Who will be the next Tory leader? I’d hedge your bets if I were you

From having a clear favourite, the race now looks like one of those big summer sprint horse racing handicaps at Newmarket

James Moore
Thursday 14 April 2022 15:14
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<p>People tend to be a lot more honest with their bets than they do with opinion pollsters</p>

People tend to be a lot more honest with their bets than they do with opinion pollsters

Here’s the bad news for those who find it profoundly disturbing that the two highest political offices in the land are occupied by a pair of common, lockdown-breaking criminals.

While Labour is ahead in the polls, the Tories are still the bookies’ favourites to win the most seats in the next general election. At about 4/6, the implied probability is a little better than 60 per cent. People tend to be a lot more honest with their bets than they do with opinion pollsters, which is why this is worthy of note.

We have to be a little cautious with the numbers. This is not what one would describe as a liquid market. So, there’s not much money lined up on the Betfair exchange – which allows punters to place or lay other people’s bets like a bookie – on either side. It might not be a true market, but the price is still sobering for anyone who believes in the rule of law, and who feels that those who break the law ought to be held to account. Like the Conservative Party used to, or so it told us, anyway.

The criminal prime minister, Boris Johnson, indulging in his time-tested tact of distraction with his staggeringly cruel plan to send asylum seekers to processing centres in Rwanda, is also now commonly 2-1 to be gone this year.

That’s an implied probability of 33 per cent. The price, which has been coming in, doesn’t look terribly attractive given that he isn’t going to do what an honourable man would in the wake of being found to have committed a criminal act: resign.

To get shot of him will require 54 Tory MPs to send letters requesting a confidence vote to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, which Johnson will have to lose. Several Conservative MPs have performed a volte-face and are now saying it’s not the time because there’s a war on. This was also the Daily Mail’s line, ignoring the fact that the Tories have cheerfully changed leaders during global crises and out-and-out conflicts before.

Another factor, which will surely be on the minds of some as they weigh options and look at the emails coming in from constituents, is the question of who to replace him with.

The criminal chancellor Rishi Sunak’s odds have fallen faster than the Russian rouble in the early days of Vladimir Putin’s murderous war, thanks to allegations surrounding his wife’s tax affairs as much as his lockdown-breaking criminality. The former 3-1 favourite (with Betfair) has seen his price collapse to 12-1.

He’s probably going to be one of the criminal prime minister’s fiercest defenders from here on out because, if he still fancies the top job, he’s going to need time and a dramatic economic turnaround for his fortunes to recover. The rouble has turned around, courtesy of the Russian central bank’s interventions, so it’s not inconceivable. But I wouldn’t fancy him at double the current price.

From having a clear favourite, the race now looks like one of those big summer sprint horse racing handicaps at Newmarket – but there’s still something there for students of form with an eye on value. This is not solely one for the pin stickers.

The new favourite Liz Truss, available at 6-1 with Paddy Power, has her fans among the Tories’ membership, which is ageing, much more right-wing than the rest of the country, and quite forgiving of people who shoot their mouths off (like Truss has). The parliamentary party may be less so. Those vanity pictures she had taken in tanks, in which she posed as a reincarnated Margaret Thatcher, didn’t go down well. Nor did her call for Britons to head off to Ukraine, rifles in hand.

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Looking into my crystal ball, I see a potential “Stop Liz” campaign forming to prevent her from getting to the final two selected by MPs to go before party members. Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, with prices in the mid-teens, have previously tried and failed to get into Number 10. The latter’s non-dom tax status while a banker doesn’t help him. I think we can safely forget about them.

It speaks to the lack of talent in the cabinet that Truss is followed in the lists by a pair of high-profile backbenchers, in the form of Tom Tugendhat and Jeremy Hunt, who came second to Johnson before. Both voted to remain in the EU, as did Truss, which mightn’t help their chances. They can be found at 9-1 and have backers, although I wouldn’t be among them.

The fastest climber, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, also backed remain. But he’s currently earning rave reviews. He’s having a “good war”. Ladbrokes had him priced at 25-1 at the start of the year. He’s now into the tens and might be worth a pop at that price given a “safe pair of hands” looks attractive after the years of Johnson’s misrule. Did I mention Johnson is also a criminal? I think I did. Wallace is not, although there was a bit of fuss about his expenses a while back.

Another worthwhile 10-1 shot catching the eye is Penny Mordaunt, the Brexit-backing junior minister, who’s bounced in and out of the government, and the cabinet. They look like decent bets at the price, although I’d be inclined to tread very carefully with this market. It could prove every bit as volatile as bitcoin in the middle of an economic crisis.

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