought they had the numbers to progress further (Raab has but McVey thought she had at least 20, including Liam Fox who signed the papers for Boris Johnson). Both had good reason to think in a campaign where many candidates would come from the pro-Remain wing that the ERG would decide that they needed to swing behind a pro-Brexit candidate to get the latter into the second round where they would probably win the membership contest and that Johnson wouldn’t be trusted.

Yet that hasn’t happened. Williamson would have realised that getting the support of the main ERG MPs was vital. As long as Johnson could get to the second round and his opponents were the likes of Gove and Hunt, he was most likely in with the membership.

I would argue that what he did phenomenally well was gain the support of this block. Having Rees Mogg, Francois and Baker quickly come out for Johnson effectively demolished any hopes of Johnson being out-Brexited. Meanwhile, his marshalling of MPs for Boris, pointing out that it is better to be on the side of the winner if you wanted a job, has been phenomenal. MPs who publicly stated their disbelief of a PM BoJo have fallen into line. As a result, we now have the situation where, unless BoJo blows up, he will be our next PM.

There are two further points from this. The first is Williamson’s role in a Johnson Government. I think he will be the classic power behind the throne type, effectively directing the new Government. I suspect his job will be more DPM / First Secretary of State than in charge of a department, where his skills would be diminished. He may even head to Brussels to head the negotiations with the EU. What it is likely to mean also is that a Johnson Government will be a lot more disciplined and focused than might be expected. And more successful. Expect an agreement with the EU which is the WA rejigged with some phrases and which can be presented as a triumph (I don’t see Williamson pushing for a No Deal and I think his skills will keep Baker et al on board). Expect more classic Conservative policies of low taxation. And, off the back of this, a GE where I would expect the Conservatives to win against a split opposition and a Brexit Party that would have been defanged.

Secondly, it may have turned out that Theresa May’s most lasting legacy may have been to, inadvertently, smooth the path for Johnson as PM. If Williamson hadn’t been sacked, then he may have been tempted to run for the PM job himself when May had stepped down. Even if he hadn’t, the fact he would have been in the Cabinet, would have made it difficult for him to build the links with the Boris camp. However, outside, he could do what he wanted and it was clear he wanted revenge for his sacking. It would be a fitting summary of Theresa May’s reign that she has smoothed the path as her successor a man she would dearly loved to have kept off the throne.

The Kitchen Cabinet