Ever since his resignation as Foreign Secretary this July, over the Chequers proposal on how Britain should leave the European Union, the popularity of Boris Johnson has steadily increased and is now supported by 35 per cent of voters on the Conservative Home website to become the next leader, when Theresa May either resigns or is ousted.
Although the former Mayor of London is immensely popular with the party grassroots, many still pour salt on the prospect of him becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party, and by proxy Britain’s next Prime Minister. However, if you look at the possible routes for Johnson to succeed May, it is a more realistic prospect than many would like you to think.
Ever since the mess that was the 2016 Party Leadership election in the wake of the Brexit vote, where the Brexiters – Johnson, Gove and Leadsom tore themselves apart, the Europsceptic wing of the Conservative party has become far more organised and unified under the ERG (European Research Group) banner with tactical leadership from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, a longstanding eurosceptic backbencher, and Steve Baker who resigned alongside Johnson and Davis in the wake of the Chequers deal.
The likely candidates for the next leadership contest are Johnson, Sajid Javid – the Home Secretary and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary who succeeded Johnson. There will also likely be a few candidates that you never expected to run, and I’m sure that Michael Gove will be deluded enough to think he can have another shot at it.
Javid and Hunt have one big issue that will prevent them with the grassroots of the party, which is that they were ‘Remainers’ during the 2016 election, Javid especially after being a life-long eurosceptic was seen as selling his principles for his career, something potential rivals will point out. Hunt’s issue is that he was also a Remainer and doesn’t come off as authentic when saying he believes in Brexit, let alone the fact he is the most polarising Conservative Minister in modern times due to his time as Health Secretary. Gove, meanwhile has no prospect at all of getting anywhere with a future leadership bid.
Before you get to the grassroots vote however, the MPs who are running for leadership will have to win over their own colleagues in the parliamentary party. This is when many sceptics suggest that Johnson would not get into the final two, who are then voted on by the membership, however if the ERG does not fragment and fall into disrepute during the MPs voting stage of the leadership election, and throw their weight behind Johnson then he is all but guaranteed up to 80 MPs backing him for the leadership. Along with the Javid and Hunt backers being fragmented, it really is not hard imagining Johnson in the final two.
If Johnson is in the final two, he would hands down win with the membership. He is seen as being able to appeal to the country, unlike another other Conservative, and unlike any other serious contender, he is a eurosceptic.
All of this, however, depends on when the next leadership election happens, but regardless of what those who doubt Johnsons chances say, there is a real viable route for him becoming the next leader of the Conservative party and the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.