Guest Post by Mortimer
Summer 2016 could prove a watershed moment in modern British politics. April and early-May have already seen the incumbent leadership of the English Conservatives shown up in comparison to Ruth Davidson’s success north of the border, and the old guard of an apparently gaffe-obsessed Labour Party cheered by victory in London yet criticised by the triumphant Sadiq Khan. More pressure on the Conservative leadership is likely if, as the polls currently indicate, the referendum on June 23rd really is in the balance.
Perhaps less obvious an influence to our current thinking is the forthcoming Chilcott report, which is (finally) to be published on July 6th and could focus current thinking on past political problems. Whilst the current core Labour leadership were vehemently opposed to the Iraq War, at least two quite prominent members of Corbyn’s current shadow cabinet held positions in Blair’s cabinet during the conflict: Hilary Benn and Lord Falconer..
Other prominent and not-so-prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle who have been in Parliament since 2001, now veritable veterans of some pretty difficult times in British history, might begin to think it is time for fresh Lieutenants, if not young Generals, to take on the burden. Given that MP selections are made earlier and earlier in the electoral cycle, the end of a bruising referendum campaign and the publication of what promises to be a lengthy report into one of the most controversial parliamentary decisions of the modern era, some might begin to consider announcing retirement from public life in the coming months.
So what might be the impact of this confluence of events? Younger, or at least less experienced MPs will surely come to the fore in summer reshuffles.
If Corbyn is serious about uniting the party, which I’m still to be convinced of, he should call on the skills of Dan Jarvis, and promote the likes of Lisa Nandy and Heidi Alexander, both of whom have only been MPs since 2010/11 and yet outperformed their shadow cabinet colleagues in recent months.
For Mr Cameron, if he can survive at a helm, has fewer younger talents to call upon in his immediate cabinet. That said, Greg Clark has, like Justine Greening, only been an MP since 2005 and both are proven media performers. Michael Gove was in the same intake and proved himself in the limelight yet more in the past weeks. Priti Patel and Dominic Raab joined Nandy and Alexander as new MPs in 2010, and must surely hope for promotion to the full cabinet from Minister of State and Parly Under Secretary positions soon.
Moving on to possible leadership replacements – which it would be foolish to ignore given possible threats to both Cameron’s and Corbyn’s position after two divisive election campaigns – might the more youthful Chuka Umunna be ready to commit properly to a Labour leadership contents this time, or has his star fallen in favour of Jarvis and others?
In the Conservative party, of which I am a member and to which I feel slightly more attuned to both signals and noises, I can’t see an obvious youthful replacement for Cameron, and, let us be honest, the leadership coming with the fully-paid up title Prime Minister leaves less room for such an outsider as he was himself in 2005 triumphing. I’ve been tipping Greg Clark to ultimately replace him for several months, but as the life-expectancy of Mr Cameron’s own leadership appears to be dwindling, I’m more convinced that the middle aged Tory cardinals will elect an older Pope. Michael Fallon has proved himself as a campaigner and seemed to much value as the Major-esque unifier to miss for my book (currently 50/1 as next permanent Tory leader with Ladbrokes), but it is hard to look beyond May at the still generous 8/1 in the same market.