Whatâ€™s next for the Conservatives? Could David Cameron stay on and fight the 2020 General Election?
Since the Conservatives somewhat unexpectedly won a majority in May most of the media attention has been focused on who the next Labour leader will be. But what about the Conservatives?
As Labour tears itself apart it is easy to forget that the Tories have problems of their own. The party has never really â€˜settledâ€™ the issue of Europe and the upcoming EU referendum promises to be a divisive one for the party. Even more importantly, the Conservatives also face a leadership contest at some point this parliament. When thinking ahead to the next General Election, presumed to take place in 2020, it is easy to forget that it wonâ€™t be David Cameron leading the Conservatives into it.
The day after the General Election I put Â£50 on George Osborne to be the next Conservative leader at 7/1. Itâ€™s a bet that I feel quite good about. Osborne is known to possess almost â€˜Frank Underwoodâ€™ like control over the parliamentary Conservative Party and he will surely make the final two if he wants to. There he will likely face Boris Johnson or Theresa May but with the â€˜Cameron projectâ€™ in the ascendancy he would surely fancy his chances. It is possible that someone new will emerge but with Cameron and Osborne in such control of the party it is difficult to see that happening. The bookies agree â€“ Osborne is now the 7/4 favourite to be the next Conservative leader with Ladbrokes.
However could David Cameron decide to stay on after all and lead the Conservatives into the 2020 General Election himself?
A few weeks ago Mike blogged on this site about this very idea. He made the valid point that Cameron made his promise to stand down during an election campaign where an outright Conservative victory looked like a fantasy. Now the facts have changed and the Conservatives have their majority it is entirely plausible that he could reconsider.
At the time I dismissed the idea. However with Jeremy Corbyn now favourite to be the next Labour leader I wonder if we should start taking it seriously.Â Regardless of who wins the Labour leadership it looks like the Labour Party will spend the next five years fighting internal battles. David Cameron may decide that with his opponents divided the temptation to stay on is too great.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Cameron staying on would be how it looks to the public. Typically voters do not like the idea of leaders staying past their sell-by date.
However, if Labour does take a sharp left turn might Cameron argue that he feels compelled to stay on to confront this â€˜new threat to Britainâ€™? More importantly, if he privately calculates that only he can guarantee to defeat such a force â€“ that installing a new Conservative leader who might be unpopular with the country is too risky â€“ then the prospect of Cameron staying on as Prime Minister is not as ridiculous as it may at first appear.
Of course, he may not want to stay on. Indeed, after a bruising EU referendum campaign his party may not want him to anyway. However stranger things have happened. After all, a few short months ago many thought Ed Miliband was poised to form a government yet now we approach party conference season with a Conservative majority government and Jeremy Corbyn poised to be the next leader of the Labour Party. As British politics continues to change might the man at the top remain the same for longer than we expected?
Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presenter of the podcast â€˜Polling Mattersâ€™. He tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley