This is the fourth in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE, UKIP HERE and Labour HERE

In the event of an election defeat, it’s usual for a party leader to fall on their sword more or less immediately. I don’t think this would be any different for David Cameron. In the unlikely event of a Labour majority, he would be gone by the end of Friday 8 May. I am not sure he would even be persuaded to stay on while the party elects a new leader. In that event it would be interesting to see who would become acting leader in the interim. There’s no formal process for deciding this. Could it be Ken Clarke’s last hurrah? The second scenario is that Cameron is persuaded to stand aside in the event of failing to win a majority, but with the Tories being the largest party. James Kirkup speculates in the Telegraph HERE that in this event Boris Johnson could be annointed leader with no election. This is both fanciful and preposterous and is obviously a Johnson inspired kite flying exercise. It’s widely believed that Boris Johnson, Theresa May and George Osborne are all set to stand, but there is likely to be at least a dozen candidates who are already considering putting their names forward. And believe me, those discussions are happening now.


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If David Cameron resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…


Age: 51
Political Record: Mayor of London 2008-
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Pizazz, charisma by the bucketload, ability to connect with young people and non Tories, ability to recognise his own deficiencies and appoint good people to his team
Against: Old Etonian, disorganised, lack of attention to detail, previous record as an MP, not known well among Tory MPs so might not get to 2nd round, said to be more skeletons
Verdict: Will be heavily promoted by the right wing media, but can he reach the party round of voting? If he does, he’ll win. Any MP who was in parliament from 2001-5 won’t vote for him, he hasn’t made a huge effort to get to know the 2010 intake and most of the 2015 intake won’t know him. His best hope is that they see him as a winner. There will be many Tories who resign from the party if he becomes leader.
Odds: 7/4


Age: 58
Political Record: Home Secretary 2010-
Likely to Stand: 90%
For: Competent, stylish, very good record as Home Secretary
Against: Lack of vocal supporters, seen as slightly stand-offish, the ‘nasty party’ remark is still remembered
Verdict: She could be the ‘Stop Boris’ candidate, but she hasn’t really defined her politics and apart from being seen as competent no one knows what ‘Mayism’ is. It’s also difficult to think who would run her leadership campaign. Could she be the Ann Widdecombe of 2015, by which I mean, she might not be able to find enough people to nominate her or run a campaign? I doubt it, but even having to ask the question says a lot.
Odds: 7/2


Age: 43
Political Record: Chancellor of the Exchequer 2010-
Likely to Stand: 70%
For: In terms of reputation he’s peaking at the right time, turned the economy round, personal image has improved
Against: If Cameron goes down he goes down with him, not popular with many Tory MPs, seen as having his spies all over the place.
Verdict: George Osborne’s best chance of succeeding David Cameron is if Cameron wins a majority and then stands down before 2020. If he stands after an election defeat he will still be a strong candidate, but it’s doubtful he would prevail against Boris.
Odds: 7/1


Age: 46
Political Record: Culture Secretary 2014-
Likely to Stand: 70%
For: Stratospheric rise, safe pair of hands, nailed his colours to the Thatcherite mast, could be the candidate of the right, popular with his own intake, great back story
Against: Lack of experience, slightly robotic media manner, always on message, seen as a bit of a cold fish
Verdict: Could be a good outside bet, but needs to up his profile and quick. Needs to harness the vote which in 2005 went to Liam Fox and David Davis.
Odds: 10/1


Age: 59
Political Record: Defence Secretary 2010-14, Foreign Secretary 2014-
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Safe pair of hands, seen as a capable Defence Secretary, economically literate
Against: Comparisons to John Major are unfair, but he is seen as a little grey. Hasn’t really made his mark at the Foreign Office
Verdict: Would paint himself as the candidate of the right and therefore be fishing in the same pond as Sajid Javid.
Odds: 16/1


Age: 47
Political Record: Ecucation Secretary 2010-14, Chief Whip 2014-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: True radical, eloquent, transparently nice, hated by Labour
Against: Seen as divisive, questionable record as Chief Whip, has questioned himself whether he would be up to the job, Neocon foreign policy views
Verdict: Has ruled himself out of standing several times, but if he could be persuaded would be the strongest right of centre candidate.
Odds: 20/1


Age: 66
Political Record: Minister in the Major Government 1990-97, Shadow Home Secretary 2003-8, 2005 Leadership contender
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Popular in the voluntary party, still has the ability to garner headlines, more youthful than his age suggests, ability to reach beyond the Tory Party
Against: Age, memories of the 2005 campaign, seen as a serial rebel, not popular among the 2010 intake
Verdict: More likely to play the role of ‘kingmaker’ than be a candidate himself
Odds: 33/1


Age: 53
Political Record: Defence Secretary 2010-11, 2005 leadership contender
Likely to Stand: 40%
For: Articulate, good on the media, has remained loyal since his resignation in 2011, popular on the right
Against: His resignation, questionmarks over judgement, has an established fanbase in Parliament
Verdict: Needs to come out of the traps quickly and establish himself as the candidate of the right, and see off Javid, Hammond and Gove
Odds: 33/1


Age: 39
Political Record: Defra Secretary 2014-
Likely to Stand: 30%
For: Relentlessly ambitious
Against: Relentlessly ambitious, failed to make her mark in Cabinet so far, speech tanked at 2014 Tory conference
Verdict: Will be desperate to stand, but it’s not clear where her support would lie
Odds: 40/1


Age: 52
Political Record: MP for Hereford since 2010
Likely to Stand: 30%
For: Clever, urbane, media friendly, looks like a prime minister, radical and original thinker, disliked by Cameron
Against: Old Etonian, failed to become a minister since 2010, inexperienced and untried at the top level
Verdict: Even though he’s disliked by Cameron, he could become the Cameroon candidate, although his inexperience may well doom him. Should stand to put a marker down.
Odds: 40/1


Age: 48
Political Record: Culture Secretary 2010-12, Health Secretary 2012-
Likely to Stand: 40%
For: Instantly likeable, ability to recover from a crisis, seen as having done a good job at Health, popular with 2010 intake
Against: Not political enough, more Cameroon than David Cameron, perhaps too nice (if that’s possible)
Verdict: Tougher than he looks, he could be the surprise package if he sets out his stall early enough. His support will come from the 2010 and 2015 intakes
Odds: 20/1


Age: 42
Political Record: Education Secretary 2014-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Has neutralised education as a controversial issue to an extent, which was her remit, she possesses a core toughness which is not always obvious on the outside
Against: Her seat is very marginal, few know what kind of Tory she is and she needs to explain that quickly if she is to stand
Verdict: Popular among her intake, she could mount a good campaign which would stand her in good stead for the future. But she would do it knowing it was unlikely she would win.
Odds: 33/1


Age: 58
Political Record: Northern Ireland Secretary 2010-12, Defra Secretary 2012-14
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Personable, a conviction politician, unfairly sacked from Defra, kept Northern Ireland quiet as an issue
Against: Seen as an IDS disciple, questionmarks over intellect from those on the left of the party
Verdict: Has carved out a niche as a friendly critic since his defenstration. If he’s to stand he will need to act quickly to become the standardbearer of the right.
Odds: 25/1


Age: 47
Political Record: Chairman of the 1922 Committee 2010-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Bright, loyal, on the sensible right, terrifcally successful chair of the 1922 Committee, popular across the party, grammar school boy
Against: No ministerial experience
Verdict: Could be a surprise candidate and could do well if he runs he right sort of campaign. Watch him.
Odds: 50/1


Most leadership contests end up with a maximum of five serious candidates. I’ve listed fourteen here. I regard the prospect of a Boris coronation as preposterous and something which would lead to many people quitting the Tories for good. There’s no doubt that Boris is the candidate to beat, but beatable he is. Any Tory who believes that he is the answer to all Tory problems is deluding themselves. He’s done a very good job as Mayor of London, but leading a political party and being prime minister is something at a very different level. In the end, I wonder how many Tory MPs’ pens will hover over the ballot paper intending to put a cross in Boris’s box, but then moving to someone else when they come to their senses. Boris is a star. He’s mobbed wherever he goes. He reaches parts of the country that no other politician can reach, and yet is that really a qualification for running the country? Yes, he’s clever. He even has intellectual pretensions, but running the country?

That said, it’s a leadership contest that is his to lose. But as I well know from my experience working for David Davis is 2005, it’s rare that the frontrunner wins.

For what it’s worth I think the six most likely candidates to run, in the event of a Tory defeat, and appear on the ballot paper will be Boris Johnson, Theresa May, George Osborne, Sajid Javid, Owen Paterson and Liam Fox. I do wonder, though, whether George Osborne might decide that it might be better to sit this one out.