Who will be the next Tory leader?

A ConservativeHome survey reveals the runners and riders.

Who will be the next Conservative leader? That's the mischievous question posed by ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie in today's Guardian. Montgomerie, who I recently profiled for the New Statesman, surveyed more than 1,500 Tory members in attempt to offer an answer. The full results haven't been published yet but Tim has revealed the results from the "Influentials Group" [centre-right journalists, think-tank heads and parliamentarians] within the ConHome panel. As he explains:

Participants were asked who could be the next Tory leader if (for unspecified reasons) Cameron is forced to quit before the next election and who might be Tory leader if he steps down after the next election, sometime during the next parliament.

William Hague (20 votes) was the top choice to take over from Cameron in this parliament, followed by Boris Johnson (19), Michael Gove (16), Jeremy Hunt (12), George Osborne (12) and David Davis (10). Of note, is the low support for Osborne [whose stock has plummeted since the Budget] and the absence of a genuine leader-in-waiting.

Asked who could take over from Cameron in the next parliament, respondents were far more likely to name MPs from the 2010 take. But rather than figures such as Matthew Hancock [Osborne's former chief of staff] and Rory Stewart [only named by two or three panellists], those surveyed tipped women - and four women in particular - for the top. Priti Patel received 12 votes, with Andrea Leadsom on 10, Anna Soubry on eight and Liz Truss also on eight. As Montgomerie writes, "it's as if the party is yearning for another Thatcher."

Michael Gove was the third most-popular choice to take over from Cameron in this parliament. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496