Well, what a week it has been for England. Out of Europe not once but twice, the two men held responsible for the apparent ‘failures’ – David Cameron and Roy Hodgson – have both since fallen on their swords.
We don’t do losing with dignity well in this country, and even those who voted Leave must be left with a bitter taste in their mouth following the economic and cultural fallout of the EU Referendum.
Cameron’s resignation has left a rather big hole at the heart of British politics, with a vacancy for a new Prime Minister – and thus the Conservative leadership – very much a priority. The former PM has already stated that September is a likely target for the new occupant of 10 Downing Street to be announced, and with the deadline for nominations being this Thursday already the battle lines have been drawn by up to six potential candidates.
Here’s a quick guide to the runners and riders in the hunt for the next Prime Minister:
Boris Johnson (11/10)
Wild-haired buffoon or the figurehead of the most momentous moments in British politics of this generation: it depends how you voted in the referendum really as to how you perceive the man known as ‘BoJo’.
The triumph of the Leave campaign was seen by many in politics as a victory for Johnson over Cameron, as much as anything else, and naturally then the former Major of London is the early bookmakers’ favourite for the post. He has the support of the public, a great help in any popularity contest, plus the backing of a number of key figures within the party, including Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames. Don’t forget too that the Mayorship of the capital is typically a Labour stronghold; testament to his cross-party appeal.
But his catalogue of gaffes and errors over the years – just YouTube him if you’re unfamiliar – has left many Tory insiders fearing the potential of a PR disaster in the run-up to any subsequent General Election that follows, and rumours of an ‘Anyone But Boris’ movement are rife.
We love a bumbling fool in England, but that ability to act like a shambling cartoon character could well see Johnson outvoted in the race for the next PM.
Theresa May (7/4)
May and Johnson look to be on a direct collision course once again given that the former was a vocal ‘Remain’ advocate, and that standing could make her a popular choice for a political party that was largely opposed to leaving the EU. Knowing that a fraction less than half of the British electorate voted to stay suggests that May will boast plenty of cross-party appeal compared to the rather more bullish Johnson.
She will appeal to more pragmatic members of the Conservative Party who, fearing a snap election, would surely consider her a safer pair of hands. She is likely to gain the additional support of any party members who vote for any of the other losing candidates, such as Stephen Crabb, in the second ballot too.
May’s position as Home Secretary for the best part of Cameron’s tenure marks her out as a serious politician that can handle the big decisions, and respected by the media she is unlikely to attract any of the unwanted attention that may come with Boris’ territory.
Stephen Crabb (7/1)
Crabb is expected to throw his hat into the ring for nomination, although with the potential for a General Election this year surely the Tories won’t want to risk a largely unknown candidate in the race for PM given the disarray the Labour Party currently finds itself in.
The Secretary for Work and Pensions has also endured plenty of controversy in his political career. He has links to the Christian Action Research and Education group, which is said to oppose LGBT rights, has overseen the divisive ESA standards for claiming disability benefits and was caught up in the expenses scandal; with claims in excess of £9,000 for stamp duty and interest on a second property that was not his family home.
In a general election that the Conservatives would be hoping to win handsomely, that kind of dirt will be kept buried alongside Crabb’s hopes of leading the country.