Speculation mounts as to who will be the next leader of the Conservative Party. Most think Osborne has it in the bag; others think (or fear) some outsider, possibly from the right of the party, could snatch it away from the chancellor. However, upon reflection, I think the person most likely to lead them into the next general election, in 2020 if the Fixed Term Parliament Act isn’t revoked at some point, will be……David Cameron.
To those who doubt this is even technically a possibility: yes, he told James Landale whilst standing in a kitchen (a prominent motif of the 2015 general election across all political parties, if you’ll recall) that he would stand down before the next election. But it was, for a start, something said in a strange, offhand way to a journalist during an interview as opposed to something announced in a proper speech, or worse in the House; and secondly, it was said in the context of a completely different political world. In April 2015, David Cameron probably figured he’d be leading another coalition with the Lib Dems after May 7th. Having to carry that can for seven years he probably calculated was enough.
Now he’s the guy that got the Tories their first majority at an election for 23 years, a majority many assumed was beyond the reach of the party for the rest of time. Now the Labour Party is being led by Jeremy Corbyn. Now Cameron could be the first prime minister in the history of Great Britain to increase his party’s number of seats in three straight elections while being in government after each poll. He would be daft not to seriously consider sticking around.
There may be a practical reason to hold on to the leadership as well. If turmoil within the Conservative Party is particularly bad during the EU referendum campaign, both Cameron and Osborne could fear any immediate attempt to pass the baton would be risky. It might be seen as better for Cameron to stay on until things calm down. By the time the terrain does look to be more amenable to a reasoned leadership contest, the general election could be deemed too close anyhow.
All of this is simply a hunch, I hasten to add, but I’m beginning to think more and more that David Cameron could still be prime minister in 2021. Before you recoil in anger or disgust, reflect for a moment on the possibility of Philip Davies being prime minister. Or Peter Bone. And before you laugh too hard at such a thing’s impossibility, remember who the current leader of the Labour Party is. Then consider the fact that David Cameron has thought this all through as well.