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Jeremy Hunt is the man to beat in the race to succeed David Cameron, says Matthew d'Ancona

Screen shot 2010-07-05 at 13.14.29In the August edition of GQ Matthew d'Ancona looks at the runners and riders to succeed David Cameron. Some might think Mr d'Ancona's piece is very premature but in a world where Kevin Rudd can go from one of Australia's most popular ever Prime Ministers to being booted out of office - all within six months - it's not an entirely academic exercise. Four individuals stand out from the GQ piece:

  • George Osborne (8/1 according to Ladbrokes): "The more Osborne behaves like a man who expects no further promotion, the more focused he seems in his absolute determination to slash the deficit and take the political heat, the more he looks like a potential leader. I have long thought he is up to the job, but am   struck by how many MPs have come around to that view since he became chancellor."
  • Michael Gove (5/1): "He would have a strong claim to be the candidate of the Tory modernisers in the post-Cameron world, but has credibility on the right, too, as the architect of the government’s radical plan for “free” schools liberated from the dead hand of town-hall control."
  • Boris Johnson (5/1): "His public distaste for the coalition talks was a barely-coded signal to party and public alike, as was his invitation to Cameron to use London under Mayor Boris as a model for the new government’s spending-cuts strategy. These minor provocations – always carefully surrounded by rich praise for Cameron – certainly infuriate the PM and the chancellor. The question is when and how Boris makes his move. As another former MP for Henley, Michael Heseltine, used to say of his own chances against Thatcher, he has one bullet in his revolver. As soon as Boris heads back to the Commons – especially if he decides not to seek a second term as mayor, or stands down mid-term to fight for a seat – his everymove will be interpreted feverishly as a Churchillian step towards the top job. So timing is all."
  • Jeremy Hunt (20/1): "Something tells me that the man to watch is Jeremy Hunt, the new culture secretary, a man so ambitious he squeaks when he walks. He manages to be charmingly moderate and yet not a member of the Cameroon gang. He is telegenic, gaining in presence by the month, and fizzing with ideas. If Hunt can build up a backbench following in the next few years, he will hard to beat."

In that list of Ladbrokes odds the new Tory MP for Penrith and the Border, Rory Stewart, is ahead of Jeremy Hunt at 16/1.

Fox at 14/1 is the leading representative of the Right on the Ladbrokes list.

William Hague comes in at 8/1 but is very much the if-Cameron-falls-under-a-bus candidate. He's unlikely to want to become leader again unless it's a moment of crisis for the party.

In terms of a female Tory leader, Theresa May (who continues to climb the Cabinet league table, as rated by Conservative members) is at 40/1 and Theresa Villiers is at 50/1. 

In terms of a first gay Conservative leader Nick Herbert is at 20/1 and Nick Boles at 40/1. 

Tim Montgomerie


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