OSBORNE red and blue

There has been plenty written about the potential effects – probably calamitous – of Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership election.

Yet political parties move in each other’s gravity, and it’s worth considering what it might mean for our own succession, most likely coming in the latter half of this Parliament.

It seems likely that the selection of a radical outsider to head Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition will do most to further enhance the chances of the Conservative Party’s ultimate insider: George Osborne.

The Chancellor’s leadership prospects have surged in the aftermath of the party’s surprise majority at the general election – he topped our leadership poll for the first time earlier this month.

Had we lost the election, or suffered a second poor result, his ambitions would almost certainly have been sunk. Osborne is too closely associated with David Cameron’s project to have weathered its perceived failure at a second election.

The first Tory majority since 1992, on the other hand, has leant it the credibility it missed out on in 2010 and the Chancellor’s image has been burnished as a result.

Corbyn’s election would further enhance Osborne’s chances by doubling down on a dynamic which favours him: risk versus stability.

The Tory machine has had five years’ practice at painting Labour as a reckless gamble to take with the leadership of the country. Techniques honed against the comparatively sober, level-headed figure of Ed Miliband can be wielded with even greater potency against the Member for Islington North.

This in turn means the Conservatives may favour a leadership choice which fits into that frame.

With seven or eight years as Chancellor under his belt by the time the leadership election comes around, Osborne will be the ultimate ‘safe pair of hands’, especially if the economy continues to recover.

Taking a gamble on a maverick of our own, such as Boris, would be much less appealing in that context.

There is also the fact that a Corbyn-led Opposition seems, at least from this vantage point, much less likely to put the Government under serious pressure.

This will reduce the wear and tear to which Osborne’s reputation is subjected between now and Cameron’s resignation, and give him more space to take control of the political agenda and shape it to his advantage.

Considered alongside his formidable position in the Parliamentary party, the only event between a Corbyn victory in three weeks’ time and our own leadership election which might jeopardise the Chancellor’s status as favourite seems to be a surprise result in the EU referendum.

A very strong performance for ‘Out’, let alone a win, spearheaded by the likes of Boris or Sajid Javid could substantially boost their prospects.

Writing in The Times (£) Tim Montgomerie, formerly of this parish, argues that a swifter handover suits both Cameron and Osborne for that reason: it will allow them to ‘bank’ the chaos of a Corbyn win but not allow too much time for unexpected events to derail the succession.

They will also be aware that four years is also a sufficiently long time in politics that one or more figures who are presently little discussed could be serious contenders in 2018.

Yet whilst potential stumbling blocks remain, the last three weeks of Labour’s leadership contest will likely be observed with no little satisfaction in Number 11.

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