The prospect of Boris Johnson running the country looks like an all too inevitable possibility following the first round of votes cast yesterday.
Bookies now price Johnson at 1/5 to win the leadership race after he scooped 114 votes out of a potential 313, with Jeremy Hunt (43 votes), Michael Gove (37 votes) and Dominic Raab (27 votes) a long way behind.
A lot can still happen between now and the final membership vote that will ultimately install the next Prime Minister, but whatever the outcome the situation will be far from settled.
The joke going around among rival candidates is that they might not win this time, but not to worry: ‘We’ll all meet again in November.’
Johnson will inherit the same fragile majority that ultimately led to the demise of Theresa May if he took up the position, and with the 31st October deadline already looming he may be stuck for options over how to end the current impasse.
As Katy Balls wrote in the Spectator, that deadline will pass “not with Britain leaving the European Union but with a political crisis and a general election that will be won by Jeremy Corbyn. After that, the Tories will in a few months go through the whole process again — this time to pick a leader of the opposition.”
A Westminster aide appeared to concur: “We’re using this leadership campaign as a test run for when the whole thing collapses in the autumn,” they said, and it’s hard to disagree. The numbers do not add up. At best Boris will try deliver Brexit with his hands tied behind his back and at worst he will drive the Conservatives out of power. One way or another something has to give, and it will most likely be the leader.
A friend asked me today whether I’d be upset if Johnson took the keys to Number 10, to which I replied I would not. Whoever takes charge of the party at this stage will inherit the most poisoned chalice in British political history. On your head be it.