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HenryG asks: Who’d take over if Dave is forced to quit?

July 18th, 2011

Should you follow Mike’s 33/1 David Davis bet

There’s increased speculation from Iain Dale and The Telegraph that David Cameron may end up quitting over the fallout from his relations to Coulson, Brooks and Murdoch. It’s worth considering who might takeover as leader of the Conservatives. The specific nature of this crisis hasn’t been reflected in the betting markets yet. I believe there is one candidate representing outstanding value.

Let’s look at the frontrunners. Boris Johnson at 4/1. Isn’t even an MP. He may lose the London mayoral contest. Or win. Either way I can’t see him being in the right place to challenge for leadership in the next 4 years. He’s not a contender.

Next up is George Osborne at 6s. There’s a reason why George didn’t go for the leadership the last time – just as there was a reason why Brown didn’t go for it in ’94. Crucially he is said to be the one person that reportedly pressed Cameron to employ Coulson. If the Prime Minister goes down then Osborne is harmed too.

Hague is at a similar price. Having lost an election as leader ten years ago it would be an extraordinary situation if he returned to that position. Since then there has been one or two question marks about his personal life and judgement relating to that. However unfair they may be, I get a sense of a guy who doesn’t want to go back to a position of immense media scrutiny. The chance to be PM however (albeit without a general election) may make him think twice and appeal to his sense of history. With his Euro-sceptic reputation gone, I’m not sure whether there’d be much of a market for him.

Michael Gove, 10/1. He has the ambition but has not always looked sure-footed through the last year. My gut reaction is that he could well run, but he’ll struggle to connect with the public. He could become the ‘moderniser’s candidate’, but it’s hard to imagine how he could succeed where Cameron failed. A former Times journalist might not be what’s required right now.

Jeremy Hunt, 10/1. He has been one of the big losers of the last two weeks. His parliamentary performances have been flaky and if this crisis does cost Cameron then he’s the last person the party should turn – especially given his role and past praise for Murdoch.
Rory Stewart (14/1) is a remarkable man and someone I admire greatly. In parliamentary terms he’s still a novice and would be a huge risk. He’s not been without his mis-haps since he was elected.

Liam Fox at 16/1 is reasonable given he’s run for leader in the past. But his enemies list has grown over the last year and I’m sure if he ran there’d be a desire from some quarters for ‘anyone but Fox’.

Priti Patel is my long-term tip for the future. She’s now 33/1 but again is untried. She may be tempted by a dry run.

The obvious candidate to take over however is David Davis who Mike Smithson backed at 33/1 with Ladbrokes overnight . Someone who resigned his seat on civil liberties grounds would be the ideal antidote for a phone-hacking scandal. His down-to-Earth charm is in striking contrast to Cameron’s polished but ‘born to rule’ persona. It’s hard to imagine Davis going horse riding with Rebekah Brooks over Christmas isn’t it?

Davis is not without his faults, but he has his support base and crucially has taken a principled stance in a way Cameron and his colleagues never would. His background is a stark contrast. This could be his moment.

Who knows what will come of this crisis. If you think there’s a chance Cameron could go in the next two years over this affair, then David Davis is the guy to back. If things continue to get out of hand for Cameron then the price on Davis could soon look ten times too big.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson