It is the 8th May 2015. The Conservative Party is basking in the glory of their triumph, still in disbelief at their victory and in awe of the leader that delivered the party that majority that they had craved for 18 years. Yet, fast forward little over a year, and the Conservative Party is in turmoil, with the EU referendum tearing the party in half and David Cameron resigning from the helm of the party. Who will take over as Prime Minister and what does this mean for the most successful political party in the world?
No matter the various runners and riders for the leadership, one man has remained in the race, and arguably the favourite, through everything; Boris Johnson. Having recently stepped down as London Mayor, ‘BoJo’ will have his eyes set on 10 Downing Street, although he has arguably been aiming for the top job for several years now. The Eton-educated politician is known to be an eccentric character, with many feeling his charismatic charm could win the Conservative party votes in key seats. With around half of voters feeling he should lead the party after Mr Cameron’s reign is over, he clearly has the likeability factor which could steer us towards a huge 2020 victory, which 67% of voters agree with. Boris is also known as a ‘one-nation Tory,’ which could make him the perfect candidate to reunite the party after a painful EU referendum.
However, Boris has been known for his lacklustre approach to campaigning, with him often not pushing himself to maximise votes. Mr Johnson has also faced criticism that he is not fit to be Prime Minister, with him having previously been known to have struggled with the management aspect of leadership as well as being labelled as a megalomaniac.
Another favourite for Mr Cameron’s job is his right-hand man, George Osborne. Despite slipping back in the leadership polls, it is believed that Osborne has a large amount of backbench support, which may see him into the final two candidates. In his time as Chancellor, he has presided over huge swathing cuts to the state, which has made him unpopular on all sides of the political spectrum and led to him being portrayed as a cold and heartless politician. Mr Osborne has also seen himself commit blunder after blunder, with his working tax credits debacle especially hitting him hard, which has seen his approval rating plummet by over 45 percent. Going forward, it must be said that Mr Osborne is unlikely to ever be able to unify the split party, with him putting all his weight behind the Remain campaign, despite 66% of Tory members wishing to leave the EU. In light of the UK voting to leave the EU, there are even murmurs that Osborne won’t stand at all, with the Chancellor clearly sensing he would be wasting his time.
We may yet see Mr Osborne bounce back, probably by switching to the Foreign Office in future reshuffles and going on to take over in the case that a short-term candidate is in place. Maybe, just maybe, we may see Osborne clinch victory from the jaws of defeat and continue Cameron’s modernising theme within the Conservative Party, albeit against a huge amount of member’s support.
If either of the two big players don’t run, both of the big beasts can be expected to push their weight behind Michael Gove. After joining Vote Leave, Gove has been lauded as a principled and stable politician, who could help reconcile the party after the EU Referendum. The Scotsman is hugely popular with the grassroots too, topping the leadership polls for the last three months, looking to have the support of around the third of members.
However, in his time as Education Secretary, Gove is known to have upset a large proportion of teaching staff, to the extent that David Cameron felt he had to move him to prevent him harming their electoral chances. Furthermore, there is another huge problem with Gove’s assent to 10 Downing Street; he doesn’t want it. With Gove having ruled out running for leader several times, it looks like the only way he will become leader is if he is pushed into it. Gove may be a principled man but his principles may prevent him from ever holding higher ambitions and hence, we are unlikely to ever see PM Michael Gove.
On the outskirts of the party, there are murmurings that MP’s don’t want a familiar face but want a new, fresh figure who can connect with the electorate. They want a candidate who is similar to David Cameron in 2005, fresh off the backbench’s and relatively unknown by the electorate. Come to the fore, Mr Stephen Crabb. With him being elected 2005, the Welshman has had a slow but steady political rise, with him becoming a well-known figure with politicos over the last Parliament as he replaced IDS as Secretary of State for Works and Pensions. He does, however, remain somewhat unknown to the wider public.
If he ever does fill Cameron’s boots, he does have a huge political weapon that could connect with voters; his background. Mr Crabb has had a huge social mobility story, with him not only going to a grammar school, but supposedly being bullied because his benefit-claiming mother couldn’t afford a school uniform. This could neutralise the class-bashing that Labour so gleefully participate in with Mr Cameron in charge and could increase the Tory vote share among the working-class. He could also win back huge swathes of the Christian vote that have left the party, with Crabb being a devout Christian and even volunteering with Christian Aid.
Under a Crabb Government, we would likely see a continuation of David Cameron’s modernising project, with him typing himself to the Cameron ship on all things from Europe to welfare. However, we could actually see a small move to more compassionate Conservatism under Mr Crabb. One of his first moves in the Department for Works and Pensions was to scrap the planned ESA cut, with him saying, “Behind every statistic is a human being and perhaps sometimes in government we forget that.” This symbolises what a Tory Government, hopefully with a huge majority, would look like under Mr Crabb, a modernising and compassionate force for good.
Wrapping up my article, it is clear to me that Stephen Crabb is the clear choice to be the leader of the Conservative Party. The young, dynamic leader could win a landslide in the 2020 General Election and continue Cameron’s modernising drive. A move for Boris Johnson could also work, although his poor man-management could cost the Tories. Another hot favourite is George Osborne, although it looks like he made have just made one blunder too many, with the grassroots starting to turn on him. If Michael Gove runs he might just win it due to his huge popularity with members but he has ruled out running several times, indicating his heart wouldn’t be in it. Instead, a move for a fresh faces and energetic new leader would be a wise move. Step forward Steven Crabb, the saviour of the Conservative Party.