A few days before Christmas I had lunch with a friend who has followed the Tory party for decades and knows it quite well. Inevitability the conversation turned on who might be Mrs May’s successor, their observations had a quite the impact and led to an update to my betting portfolio.
My friend and I are of the consensus that if Mrs May survives into 2020 then her successor is likely to be someone who is currently not in the cabinet but if she falls well before then her successor might be three people in the cabinet that aren’t often discussed.
Tip 1 – Andrea Leadsom – The tallest dwarf left standing
I’ve been quite dismissive about Mother Superior Leadsom but then I realised the logic on backing her is quite sound, even if it might make Tories like myself cry like a disgraced televangelist if she becomes Tory leader and PM.
Simply Mrs Leadsom might be the last one standing from the Leave/Right wing/Divergers faction of the cabinet because of the flaws of the other candidates.
Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary has been seen by many as a failed audition for the top job, his reputation has been diminishing from the 30th of June 2016, when it was a case of Borisus interruptus in the race to suceed David Cameron.
His tenure as Foreign Secretary is littered with mistakes from making an intervention, seen by many as an attempt to force Mrs May’s hand on Brexit on the day of an attempted terrorist attack in London to the problems he’s caused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. No one can say with a straight face that his tenure as Foreign Secretary has made Boris look more Prime Ministerial.
It won’t be David Davis either, like Boris Johnson his tenure in government hasn’t been stellar, where the minister for winging it has been caught out on several occasions, and he’s been effectively sidelined more and more in the Brexit negotiations and saw Mrs May get the praise for a successful Phase I of the talks.
It won’t be Michael Gove for a very simple and blunt reason, he’s pissed off far too many people in the Tory party. He’s annoyed people like David Davis with his actions over Brexit to the point David Davis contemplated resigning over Gove’s actions.
The Cameroon wing which has substantial numbers in Parliament still hasn’t forgiven Gove for going against Cameron in the referendum. When David Cameron goes pheasant shooting he likes to name the pheasants Michael Gove because when he shoots the pheasants called Gove it makes Cameron feel better. Pathetic and childish from David Cameron? Maybe, but it does display the animus for Gove.
Gove has also annoyed supporters of Boris Johnson when Gove ended Boris Johnson’s leadership ambitions in 2016, Ben Wallace, a Boris supporter, publicly announced he wanted to go all Game of Thrones and remove Gove’s penis. As an aside Ben Wallace is tipped to join the cabinet in the next major reshuffle.
You simply cannot annoy people to that level and expect to become Leader. When I said Michael Gove was a lot like Judas Iscariot the retort I was given was ‘Gove’s nothing like Judas, Judas had the decency to commit suicide after his betrayal.’
It won’t be Liam Fox because of Adam Werritty. Despite the lessons of the last general election the Tories are expected to spend a lot of time at the next general election trying to convince the electorate that Jeremy Corbyn is a national security risk. The Tories having as leader someone who had to resign in disgrace as Defence Secretary isn’t the best person to exploit that attack line, so Adam Werritty will scupper Liam Fox’s leadership ambitions.
Penny Mordaunt also has issues, being Prime Minister requires gravitas, I’m not sure her past dares of repeatedly saying ‘cock’ in a speech to Parliament will help her on the gravitas front.
Jacob Rees-Mogg will also struggle on that front, the gap from backbench MP to Prime Minister is an insurmountable gap for many, and that’s even before we get to the policies of Mr Rees-Mogg which seems like to be like a parody of Harry Enfield’s Tory Boy character.
So all these other flawed candidates could see Mrs Leadsom be seen as the least worst option for that particular wing of the party coupled with promulgating the idea that she was right about Theresa May’s flaws. You can get 16/1 with BetVictor on Andrea Leadsom succeeding Mrs May.
Tips 2 and 3 – Time to uncork the Gauke and David Lidington
These two chaps aren’t normally mentioned in discussions about Theresa May’s successor, but because of issues with other candidates they might end up winning the contest.
Amongst those candidates that could be described as Remainers/One Nation/Aligners it is easy to see Amber Rudd’s majority being a bar to her being a candidate, like Philip Hammond has enraged far too many people to be leader, and there’s a danger Jeremy Hunt is peaking too soon which presents opportunities for Gauke and Lidington.
David Gauke, Brexit apart, might have the most difficult portfolio of any cabinet minister as he oversees the introduction of universal credit. Universal credit is something which some observers think could be as damaging for this Tory government as the poll tax was for Mrs Thatcher’s government. Universal credit effects people who claim benefits and are in work, the sort of people whose votes the Tories need to win if they want to win a majority.
Gauke appears to be mitigating the problems of universal credit so his stock will improve. Gauke also spent six years working as a minister in George Osborne’s Treasury, he will have learned from the best during those six years.
I shared the details of the lunch with some of PB’s most esteemed gamblers, one of whom earlier on this week staked £55 at 350/1 on Gauke being Mrs May’s successor. That gave me great reassurance on backing Gauke, even if I backed him at more modest 3 figure odds.
David Lidington has been touted as Damian Green’s successor which theoretically makes him a great trading bet to be Theresa May’s successor, he appears to have no enemies in the party.
Like Gauke, Lidington’s currently 100/1 to be next Tory leader with Ladbrokes, earlier on this week he was around 460 to 470 on Betfair.
Taking the 100/1 on both of them that Ladbrokes are offering represents value in my opinion.
My lunch companion did point out it was a volatile time for the Tories, if we had have had this lunch two months earlier we’d have been talking extensively about Sir Michael Fallon as Theresa May’s successor.