The national situation is far too serious to turn the leadership dilemma into a glib game of who’s up and who’s down. As I wrote in my column for The Times today, the Tories are trashing their own brand to such an extent – and looking bust on an intellectual, organisational and demographic basis – that the rest of us might have to get used to the appalling idea of a Marxist in Number 10.
Still, there is a Tory leadership race on. It just hasn’t been formally announced. It is worth monitoring all the jockeying for position and reporting it as it will dictate who succeeds May and becomes Prime Minister when she is gone. She is not clinging to power. She now hates it and is staying to do her duty only as long as needed.
As a result, the market in Tory futures has become extremely volatile. Hedging is going on all over the place. Some players in the market would swap Theresa May for a new leader today if the choice was obvious. Others say that May will last until, ooh, October?
So what’s the latest?
Sell Boris. If the Foreign Secretary is ever on the BBC show Room 101, in which celebrities make the case for stuff to be banished to Room 101, then there is little doubt he will choose BBC presenter Eddie Mair as one of his choices. Does Boris now wake up screaming with a recurring nightmare in which Mair is ending his career? Yesterday, in their latest encounter, Mair did the interview equivalent of taking a Boris bike and dropping ten tons of steel on it from a great height. Boris was hopeless on a Diane Abbott level. We’ve all suffered brain-fades (I have in front of an IEA audience following a brilliant simple question from a youngster and it horrifies me still) but Boris is Foreign Secretary. He sounded clownish and entirely unsuitable for this Grenfell meets Brexit moment. The FCO is a job previously done by Douglas Hurd, William Hague, Malcolm Rifkind, Anthony Eden, David Owen, Robin Cook. The joke of joviality has lost its power in serious times. If you have Boris stock, sell it all immediately.
Buy Hammond. What an incredible turnaround. A month ago he faced the chop from May and Nick Timothy (who? chap with a beard, used to run Theresa May with Fiona Hill) and now he is fast becoming the compromise candidate. His broadcast appearances have been extremely good. Sorry, they’ve been pretty good, but it’s all relative. He is emerging as the unflashy grown-up Remainer who can sort out Brexit. Oh, that worked out so well last year. Still, he knows what’s he doing and his wife is charming and razor-sharp. Buy shares in Hammond!
Hold David Davis. In my view Davis is the best candidate if May falls soon. Raised on a council estate, with a successful career behind him, he is tough enough to do it. But as others point out, he is running the Brexit talks and had a tricky start this week, having to concede ground. This is what ultra-remainers have been demanding. And the moment he shifts they shout disaster. It’s a funny old world.
Sajid Javid rising. He had a terrible referendum and was diminished by being too close to Osborne when the former Chancellor was whacked. Javid stayed in the cabinet, but with his leadership hopes gone. Such career reverses are good for people if they teach resilience and the capacity to rebuild. Javid has been the most impressive member of the government in dealing with Grenfell. Not a lot of competition there, but he’s been impressive nonetheless.
One final point. Where on earth are all the next generation Tories? Unless I missed others, only George Freeman has had the balls to speak up coherently on the way forward. Where are all the great 2010 and 2015 crowd? Have they lost the power of speech? Write something for Reaction if you have something to say. You know where to find us.