I was watching Isabel Oakeshott declare on the Sunday Politics that the only leadership team not doing much this weekend was Boris Johnson’s. Oh how I laughed.
The fact of the matter is that Boris’s team have not only been very active, they are trying to sign up as many MPs to their cause as possible in order to put off rivals from even bothering to stand. It’s almost as if they are copying the hymn sheet of the David Davis campaign. Jesse Norman, Nadhim Zahawi and Ben Wallace are trawling all Tory MPs today and asking them if they will support the former mayor. I have no idea how successful they have been in their endeavours, but it has to be said that there are a fair number of Tory MPs who will vote for ABB – Anyone But Boris.
By my reckoning there are 20 Tory MPs who are considering launching a bid. It had been 19 until I heard of the – and I am going to be kind here – rather hopeful ambitions of George Freeman, the minister for life sciences. In the end, I am pretty sure it will boil down to a Boris v Theresa May fight, but as we all know in Tory leadership contests, the front runners rarely triumph. I think Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom have a good chance of breaking through, and if Michael Gove decides to stand he will also garner a fair few votes. My instinct is that Nicky Morgan will be the ‘continuity Cameron’ candidate, while George Osborne may well decide to throw his weight (and supporters) behind Boris or Theresa May depending on which one offers him something meaningful. His PPS spent yesterday sounding people out as to whether the Chancellor should run. I don’t know what he was told, but if MPs were being honest with him, many would have said not to bother. I understand that at least one senior minister, a surefire Osborne supporter, told Osborne’s PPS that he would now be backing Boris. It’s a fickle game, politics, and timing is everything. I fear this is not George Osborne’s time.
Over the next ten days I will be profiling all the potential leadership candidates and analysing their chances of success. Do check back in soon!