As the media reminds us every day, David Cameron has promised not to contest a third term as Prime Minister, meaning that, by 2020, there will have been a Conservative leadership election. The same few names are being thrown around endlessly. However, many of the frontrunners are wary that an outsider could trump the favourites and lead the Conservatives into the next general election.
Here, I review some of the favourites, and some choice outsiders who could just surprise one or two. (All odds provided are correct as at time of writing from Paddy Power).
George Osborne (11/8)
Undoubtedly the favourite with the media and the bookies, Chancellor George Osborne has been presented as Cameron’s natural successor. The Tatton MP also seems to be his boss’ preferred choice – they have been friends since studying together at Oxford, the Chancellor managed Cameron’s leadership campaign in 2005, and has been given an almost free reign in government.
However, Osborne may be liked by Cameron and those who have benefitted from the patronage of the Chancellor, but the public seem to be less receptive. Not only is he cut from the same ‘posh’ cloth as Cameron (private school, Oxford, Bullingdon, Conservative researcher), he is viewed as the axe-wielding austerity Chancellor who was infamously booed whilst presenting medals at the Paralympic Games in 2012. Whilst Osborne’s may well be Cameron’s man, the party may wish to consider how electable the Chancellor actually is.
Boris Johnson (3/1)
‘BoJo’ seems like the natural alternative to Osborne. Johnson is liked (even adored) by the public, but the Prime Minister is not such a fan of the Mayor of London. The eccentric MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip is happy to bask in the media spotlight, whether suspended from a zip wire or on his back-side after a round of tug of war.
Whilst ‘Boris-mania’ seems to have taken hold of London, if not the rest of the UK, Cameron has seemed less than impressed with Boris’ antics. Indeed the two are known not to see eye-to-eye, with Johnson thinking himself intellectually superior, and Cameron holding a schoolboy grudge that Boris was head boy at Eton. It remains to be seen whether the party, or indeed the public, can take Boris seriously.
Theresa May (8/1)
The right-wing candidate, and the first female candidate profiled, Theresa May exudes more than a hint of Thatcher. Ruthless, not afraid of what people say, and perhaps lacking warmth, the Member for Maidenhead is not scared of hitting the headlines with some controversial ideas. Her ‘Snooper’s Charter’ has been heavily criticised in the press, whilst her comments at the 2015 party conference on migrants were not received favourably by the public.
With neither the network of loyal MPs cultivated by Osborne, nor the pervasive charm of Johnson, it would seem that May might be losing some ground on those around her in the race for the leadership.
So those are the three favourites, here’s a look at some of the outsiders
Sajid Javid (9/1)
Sajid Javid has remained quiet about his prospects of leading the party, and many have read this as a sign that he is not quite ready. The Bromsgrove MP has the sort of background that the media love (son of a migrant Pakistani bus driver), and is known to be a Eurosceptic. However, it may be too early for the Business Secretary to stand a realistic chance of winning.
Ruth Davidson (25/1)
The Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Davidson is little known outside of Scotland. However, the party’s ratings north of the border have improved considerably under her leadership, and her energetic, often humorous performances mark a change from the traditional Tory line.
Nicky Morgan (33/1)
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan threw her hat into the ring in the build-up to the general election, and has been trying to raise her profile ever since. The MP for Loughborough is well-liked amongst her colleagues, and in her constituency. However many feel that she lacks the fight and the charisma to lead the party.
Priti Patel (50/1)
A surprise candidate, Witham’s MP is a rising star in the party, and not one to be ruled out. Patel does not hide from the spotlight, and her views on certain issues place her on the right of the party. Describing herself as a ‘modern-day Norman Tebbit’, Patel supports capital punishment, is opposed to prisoner voting and same-sex marriage. With Theresa May’s bid seemingly faltering, perhaps Priti Patel will take up the mantel for the right.
Stephen Crabb (No odds available)
Although not the candidate with the biggest media profile, the Wales Secretary is quietly gaining respect and rising through the party. The first bearded Conservative Cabinet minister since 1905, Crabb consistently comes across well in the media, and has a lot of support in Wales. Many party insiders are tipping a surprise bid from the vice-captain of the Commons’ rugby team, and whilst he may be an outsider now, he should certainly not be ruled out.