The Sunday Times (£) today reports that:

“Several ministers and their friends last week began calling Tory candidates to see if they would back them to be leader on the assumption that Cameron will fall. Tory officials have sounded out at least two other donors about Cameron stepping aside after polling day so Johnson could be installed as leader in an unopposed “coronation” and fight a second election.”

If ConservativeHome’s monthly future leader poll is right, the Mayor of London is the front-runner, with more backing than any other candidate among Party members – as well, if the Sunday Times and other papers are correct, as David Cameron and George Osborne themselves, who see a Boris leadership as the best chance of preserving their style and shape of their own if this election goes pear-shaped.

However, the Mayor will not have it all his own way if this happens.  To his own name, we add each month in our survey those of –

  • Theresa May.
  • Sajid Javid.
  • George Osborne.
  • Liam Fox.
  • Michael Gove.
  • David Davis.
  • Philip Hammond.
  • Owen Paterson.
  • Jeremy Hunt.
  • Rory Stewart.
  • Nicky Morgan.
  • Adam Afriyie.
  • Chris Grayling.

According to the Sunday Times, we can make this long list of possible runners and riders even longer by adding Graham Brady to it. Furthermore –

“former MPs received calls last week on behalf of Andrea Leadsom, a Treasury minister well regarded by the 2010 intake. She is understood to be backed by Eurosceptic donors. Those looking for a “clean skin” untainted by the government are promoting Dominic Raab, who led backbench opposition to the European arrest warrant.”

Nor is that all.  Other names that have been floated include Esther McVey (who’s said that she wouldn’t mind having a go) and Dr Philip Lee – who went public in very plain terms to criticise George Osborne’s pensioner bonds plan, arguing that it is in breach of the social contract that should exist between younger and older voters.

Obviously, they can’t all stand – or on second thoughts, perhaps they can, together with every single other member of the Parliamentary Party, in order to prevent anyone from feeling left out.  In such a circumstance, I wish to make it plain that I pledge my own vote today to my splendid successor in Wycombe, Steve Baker.

You may ask what dwarf star some of these people are on.  (No names, no pack drill.)  If so, you may be making a big mistake.  It would be the same as the one that I made myself in 2005, when I presumed that Cameron himself hadn’t been in the Commons long enough to be Conservative leader.  Just look at what happened next.

And that’s the point: the world and its wife are speeding up.  This is the age of Twitter, fly-on-the-wall, Blackberry Messenger, Britain’s Got Talent.  The Conservative Party’s Got Talent!  (See our guest video above.) “What’s your name? “Gervase.” “And how long have you been in the Commons, Gervase?” “Three days.” “And what is your talent, Gervase?” “I play an ashtray with a key.”

Everyone knows that Andy Warhol said that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.  If Cameron doesn’t make it back to Number 10, this will be the Andy Warhol leadership election.  Candidates will have their names floated in the media, discover they have little support – and back off or press on or support a bigger runner according to personality, taste and inclination.

“Like to take a cement fix./Be a standing cinema./Dress my friends up just for show,/See them as they really are…”