David Cameron will need to contain things quickly if the jockeying for position isn’t to undermine his authority
‘There’s nothing to see here.’
That was the sentiment behind defence secretary Michael Fallon’s efforts to bat off questions about the leadership of the Conservative Party during his interview on Sky News this morning. The prime minister is, he said, only half way through a 10-year term of office.
Technically this is correct; but the reality, as Tony Blair before him discovered, is that the moment David Cameron outlined his plans to vacate Downing Street his authority began to wane.
Sure, it was only ‘chatter’ in the bars and coffee shops around Manchester this year, but make no mistake, as the years progress conference after conference will become ever more concerned with who the next leader will be.
And by 2017, the likely year of the referendum on EU membership, the Conservative Party will be split at the same time as chatter about the next leader will reach fever pitch.
Meanwhile yesterday’s man David Cameron will be trying desperately to hold his party together as every day sees a little bit more of his authority evaporate.
And so just months after they won the election, this year’s gathering of the Conservative faithful fired the starting gun on what realistically looks set, at this stage anyway, to be a three-way contest between George, Theresa and Boris.
An assessment of the polling so far indicates that the Conservative members may have the kind of choice Labour faced over the Summer – vote for who they want or vote for the person the public likes the most.
According to Ipsos Mori, among Conservative ‘supporters’ the chancellor currently leads the race, supported by 32 per cent of those polled, followed by Boris Johnson on 29 per cent and Theresa May on 18 per cent.
But things get much more interesting when the views of the population as a whole are taken into account. This shows that Boris Johnson is leading the race among the general public, supported by 27 per cent followed by Theresa May on 17 per cent. George Osborne trails in third on 15 per cent.
Does any of this matter at this stage in the parliament? Possibly not, but it does show that for all the efforts to contain it, the jockeying for position is clearly on and David Cameron will need to contain things quickly if it isn’t to undermine his authority.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter
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