Whichever way one looks at it, Theresa May’s days as Prime Minister are numbered. Perhaps it will be soon, as furious Tory MPs blame her for the shocking election result. Perhaps she can survive for a few years, restoring her reputation by skilfully managing an impossibly split Commons and successfully negotiating Brexit. But few ever saw her as a long-term leader and the general consensus is that she will never lead the Conservatives into another election.
That the race to succeed her is effectively underway should be music to the ears of political bettors – Tory leadership contests have a history of drama and big upsets. How it turns out will depend on a variety of known unknowns – the timing of it, the state of Brexit negotiations, the positions of each candidate on that fundamental question and their ability to adapt their stance to fast-changing circumstances.
During this unpredictable era, any number of alternatives and little-known outsiders could yet come into the argument. For now, though, let’s focus on the five market principals, all of whom are trading below 20.0.
Boris Johnson – Latest Odds 4.3
The early favourite has never won a Tory leadership contest since political betting began and the current one has already let down backers before. In the days following last year’s referendum, Boris traded odds-on to succeed David Cameron. Yet when it came to the crunch, the most hyped candidate in history didn’t even put his name forward.
The circumstances behind that withdrawal are important. His colleagues simply don’t (or at least didn’t) regard him as heavyweight enough for such a demanding job. Arch-Brexit ally Michael Gove – apparently after talks with Rupert Murdoch and Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre – initiated a brutally effective political assassination, leaving Boris no option but to withdraw.