As was outlined recently on these pages in relation to the Labour party, internal political contests are very much influenced by the rules which govern them, so some thorough research is required before touching Ladbrokes’ market for next Conservative leader.
Thankfully, the rules for the race to be next Tory leader, which started with a bang when David Cameron announced to the BBC’s James Landale that he would not seek a third term in office prior to May’s General Election victory, are somewhat clearer than their main counterparts’.
MPs are balloted and candidates eliminated until two go forward to a vote from the whole membership.
One of those two spots looks almost certain to go to current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Ladbrokes’ 11/8 favourite, barring an unforeseeable financial meltdown over the next few years, or a somewhat more foreseeable exit from the European Union.
It could happen, but Osborne has so many staunch supporters in key Cabinet positions, not to mention ideological soulmates across the government benches, that he looks a shoo-in for the showdown at this juncture.
By that rationale, we can rule out leading Osbornites Sajid Javid, the 7/1 third favourite, and 50/1 outsiders Matthew Hancock and Justine Greening – that trio are highly unlikely to abandon the Chancellor’s ship, and if he goes down, they all suffer.
Home Secretary Theresa May and outgoing Mayor of London Boris Johnson were thought to be locked in battle for the second spot on the members’ ballot, but both have seen their stock fall in recent months.
May’s conference speech on immigration in October did not hit quite the right notes, while Boris seems to have lost his mojo since stepping back into the House of Commons just over six months ago.
He’s still 4/1 second favourite, with May now out to 8/1, but their success could depend on how they position themselves ahead of the EU referendum, and its subsequent result. At present, neither have any momentum.
So who else? Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan come next in Ladbrokes’ betting at 20/1 apiece, but the Health Secretary already looks a busted flush due to the junior doctors debacle, while it seems his counterpart over in Education is this short in the betting merely because she has suggested she might run.
There’s absolutely no chance of voters electing bone-dry Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, a 25/1 shot, which leaves Justice Secretary Michael Gove as the most intriguing of the realistic outsiders at the same odds.
Gove had mixed reviews as Education Secretary, with teachers largely outraged by the scale of the Scot’s reforms, while others clearly appreciated his zeal for change.
The 48-year-old has clearly set a much better tone in six months since taking over at Justice than predecessor Chris Grayling managed in over two-and-a-half years, and taking in the role of Chief Whip for almost a year prior to the election can’t have hurt the former Times journalist’s all-rounder claims.
If not George Osborne, it may yet be Michael Gove who leads the Tories to almost certain victory over Labour in 2020. He looks a big price at 25/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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