Would the Cameron project flounder without Cameron?
In recent weeks we have had threads about the successors to both Brown and Campbell but so far we’ve not ventured into post-Cameron Tory territory – who would be leader if, for whatever reason, the party had to find a replacement?
In many ways this seems a more remote possibility – Cameron’s made progress for his party in the polls and at forty is considerably younger than either Campbell or Brown. Also there’s been betting on the successors for the other two but not the Tory.
But if something untoward happened who would move into the top job and with that the even bigger question – would the Cameron project to “decontaminate” the Tory brand continue if he was not there to lead it?
For is the change programme and the ongoing battles with the traditionalists something that’s personal to Dave or could a successor continue to take the party in that direction? Or would a new leader take the Tory party back in a more traditional direction with the associated risk of losing support in the centre ground.
Certainly it would be a superb battle to watch and bet on because there’s little doubt that there’d be a huge effort from the traditionalists to win back the party that they see as having been hijacked by the Cameron gang. There would seem to be four main leadership possibilities:-
George Osborne, the shadow chancellor has been a close collaborator with Cameron right from the start and it was said that he was Michael Howard’s choice in 2005. He stood aside during that contest in favour of Dave and has played a pivotal part in the changes that have been made. Osborne would certainly be the man to take the change agenda forward – but would his election be a step too far? His main drawback is that he looks too young and with his squeaky voice he appears to lack gravitas. Osborne might decide that the best way of keep the change programme on track would be for him to pull out and throw his weight in with another contender.
David Davis the shadow home secretary looked as though he had the job in the bag until he got up to make his conference speech at Blackpool in October 2005. This was the biggest moment of his life and he appeared to flunk it. But Davis has stayed on side with the new team and has grown in stature seeing off one Labour home secretary after another. Hugely competent but needs to recognise that to succeed in politics you need to work at your presentational skills as well. My guess is that he would win enough parliamentary support to make the short-list of two that would go to the membership ballot.
William Hague the shadow foreign secretary has the unusual distinction of being the first Tory leader since Austen Chamberlain in the early 1920s not to have become PM. Could that be put right if a leadership vacancy occurred and he was given the chance of leading the Tories in a general election once again? Certainly he’s got ability and is a superb commons performer – but is that enough? He’s bald which is not good in a TV age and to many people his voice is not always easy on the ear. As for political direction you could see him doing a deal with Osborne and agreeing that most of the change programme would continue. If he decided to put his hat into the ring again he would probably make it to the final short-list.
Liam Fox the shadow defence secretary who was a doctor before entering politics would surely be the vanguard for the right and put up a creditable performance in the 2005 leadership race coming in third place on the final MP ballot. He’s articulate and his traditional values on issues like marriage and abortion would certainly appeal to large swathes of the Tory membership. He’d be the person to stop the change programme and articulate a very different vision for the party. If he got the job then the Tories would lose their current USP of being the only party with a non-Scottish leader, though Fox does not represent a Scottish seat. My guess is that he’d make third place yet again but not get enough support for the membership ballot.
My money would be on a Davis-Hague run-off with Hague finishing on top.
Graphic courtesy of Recessmonkey