If Theresa May is celebrating the anniversary of her first year in office, I doubt there’ll be many joining her.
In that short span, she’s secured for herself the title of worst PM of the 21st century, and she’s making a rapid rise up the table of the worst in British history.
The decision she made at the G20 speaks volumes. As other leading nations were preparing to tackle President Donald Trump over his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, May decided that the greatest threat facing humanity (ask the insurance industry if you don’t believe me) was “not a priority”. After all her talk of intergenerational fairness, she cast the future of the nation’s children on to the fires of political expediency in an attempt to cosy up to the brute in the White House.
Britain under May is, it seems, destined to become an angry polluting boil on the backside of Europe.
However, what’s truly horrifying is this: if you cast an eye over the betting for who might replace her, you’ll soon come to the realisation that it could get a lot worse. That boil could quickly turn into a festering sore. But bear with me. There might be some soothing salve on its way from the pharmacist.
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first.
I should note that it is early days yet. There’s not yet a genuine contest in the offing. As such, and with British politics in a state of high volatility, the current betting has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, take a cursory glance at the potential field and you’ll realise that the lineup for a selling hurdle on a wet Wednesday at Uttoxeter looks like a high quality contest by comparison.
Your 4-1 best priced favourite is David Davis. This is a man who, remember, went nought for three as the Brexit negotiations opened. The only country he and his colleagues seem to like is Trump’s America. So I’ll use one of its sporting metaphors to describe his performance: he struck out.
A prickly contrarian, he keeps threatening to sail Britain off into the North Sea without a deal and without his department having properly studied the impact such a move might have. Clue: It wouldn’t be good.
There is a reason countries, and the EU, prefer deals to trying to trade under WTO rules as Davis suggests Britain might end up resorting to. Trump’s recklessness on Twitter looks positively mild by comparison. If he is the favourite to be the next Tory leader, and potentially, the next Prime Minister, heaven help us. Here’s hoping he’s a faller (you’ll see a lot of them in selling hurdles), as he was when he lined up against David Cameron.
Appalling though the prospect of Davis may be, he is far from being the worst option.
The next two Brexiteer candidates should prompt Captain Ska to revisit their BBC banned hit “Liar Liar” if one of them gets in. Both of them were pictured alongside that infamous “£350m a week extra for the NHS” Brexit bus.
Lining up at 6-1, it’s that bumbling, bumptious, blond bombshell Boris Johnson, a man whose ego and sense of entitlement appear such that he’s after becoming leader because he thinks he deserves it.
A disastrous interview all but saw Diane Abbott evicted from Labour’s election campaign. She’d been grappling with the early stages of diabetes. Boris, however, can offer no such explanation for the crash that occurred when he encountered the BBC’s Eddie Mair. Despite coming off as an incompetent buffoon, he was able to brush it off because he’s white, male and some people mistakenly find him charming. They’re thus willing to overlook the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a principle he wouldn't sacrifice in pursuit of his goal.
This is the man, remember, who won the mayoralty of London, a Labour city, by portraying himself as a liberal Tory, at home with the capital’s values of openness, tolerance, and cultural diversity, only to turn himself into the scion of the Europhobic right when it suited his purposes. And don’t even get me started on the controversies of his past.
It’s his alleged charisma that keeps him in the game, and the belief among some Tories that voters will be willing to overlook his many failings because he somehow manages to “connect” with them. He would lead them, and us, down a dark road.
The man who stood next to him in front of that bus first supported and then betrayed him. Michael Gove, 25-1, also betrayed his former friend Cameron over the Brexit vote. Pity Britain if he comes up on the rails.
As for the other Euro-haters, swooned over by the reptilian right, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a latter day Brideshead who stands up in his bath when the national anthem comes on, could scarcely be more out of touch with modern Britain. Yet he’s a 16-1 shot amid talk of Mogg-mentum. There’ll have to be a steward’s inquiry if he gets anywhere near No 10.
Is he the comic relief or is it Andrea Leadsom, a 50-1 shot who managed to make May look good when they squared off and is still being talked up in some Tory newspapers?
So to the semi-sane wing of the party, and Amber Rudd. A supposed moderate at a best priced 10-1, we oughtn’t to forget her shockingly illiberal (and swiftly shelved) proposal to force firms to keep registers of foreign workers.
Out She also now boasts only a tiny majority, having come close to losing her seat in the last election.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has been anointed as a star: a modern, socially liberal Conservative who could save the party from itself and go on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. If only she had a Westminster seat from which to do that.
I don’t know about you, but I think even 25-1 is too short a price for May’s mate Damian Green.
Any more for any more? Sajid Javid, James Brokenshire, Dominic Raab, you can back them all if you want.
Which brings me to the one candidate who has a couple of traits that the chamber of horrors I’ve profiled all seem to lack: credibility and competence.
I am talking, of course, about Philip Hammond. The Chancellor, at a best priced 5-1, is the second favourite. Businesses would be positively jumping for joy if he somehow justified those odds, because he appears to be the only Tory who still listens to the sort of people who are usually its best friends. He might start to gain some momentum with the country at large if he were to properly realise austerity is a busted flush.
The problem with him is that he’s basically Theresa 2.0. Installing Hammond as Tory leader would be like the party updating its computer operating system. After its bedded down, things should work a bit better with some of the bugs ironed out. Hammond is less robotic, and more personable, than his current boss. Trouble is, he’s had same charisma bypass op. Could you imagine Philip Hammond successfully handling the Grenfell tragedy? Could you see him emoting with the victims?
And so to the light at the end of the tunnel, the soothing salve for May’s festering sore.
One man who did emote when it mattered was Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader has a lot to prove, and needs to show he can unite his party, but he’s the bookies’ favourite for a rather more important race: who will be the next Prime Minister.
Looking at the Tories lining up to replace May, it’s not hard to see why. That price (with Paddy Power) might soon start to look generous.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies