The next leadership contest within the Tories could happen as soon as four and a half months from now. Even at its latest, it’s only a little over two years away, given the timeline Cameron himself has outlined. So it seems to me that getting to grips with who might feature in that race and guessing who might come out on top is timely indeed.
For those not aware, should the next Conservative Party leadership election happen in 2015, 2016 or 2017, it will revolve around one concept completely: the party inserting itself so far up its collective derriere it traverses its collective digestive tract and ends up in its stomach, burned to mere molecules by the electorate in a display of excessive purism. Those who think I’m being overly facetious should look out for references in the candidate’s speeches to “the guts of the Conservative Party” and “no one left behind” and “a race to the bottom”; the gastro-intestinal and scatological will feature heavily.
So here they all are, the contenders for who will lead the Tories into whatever comes next from the front (in order of likelihood, most to least):
1. David Davis
Many will blanche at the idea that I’ve put Davis as the frontrunner. But think about it, the man has everything: he’s right-wing in all the right ways and on all the right things; he’s obsessed with the same petty crap as your average Tory activist (we’ll bang on about Europe as much as we please, thank you very much, Mr Cameron!); he’s from a working class background. Best of all, he was the man who lost to Cameron last time round, an error Tory activists have been looking to put right since it happened – who better to erase the last decade with than the one who was spurned? His one potential downside, the fact that he’s getting on a bit, might actually be a plus for him, as his party sails up its gerontocratic colon.
2. Owen Paterson
Who becomes the next leader of the Conservative Party is basically a two-way fight between Davis and Paterson. It’s essentially down to whoever can paint themselves as the least liberal, most-Eurosceptic. If Cameron remains Prime Minister post election and there is a subsequent EU referendum, if Paterson places himself well, he could overtake Davis as the heir to Blair’s heir.
3. George Osborne
If any of Cameron’s crew can pull it off, it’s George. But I don’t think he really stands a chance. The point will be to extirpate the whole of Cameron’s era and time as leader, so the electing of his number two would be a weird way of carrying that out. Still, if everything goes his way, he could make the final round and from there, who knows.
4. Boris Johnson
BoJo isn’t a serious contender. Yes, people like him, Boris is undoubtably popular. But as an entertainer, someone in the background. No one really wants him to run the country. Also, he’s spent a lot of time pleasing liberal London, with quotes that would come back to haunt him in this particular contest.
5. Nigel Farage
Don’t laugh. Let’s say there’s an EU referendum. Stay In wins and Cameron bows out, triggering this contest. St Nigel would be one of the most revered people amongst the aging Tory activist base. He’d have to be a Tory MP at the time, of course, but stranger things have happened.
6. Theresa May
May has almost no chance whatsoever of becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party. I know by the way she’s acted of late, this will come as news to her. Too right-wing for the liberal Tories, too associated with Cameron for the loony tunes, May is stuck in no-man’s land. She won’t make it past the first round.
7. Sajid Javid
Too early. He’ll back Osborne and wait until next time.
That’s everyone, I think, that deserves a mention. My liberal Tory friends will tell me I’m all wrong when I say that the Conservative Party will veer sharply to the right next time they choose a leader. As someone who always hopes that parties in Britain will head in a liberal direction, I hope they’re right and I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am on this one.