The 1922 Committee’s Executive meets later today to determine the rules for the forthcoming leadership election. It has a crucial role in the contest, since the Chairman of the Executive is its returning officer, and has considerable discretion over the rules. There will be three issues to consider.
The first is whether or not one of the two candidates put before Party members should automatically be a woman. It has been claimed that George Osborne is behind this move (on the ground that a woman would find it easier to beat Boris Johnson than a man). However, I am told that the proposal emerged during a discussion between a group of Conservative MPs via WhatsApp, found no consensus in favour, and is unlikely to be adopted by the Executive. Indeed, I gather that it may not even be put.
The second is whether or not more than two candidates should be put before Party members. Andrew Rossindell has written in favour of such a change on this site. I don’t detect any enthusiasm for it, and there have been reports that, given the short timetable for the election, it would be difficult to amend the rules.
Which brings us, third, to that timetable itself. There are essentially two views.
One is that the election should take place according to plan set out by the Prime Minister, which would see the Parliamentary stage of the contest completed by the end of next month, the membership stage finalised by the end of September, and the winner’s name announced at Party Conference.
The second is that the timetable should be less frantic. According to one version of this view, the Parliamentary stage would be completed by the end of the Commons’ September session; the two successful candidates would have the opportunity to make their pitch to Party members at Conference, and the membership stage would end – and a winner be declared – perhaps a fortnight after the end of Conference.
The case for a longer contest is that the timetable is very tight, that many Party members will be away during August and September, and that a rushed choice of leader is likely to be a bad choice.
The case for a shorter one is that the markets and investors need as much certainty as possible as swiftly as possible, and that it is irresponsible to delay. Justine Greening put a version of this case on ConservativeHome yesterday.
But, as ever, personal interests are mixed up in these calculations. Boris Johnson is now seen as the frontrunner and his supporters want a short contest. His opponents and some other candidates want a longer one. Liam Fox, who may stand himself, is urging a longer contest.
My own view, for what it’s worth, is that what must come first is the need to get on with Brexit in an orderly way – regardless of the interests of the different candidates. That requires a new Prime Minister and Cabinet as soon as possible. Which requires more or less the timetable that David Cameron set out.