Kitchen Cabinet on choosing between the illness and the cure
Boris Johnson’s election to the Conservative leadership looks almost assured. As I mentioned on a previous thread, Gavin Williamson looks to have done wonders for BoJo’s election prospects. If you are a Boris hater, I might have some good news for you. There is a way he may not be elected. The bad news (for many) is that the only way for that to happen is to have him face Dominic Raab in the members’ ballot.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of Raab in terms of electability to the wider public. He comes across as wooden and stiff and non-likeable (although he has an impressive back story). Moreover, some of his comments around feminism may open him up to attack later, though many in the membership may cheer his stance. However, if you don’t want Johnson as your PM, he is your man.
One way to look at this is to say which opponent, if any, Johnson would like to face in a run-off. Jeremy Hunt would be the favourite. Easy to characterise as May 2.0, who would flip flop on Brexit and not deliver. Michael Gove would be a close second. The media would love a Gove-BoJo contest but, in reality, it wouldn’t be close. The revelations on Gove are fatal not because he used cocaine (the Conservative membership can be forgiving of personal failings, look at Cecil Parkinson) but because firstly, it shows him to be a hypocrite and, secondly, he looks the sort of guy who used it to impress – not a good look. Oh, and nobody likes a backstabber. Javid might be harder for BoJo but, again, he lacks charisma, can be accused of chickening out on Brexit and the banker angle may be an issue.
That leaves Stewart and Raab. Stewart has been a revelation but, to me, he seems a bit like Game of Thrones – all the luvvies rave about him but the general population couldn’t care less and are watching Coronation Street. His message beyond Brexit is rather vague and he looks odd (mainly not his fault but…). Moreover, BoJo would always be able to use the nuclear weapon of saying Stewart would never fulfil Brexit to persuade the membership to vote for him.
But he could never do that with Raab who could never be accused of threatening to reverse Brexit (at least by BoJo). Raab also has a second agenda he has pushed hard – reducing taxation – which would also be popular amongst the membership and which could win him votes. Boris’ policy commitments are rather, mmm, vague in comparison. Finally, he has been active, both in the media and at the grass roots level, since leaving the Cabinet, which should also help him.
One obvious riposte is that Johnson polls far better than Raab amongst the members. But the real question is how “hard” is that support. I suspect not much. Lord Ashcroft’s feedback suggest that many have negative views on Boris that can be exploited. If Raab pushed hard in a campaign, BoJo May flounder.
The one thing is, though, that I suspect Gavin Williamson is also aware of many of these dynamics and whom would also make the easiest competition for BoJo to face and who wouldn’t. Thus, Raab backers are likely to face subtle hints and threats to withdraw although he may be saved by harder line Brexiteers taking a view that Raab needs to be in the final rounds to stop BoJo reneging on Brexit. We will soon find out.