David Cameron at the Conservative conference in Manchester in 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why the drain of 2010 Tory MPs spells trouble for Cameron

The decision of nine Conservative MPs elected in 2010 to stand down suggests many fear defeat - and makes it more likely. 

The announcement by Dudley South MP Chris Kelly that he will stand down at the general election makes him the ninth Conservative MP elected in 2010 to choose not to recontest his seat. 

This strikingly high number spells trouble for the Tories in two ways. First, it suggests that a significant number are not confident of retaining their seats. All of the nine (Louise Mensch, who resigned hers in 2012, Jessica Lee, Aidan Burley, Mike Weatherley, Chris Kelly, Laurs Sandys, Lorraine Fullbrook, Dan Byles, Jonathan Evans) represent marginals targeted by Labour, with six in the top 42 of the party's hit list. Detailed polling by Lord Ashcroft and others has shown Labour performing disproportionately well in its target seats.

Second, the decision of so many from the 2010 intake to stand down will make it harder for the Tories to defend their marginals. First-time MPs traditionally benefit from a disproportionate incumbency bonus as they build their constituency profile and as they face less well-known opposition candidates, rather than sitting MPs (who enjoyed their own local profile). 

Combined with the defection of Douglas Carswell to Ukip, which both reflects and reinforces the Farageiste threat, the drain of 2010ers is further evidence of why many are finding it ever harder to see how the Tories win the next election. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.