- The Johnson bandwagon rolls on – with Cabinet Ministers and Spartans clambering aboard. James Brokenshire, Alun Cairns and Chris Grayling make up the former, as more of those who sit around Theresa May’s top table declare. (But where is Penny Mordaunt?) And Steve Baker and Priti Patel declare for Johnson. These are significant declarations. Both have been regulars in our Next Tory Leader survey; Baker came fifth in our latest one, published yesterday. Johnson topped it on 43 per cent: ten points up on last time – and over 30 ahead of his nearest competitor, Michael Gove.
- Davidson declares for Javid. Davidson is not a fan of Johnson, has revived the Conservatives in Scotland, and is perhaps the best-known face of Tory modernisation (she also performs very well in this site’s monthly Cabinet League Table). Add all that together, and one might have expected a Gove, Hunt, Hancock or Stewart declaration. Instead, she has plumped for a drier politician altogether, but one who also represents visible change: Sajid Javid. This is excellent timing for him. He now needs to join the dots between his appeal as an aspiration icon and his poll ratings, which aren’t at all bad.
- Gove deploys weapons of mass distraction. Neither Karen Bradley nor Damian Hinds have been frightened off the Environment Secretary’s candidacy by his confession of illegal drug use yesterday. Instead, both Cabinet Ministers have declared for him – refusing to be rattled. As might be expected, Gove has thrown the policy kitchen sink at the papers today, in an attempt to change the subject. He is up for replacing VAT with a “lower, simpler” sales tax post-Brexit; the Vote Leave Australian-style points-based immigration system, and an HS2 review. He was second in our survey yesterday, and remains second, just, in our table of MPs’ voting intentions as we write.
- Who will others eventually declare for? And who will reveal more support tomorrow? Matt Hancock consolidates his position on the centre-left of the Tory spectrum, and makes some sensible points about tax cuts marching in step with spending control. Mark Harper advocates a one-off Brexit extension; Esther McVey pledges a public sector wage increase; Rory Stewart is pushing his National Citizens’ Service plan. You can bet that the Big Five – Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Gove, Dominic Raab, and Javid – will be knocking on their doors, looking for future support in the ballot (assuming no upsets). Tomorrow sees big pushes from most of these: expect the release of more supporters’ names.
- Take it to the limit one more time. Theresa May’s policy prospectus when she stood for the Conservative leadership was never properly probed, because of Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the contest. The same pattern mustn’t be repeated this time round, whoever wins. There is a balance to be struck between getting on with it and giving members their say. The new leader may well be depending on the latter in the event of a snap election. So any attempt to cut out the latter would not be smart at all. Far better for the leadership election to end roughly when the Commons’ session ends. This would give the new leader a summer recess chance to get his feet under the table.
- A general election looms. The most significant part of Johnson’s interview is his commitment to “tear up the Withdrawal Agreement”. That stance isn’t unique: Jeremy Hunt has written that he “cannot see a way forward” with the current deal. But it is a reminder of the danger to a new Prime Minister of a snap no confidence vote – with Tory Remainers lining up against a harder Brexit plan. The exam question for candidates is therefore “who is most likely to win an election”? – not “who would make the best Prime Minister?” (This site believes that of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet members, John Healey would make the best Prime Minister. It doesn’t follow that we would vote for him.)
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