Who will succeed David Cameron as Tory leader?

Matthew d’Ancona speculates in GQ.

The ConservativeHome website has got hold of a copy of August's GQ, in which Matthew d'Ancona, a commentator who is close to the Tory leadership, speculates on the runners and riders who might succeed David Cameron.

The piece comes at a mildly vulnerable time for Cameron, as his failure to win the election outright is demonstrated every day by moves that the Tory right considers consessions to the Lib Dems (the latest of these being over next year's controversial AV referendum) and the Prime Minister is unlikely to be thrilled at it.

Here are some extracts:

  • George Osborne (8/1 according to Ladbrokes): "The more Osborne behaves like a man who expects no further promotion, the more focused he seems in his absolute determination to slash the deficit and take the political heat, the more he looks like a potential leader. I have long thought he is up to the job, but am struck by how many MPs have come around to that view since he became Chancellor."
  • Michael Gove (5/1): "He would have a strong claim to be the candidate of the Tory modernisers in the post-Cameron world, but has credibility on the right, too, as the architect of the government's radical plan for 'free' schools liberated from the dead hand of town-hall control."
  • Boris Johnson (5/1): "His public distaste for the coalition talks was a barely coded signal to party and public alike, as was his invitation to Cameron to use London under Mayor Boris as a model for the new government's spending cuts strategy. These minor provocations -- always carefully surrounded by rich praise for Cameron -- certainly infuriate the PM and the Chancellor. The question is when and how Boris makes his move. As another former MP for Henley, Michael Heseltine, used to say of his own chances against Thatcher, he has one bullet in his revolver. As soon as Boris heads back to the Commons -- especially if he decides not to seek a second term as mayor, or stands down midterm to fight for a seat -- his every move will be interpreted feverishly as a Churchillian step towards the top job. So timing is all."
  • Jeremy Hunt (20/1): "Something tells me that the man to watch is Jeremy Hunt, the new Culture Secretary, a man so ambitious he squeaks when he walks. He manages to be charmingly moderate and yet not a member of the Cameroon gang. He is telegenic, gaining in presence by the month, and fizzing with ideas. If Hunt can build up a back-bench following in the next few years, he will hard to beat."

To this, I would only add that one should still consider David Davis to be in the running; Liam Fox is likely to fancy it; and of course, if Westminster weren't victim to insane ageism, Kenneth Clarke would still be recognised as the Tory politician with the most reach to the electorate (would he have won outright in May?).

Interestingly, d'Ancona also appears to entertain the possibility that Boris Johnson, perhaps Cameron's most dangerously ambitious rival, will not stand for a second term as London mayor. As I have long suspected, despite recent speculation to the contrary. Let the debate begin.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.