Will Boris Johnson become the next Prime Minister?
Brace yourselves, the Conservative leadership election is underway. And with this contest now in full-swing, it’s time to talk about candidates and who stands the greatest chance of becoming the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson is a name that many are aware of, for better or for worse, and is currently the leading figure in this leadership election. Johnson has held numerous offices during his time in politics, from being Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, to serving as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs between 2016 and 2018 under the outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Johnson is not without controversy to his name, however. He has caused outrage for many things he has said and done over the years, from describing Muslim women in burkas as “letter boxes”,to making a misleading statementabout Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman serving five years in prison for alleged spying; Johnson’s comments were used as evidence against her in court four days later. This doesn’t seem to faze his supporters, though, as he continues to win the majority of the hearts of the Conservative membership and its MPs. Johnson has already won the support of several former candidates, including Esther McVeyand Matt Hancockwhich will only boost his already-strong chances. And with a commanding lead in the polls and being a bookies’ favourite to win the election, it is hard to not bet against Boris Johnson getting the keys to No. 10.
It isn’t a sure-win for Boris Johnson. And the absence in debates might hurt him in the long-run as he would be unable to immediately challenge his rivals live, but he might not need to bat an eyelid in order to win the election anyway. It’s still early days, but it’s looking like the Boris Johnson show more than anything else.
Perhaps Boris Johnson’s closest rival at the moment, Jeremy Hunt currently serves as the Foreign Secretary, the successor to Johnson in fact. He previously held the role of Culture Secretary between 2010 and 2012, and then Health Secretary between 2012 and 2018. Jeremy Hunt launched his leadership bid by promising to be a “serious leader”whose experience can deliver Brexit. The Foreign Secretary made headlines recently though for a rather controversial stance on abortion, arguing that the legal limit for abortion should be cut from 24 weeks to 12.
With the first leadership ballot out of the way, Hunt is now second favourite behind Johnson and could see numerous former candidates joining his cause to stop a Johnson government from forming.
Michael Gove – no doubt a name known to teachers. Gove has been around the bloc for quite some time, having held several key posts in government including perhaps the most controversial – Education Secretary between 2010 and 2014. He now serves as the Environment Secretary, having held this post since 2017. He’s also known for the defectionfrom Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2016 to start his own, only for both of them to fail and Theresa May to take victory. He made headlines recently for revealing that he took cocaine in his earlier years, joining a queue of other leading Conservatives who are now opening up about their past drug habits. In fact, eight candidateshave admitted to taking drugs.
Gove finds himself in third place at the moment, gaining 37 nominations, slightly behind Jeremy Hunt’s 43 and well-off Boris Johnson’s 114. It’s hard to see him winning the election but he will likely fight until the very end rather than drop out, unless there’s an opening for a high-profile Cabinet position in someone’s hypothetical government in which case he might decide to jump ship.
Rory Stewart seems to be a rising figure in this election so far. Whilst he only gained 19 nominations in the first ballot, his conduct and style appear to be making him someone to keep an eye on as the election develops. He currently sits as the International Development Secretary, having gained this role earlier this year. He’s previously served as the Minister of State for Prisons between 2018 and 2019 and has been an MP since 2010. He is being increasingly viewed as the most moderate candidate due to his views on Brexit, having voted Remain but follows the line of delivering what was started, and is viewed as having the most progressive views elsewhere such as with gay rights. Though if you take a look at his voting record, he really is more of the same in most cases, including voting regularly on cutting welfare benefit spending.
What is interesting is that he is appealing to a lot of people outside the Conservative Party, particularly those of the centre who may vote for the Liberal Democrats or are considered ‘moderate’ Labour members. This could be important in a future election, but his lack of an extensive profile and the presence of many other high-profile rivals may soon end his bid for the leadership.
Sajid Javid is the current Home Secretary, having been appointed in 2018, succeeding Amber Rudd. He previously served as the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government between 2016 and 2018, and has served as an MP since 2010. He is the “first ethnic minority politician to directly run for the premiership”.Javid focuses on hard-work and experience he possesses in order to finish Brexit, claiming that his background as an international banker will help in negotiations.
Javid stands a good chance of reaching the final stages of the election. He is experienced, and he communicates well. But it’s hard to tell whether he can out-perform Jeremy Hunt, who has a greater lead, and more importantly beat Boris Johnson who for every other candidate, is the fundamental problem to their bid. Has he already won it? Is it worth fighting? Javid and his colleagues will likely continue until the very end, but again it’s hard to see them posing a serious challenge to Boris.
The final candidate of the election (post-first ballot) is Dominic Raab. Previously serving as the Brexit Secretary for four months, Raab has been an MP since 2010. Raab, in his leadership launch, claimed that Britain has been “humiliated” by Brexit and promises “bold” leadership to complete the process. However, his brief stint in the role of Brexit Secretary doesn’t exactly inspire a positive image, and past comments made about issues such as food banksalready fuel an image of disconnect and insensitivity that surrounds him and many of his colleagues.
To be brief – I don’t think he stands a good chance of winning. I expect he’ll drop out soon enough.
So, will Boris become the next PM?
Short answer – we won’t know until the final vote, but it’s looking like he will win. He leads in the polls, he is popular with the membership which will be the most important thing in the end, and his absence in debates will probably not hurt him as much as people think. There are several others to think about, like Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart, who could potentially cause an upset in the election, but that seems more like a dream than reality in this Boris-centric battle.
Having said all of this – none of them are up to the job and aren’t worth staking a lot of hope in. I make no apologies for my bias as a Labour member, but I do try and see the other side of things … most of the time. It’s hard to be balanced when assessing a group of individuals whose voting records are shocking, who carry so much controversy, who behave in such a way that it’s hard to see past their careerism and opportunism that is so evidently in play, and who ultimately just don’t care that much about anyone other than their target audience and themselves.
The real winner could very well be Jeremy Corbyn in all of this. Time will tell when the General Election is underway, whenever that may be. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2022.