With the news that Theresa May will imminently announce her departure date, the starting pistol has been fired on the Next Conservative Leader race.
In reality, that kicked off before the final results of the 2017 General Election were in and hardened political punters are doubtless managing several positions already. It has been quite a ride.
Boris Johnson is early favourite
Boris Johnson was matched down to 2.66 during the aftermath but soon ceded favouritism to various alternatives. However after declaring his bid yesterday, the former Foreign Secretary is once again the front-runner at 3.45.
Note Johnson is a full price bigger at 4.4]to be Prime Minister after Theresa May, which will almost certainly amount to the same thing. If you’re prepared to take the miniscule risk that May leads her party into another election before this is settled, then better odds are available on everyone.
Before piling into Johnson, remember the appalling record of early front-runners in this market. Basically, they never win. Note too that an unbelievably large number of candidates are likely to throw their hat into the ring. The Sun’s Tom Newton-Dunn has counted 17.
But their entries to the race takes the number of serious contenders now organising bids to 17 (and that’s just the ones we know about). pic.twitter.com/DL2eqUgNal
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) May 16, 2019
Tory MPs will whittle down those 17 to just two, with the membership settling the final run-off. Their machinations are famous and have killed many a promising candidacy. It is why, for instance, Michael Portillo never became leader while Iain Duncan Smith did. Some of the 17 may even be running the race on another’s behalf – to take votes from a rival in the early round.
Brexit credentials are the key
Many of the 17 are no-hopers. In fact anyone who voted Remain in 2016 is up against it and perhaps even anyone who won’t back a no deal Brexit. Why else would the ambitious Jeremy Hunt – once perhaps an ardent Remainer – say they need to embrace no deal?
Hunt knows the mood of the members who will ultimately decide and that tendency has been confirmed by the mass defection to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ahead of next week’s Euro elections. The litmus test for candidates may well be whether they back no deal or, in the immediate term given the parliamentary maths, an electoral pact with Farage.