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Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

I write this just after hearing the result of the first round of voting in the MPs section of the Conservative Party leadership contest. The Boris Johnson juggernaut is rolling, and many believe it is now unstoppable – unless he stops it himself, that is.

The next ballot is on Tuesday coming, and we know that Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper won’t be taking part, since they have been eliminated. The question is, will Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart or Dominic Raab decide that the game is up?

Hancock and Stewart may play ‘chicken’ with each other, as each is likely to gain most from the other’s departure. Both McVey’s and Leadsom’s 20 supporters (in all) may well transfer almost unanimously to Johnson. If Dominic Raab can’t snaffle most of them, you’d think he’d have to acknowledge that his game might be up.

In the published supporter lists, Sajid Javid has only four Brexiteer votes. So, the majority of his votes, if he drops out, are likely to edge towards Jeremy Hunt, I’d have thought.

Michael Gove is still in the race for second place, albeit clinging on by his fingertips. His vote didn’t evaporate, although it’s fair to say that if ‘Cocaine-gate’ hadn’t happened, I suspect he’d now be in second place. His campaignis saying everyone had written them off but it’s still all to play for. That may be beer goggles talking, but a lot of people will be hoping that Gove and Hunt duke it out in a constructive way for the right to take on the man who even his worst enemies would have to acknowledge is the clear winner from the week’s events.

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George Freeman has a book out this week, called Britain After Brexit, published by the Centre for Policy Studies (and about which he wrote on this site earlier this week).

It’s a collection of dozens of essays about the kind of policies that Britain should adopt in the post-Brexit world. Editing a book like this is a bit like herding cats, since most MPs don’t seem to understand the word ‘deadline’. So credit to him for that.

This week, however, some of those self-same MPs are seeing Freeman in a somewhat different light. Having been the only MP to defect from Michael Gove to a rival candidate over the cocaine allegations, he was described to me by one colleague (and not a Gove supporter) as “an utter tosspotty wanker.” Still – yet another Remainer to add to Matt Hancock’s merry band of supporters, who, thus far, count zero Leave supporters among their number.

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So far I have done hour long interviews with six of the ten original candidates over the last week. I’ve next got Dominic Raab on Monday, followed by Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove on Wednesday.

A lot of people have asked why Boris Johnson isn’t doing one. He’s been invited, and I remain hopeful that he will agree to a date but, were I advising him on his media appearances, I too would be telling him there’s little to gain by doing anything in the short term.

I doubt very much if he’ll do the Channel 4 debate on Sunday or the BBC debate next Tuesday. If he does, I’ll be battering down his door!

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A thought occurs to me on Dominic Raab. I suppose it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the ERG may “lend” some Johnson votes to Raab in the next round. Something similar is reputed to have happened in 2005, when some of David Cameron’s supporters tried to boost Liam Fox’s vote in order that they could fight him, rather than David Davis in the country. It didn’t work, though.

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As the contest progresses, there will be countless articles (several written by me, I suspect) which speculate on who the new Prime Minister will pick for his cabinet. I won’t go into full speculation mode here, but one bit of advice I would dole out is this.

Ditch all the ministers who “attend cabinet”. Go back to having a cabinet of 22 people and no more. And start as you mean to go on. Reduce the number of ministers across the board. We do not need 95 ministers. We also don’t need so many departments. I might return to that in a future column.

126 comments for: Iain Dale: Johnson – unstoppable now, unless he unstops himself

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