Next Tory Leader: Who Will Succeed Boris Johnson?

This article first appeared at on 18th June 2020

When I last analysed the Next Conservative Leader betting betting, Boris Johnson had just taken over but his future was highly uncertain. We didn’t know if or when there would be a snap general election or whether Brexit would happen. Barely anybody had heard of the term ‘coronavirus’.

We know what happened next. Johnson secured his place in Tory folklore by securing their biggest majority since the 1980s. Brexit was delivered, although the post-transition agreement implications are yet to play out and remain an issue of profound importance. He contracted Covid-19 and needed intensive care before recovering.

Johnson Unlikely To Be A Long-Term PM

Having won such a big majority and still leading the polls, there is a chance Johnson could be in office for a decade. In which case, the winner of this political betting market may not even be listed. Plenty of time for a backbencher or even a newcomer to emerge.

That long-term scenario, however, is looking less likely. Whereas he gained tremendous public sympathy whilst ill, distracting from failures and his slow response to the Covid-19 crisis, Brand Boris is disintegrating in office.

Over the past week, numerous well-placed Westminster journalists reported deep unease among Tory MPs. Even The Sun’s Trevor Kavanaugh excoriated his leadership, or lack of it. The image of a part-time PM, who misses Cobra meetings and leaves unelected advisor Dominic Cummings in charge, is taking hold.

Johnson’s approval ratings have fallen along with the government’s, regarding management of the crisis. Whereas he owed his job to being an undeniable electoral asset for the Tories, he could soon be a liability.

As we saw with Theresa May, the Conservative Party does not tolerate unpopular leaders. The next election is not due until 2024 but there is a good chance they will switch before then to somebody deemed more electable.

Sunak Is The Standout Performer Of This Cabinet

As the market implies, one man is well ahead of the rest. No politician has had a better crisis than Rishi Sunak – the young, telegenic Chancellor who created the popular furlough scheme.

It is dangerous to read too much into approval ratings of non-leaders, because they are much lesser known and many won’t even hold a considered view, but various polls have shown Sunak comfortably outstripping his Cabinet rivals. Moreover, colleagues are apparently very impressed with his intellect, focus and skills displayed in their Zoom meetings.

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