Two-horse Tory race is on

first_imgThe contest for the next Prime Minister of Great Britain is on – and unless he really puts his foot in it, it looks like the winner’s already decidedIt was always expected that the second candidate to take on Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party leadership contest would be Jeremy Hunt or Michael Gove, and in the end Jeremy Hunt got through by the narrowest of margins – just two votes.I have little doubt that the Boris camp will be mighty relieved, simply because they think Jeremy Hunt is easier to beat.Jeremy Hunt voted to remain in the EU referendum, and while he has since said he is determined that the UK must leave, he has flipped on exactly how. He even initially supported a second referendum and staying in the single market.He has flip-flipped on the EU question and that will not go down well with the party membership.Minds made upThis is a contest for Boris to lose, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – and the Boris of old is perfectly capable of doing just that. But Boris has a strong team around him and it has been noticeable how quiet he has been in the parliamentary stages of the contest.In any event, although we now have a whole month of hustings meetings with the party membership to get through, I think most party members have already made their minds up who they will vote for.They are party activists, after all. They already largely know the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate; they will know where they stand on key issues, especially Brexit.Unless one or other of the two candidates really puts his foot in it, I don’t think the hustings will change members’ views very much.Support from halfTwo other points. The ballot papers are sent out to party members between 6-8 July, a good two weeks before the deadline for voting.Traditionally with postal votes a high percentage will be returned almost immediately. So I have a hunch that the result will have been decided well before the last hustings take place.Second, although Boris isn’t especially popular in the parliamentary party, he still won the support of 160 MPs – 51% of the parliamentary party. Not bad for somebody said to be not very popular among his colleagues.I reckon many MPs voted for Boris because that’s what their constituency association discreetly told them to do, or at least made clear which candidate they were backing.So, barring a catastrophe for him, I reckon Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will be our next Prime Minister come the end of July.Grayling gone?People are increasingly asking me whether Chris Grayling will remain as Transport Secretary, or be replaced.I honestly don’t have a clue, and at this stage I doubt either leadership candidate has either.That said, I have to say that it would be a surprise if Chris Grayling stayed. His time at Transport has not been a happy one, with many a controversial decision and not a few crises.It’s time to put him back on the backbenches.last_img read more