Back in December I identified 36 potential Conservative leadership candidates - or rather 36 people who had at some point indicated they might run, or would be considered by others to be leadership contenders. Let's look at who the runners and riders would be now. 

  • Boris Johnson
  • Dominic Raab
  • Sajid Javid
  • Jeremy Hunt
  • Michael Gove
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • David Davis
  • Amber Rudd
  • Esther McVey
  • Penny Mordaunt
  • Matt Hancock
  • Liz Truss
  • James Cleverly
  • Brandon Lewis
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Geoffrey Cox
  • Rory Stewart
  • Priti Patel
  • Tom Tugendhat
  • Tobias Ellwood
  • Nicky Morgan
  • Gavin Williamson
  • Mark Harper
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Ruth Davidson
  • David Lidington

So I've narrowed the original 36 down to 24.

In theory all potential candidates have until May 22 to decide whether to run or not. Some will want to test the water in the run-up to that date. Several of the more unlikely candidates will rapidly discover they have little to no support, which is why I haven't included them in these lists. In the past the likes of Philip Lee and George Freeman have said they might run. Like Ann Widdecombe in 2001, I suspect they'd be lucky to get more than a couple of nominations.

Of the candidates I have listed as definite runners each of them has a constituency. I can see why Michael Gove is the bookies' favourite as he has pockets of support across the party, unlike most of the other candidates. Both Boris and Dominic Raab are seen as exclusively the candidates of the right, and will struggle to gain the support of the centre-left of the party. Both Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt may think they have support across the party, but this may be more skin deep than they think. Neither are trusted for having supported Remain and then pivoted to Brexit, but then again, in the trust stakes, Michael Gove may well still suffer from his defenestration of Boris in 2016. Andrea Leadsom got 83 votes last time, and although some of that support may have drifted away to other right wing candidates, many of her colleagues have nodded with approval at how she has done her job over the last six months. 

Of those considering their positions, Amber Rudd may still run despite briefings to the contrary. She may want to both put a marker down for the future, but also cement her standing in the party for when there's a further reshuffle by the new leader. She is still a hot tip to be the first female chancellor. She could do surprisingly well in the first round of any contest, and my suspicion is she would gain more than 50 votes. It's how those votes fall in any further rounds which could determine the eventual winner.

Matt Hancock's star is firmly in the ascendent and I would expect him to run if he feels he can put on a good show. His trouble is a lack of 'constituency' on the back benches. We can all point to supporters of other candidates but I find it difficult to think who the 'Hancockites' are. Timing is everything and it may be that Matt needs another year or two in the cabinet before he could be a serious contender, but if he pitches his bid in the right manner, he could surprise everybody. He's on some fairly long odds at the moment, so if you're into a flutter, he might be worth sticking a fiver on.

I shall refrain from commenting on whether DD will run or not because a) I don't know, b) anything I say will be overinterpreted anyway, given our history.

Of the dark horses I'd like to see two or three of them stand just to test whether there really is a mood to pass the baton to the next generation. Johnny Mercer would certainly shake things up, while Rory Stewart has certainly been putting himself about a bit on the media in recent weeks.

If the lineup is as I think it will be, I would expect the final two candidates, to be put to the membership, would be Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt. 

So put your bets on any of the others, as I've just given Michael and Jeremy the black spot of doom!