Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
Since I’m writing this on Thursday, and don’t know the result of the election, you’ll have to forgive me for making the assumption that the Conservatives win a majority tonight (I’m predicting a majority of 32, which will inevitably be completely wrong, but there you go) and Boris Johnson avoids becoming the second-shortest serving prime minister in our history. He beat George Canning on November 19th.
Once the result is known, attention will switch to two things – a reshuffle and the return of Parliament next week.
Opinion is divided among commentators about the extent of any possible shuffle. Some believe it will be limited in scope, and that a bigger reshuffle willbe undertaken once we leave the EU on 31 January.
Clearly, Nicky Morgan needs to be replaced at DCMS unless she continues in the job from the Lords, but how much wider will it go?
I’m told that Johnson has been unimpressed by the performances of several cabinet ministers, including several of his key supporters. He reckons he fulfilled his obligation by promoting them, but anyone who hasn’t performed by now will be given the heave-ho.
There is speculation that Jacob Rees-Mogg falls into this category. Number Ten was spitting tacks when he made his ‘Grenfell’ comments on LBC .and since then he’s been held hostage in his North Somerset constituency. This wasn’t his first transgression, though, and he may be living on borrowed time.
It is difficult to see the three most senior Cabinet ministers being moved – Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Sajd Javid. Indeed, the Chancellor was reassured of his position during the campaign by the Prime Minister – which Theresa May memorably failed to do with Philip Hammond in 2017.
Given the relative paucity of women in the Cabinet, Liz Truss and Andrea Leadsom might well be safe, although it wouldn’t surprise me Truss were moved from International Trade and replaced by Michael Gove in an expanded role which would also take over the functions of DeXeu, which is surely ripe for abolition.
Theresa Villiers (assuming she retains her Chipping Barnet seat) is thought to be under threat at Defra, which has reverted to a fairly anonymous profile following the stardust of the Gove reign.
Similarly, Johnson is said to have regretted moving Penny Mordaunt from Defence and putting his long term ally Ben Wallace in there. A return for her should not be ruled out.
Robert Buckland looks safe at Justice, Steve Barclay has done little wrong and will be retained, maybe taking over at Defra. Therese Coffey should surely be safe at DWP, given she’s only been in the job for just over three months.
Similarly, Robert Jenrick is unlikely to be moved from DHCLG. Rishi Sunak and Brandon Lewis could be two big winners of any reshuffle. They’ve both been front and centre of the Tory campaign in terms of media appearances. The two departments which would fit Lewis would be DHCLG, where he served as a minister in the Cameron government, and the Business department. Sunak could be a replacement for Nicky Morgan.
Julian Smith has not impressed Number Ten ,and no one would be surprised to see him leave government. His replacement will be an important choice. I might have tipped Gavin Williamson for this job, but given the manner of his departure from the MoD, I doubt very much whether that will happen.
Assuming there are four or five spaces available for thrusting ministers of state I’d expect Victoria Atkins, Kit Malthouse (who was reportedly furious at not being given a cabinet position in July) and Nadhim Zahawi (another who’s had a good media campaign) to be in prime position. Expect a couple of surprises too.
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I’ve experienced eleven general elections now. The first was 1979, when I was the Conservative candidate in our school mock election.
In every election from 1983 through to 2005, I was a party activist and finally a candidate. In the four general elections since ,then I’ve been reporting on what’s going on rather than participating in it.
I have to say I miss the direct involvement – the buzz, the camaraderie, the adrenaline, the despair. I’d say I’ve enjoyed this campaign less than any other – even 2017.
I’m expecting to enjoy presenting LBC’s election night show – my fourth – and there really is an air of great excitement about what might happen.
The MRP poll is predicting a Tory majority of 28, I’m predicting 32, and most people seem to be in the 20-40 area.
However, a lot of pundits think it could be a lot bigger than that but they’re not prepared to put their heads over the parapet (as I did in 2017) for fear of looking fools if it doesn’t happen (as I did in 2017)!
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Apart from the reshuffle, the other thing we can expect today and over the weekend is a lot of speculation about leaders resigning. Maybe one or two will have gone by the time you read this.
Now that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t able to form a government, he will surely have to go. Some say that he can’t wait for the day when he can return to his allotment, but he will come under some pressure to stay on. But can any leader who’s lost two successive elections really argue he should have a third go, especially when he’s over the age of 70?
Jo Swinson has had a torrid time and fought a terrible campaign – and is out in East Dunbartonshire. All in all it’s going to be an interesting weekend!