I have speculated in the past about who would succeed David Cameron as Tory leader. I’ve said David Davis; I’ve also intimated that Owen Patterson might be a nailed on certainty. All of these predictions were predicated on certain things happening which in the end did not (such as Cameron failing to get a majority in May 2015, as a for instance). My point is that predicting such things is a moveable feast; who looks likely to take the crown always depends on circumstance.
Most of the talk regarding who will be next Tory leader revolves around three people at the moment: George Osborne, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May. However, if one looks at the history of the Tories, almost inevitably the person who becomes leader started the race as a rank outsider. Cameron comes to mind – as does Thatcher. So if you’re looking around for who might take the mantle once Dave moves on, the past tells you that your best bet is to look under the cushions. That’s why the person (at this point, I hasten to add) that I think will be next Tory leader is………Michael Gove.
“What?” I can hear many of you utter. Doesn’t everyone hate Gove? No, Guardian reading left-wingers might hate him, but that’s never usually something that will prevent you from becoming leader of the Conservative Party. In fact, on that front the person he reminds me most of is actually Thatcher: a former Education Secretary the Left loathes. Here’s why I think Gove might be in with a shout: a lot of the major, ideological things the Tories have done in government since 2010 has come from Gove (free schools come to mind). He’s got a good story for a Tory – adopted, went to state school, at least until he got a scholarship. He’s Eurosceptic, and even if he doesn’t campaign for Out, he certainly won’t campaign for In. His case would actually be pretty strong. I can see it working with the Tory activist base.
Here’s the more interesting question: who will he fills the top jobs with? This is what I would do, were I Michael Gove and I suddenly found myself prime minister: move Theresa May from Home Office to Chancellor (giving her the only top job yet to be filled by a woman, as she becomes the first female chancellor of the exchequer). She’s really done her time as Home Secretary, and you couldn’t move her down or out, so move her up. Priti Patel comes in as Home Secretary. For FCO, I’d put in Sajid Javid. He’d be the perfect Tory Foreign Secretary: robotic, will stick to script, is almost supernaturally uninterested in the world outside of Britain. Look at that top four: two women, two Asians. The Left would go crazy, being outdone by the Tories on the whole equality thing (a mirror of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, but done by a party of the right), particularly with Corbyn’s old, bearded, white Trots sat across the floor. But look again at those four. There’s no squishy, ‘oh they could be Orange Book Lib Dems couldn’t they” style Tories in that bunch. Those are proper old school Conservatives, each one. If the Left thinks Cameron and Osborne have been apocalyptically right-wing, imagine what they’ll make of that quartet.