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Could George Osborne be the next Tory Prime Minister?

By Tim Montgomerie
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It's far too early to answer that question. There is no vacancy. Cameron will certainly fight the next election and that election might be lost. The fortunes of Osborne and Cameron are inseparable. The economy might underperform and it might underperform badly. Osborne may continue to struggle to connect with the wider public...

What is clear, however, is that the Chancellor's concentric rings strategy is working. Slowly but surely he's converting commentators, then MPs and now the Tory grassroots.

In rating the Cabinet I asked an additional question in the end-May ConservativeHome survey. As well as asking Conservative members to say whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with every single Cabinet minister I also asked them to name the three Cabinet ministers that most impressed them and Osborne came out on top.

The same 'Magnificent Seven' I've identified before lead this new Cabinet satisfaction league:

Screen shot 2011-06-04 at 20.28.52

  • George Osborne: 54%
  • Iain Duncan Smith: 45% (whose welfare reforms are the Coalition's most popular policies)
  • Michael Gove: 36% (who is now widely seen to be delivering a revolution in education by turning huge numbers of secondary schools into innovative academies)
  • William Hague: 34% (who has bounced back from claims that he has lost his 'mojo' with leadership on Libya)
  • Eric Pickles: 31% (who proved that you could take tough spending decisions without losing local elections)
  • Theresa May 25% (the most successful woman in the Cabinet and responsible for the vital policies of immigration and police reform).
  • Liam Fox: 21% (of whom there's an interesting profile in the latest Economist).

Then comes the middle table set:

  • Philip Hammond: 15%
  • Danny Alexander: 8%
  • Ken Clarke: 7%
  • Andrew Lansley: 6%
  • Jeremy Hunt: 5%

We are then into the third zone:

  • Baroness Warsi and Sir George Young both get 2%.
  • Five Cabinet ministers are identified by 1% of members as most impressive: Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude, Andrew Mitchell, Lord Strathclyde and David Willetts.
  • Another five get less than 1%: Vince Cable, Cheryl Gillan, Chris Huhne, Owen Paterson and Caroline Spelman.

I've written more about these results in The Sunday Telegraph:

"Before the election, party members shared the public's anxieties about "Boy George". Did a pale-faced young man who had spent all his adult life in politics have the strength and experience to navigate Britain's economy through treacherous times? His party, if not yet the wider public, has answered with an emphatic "yes". If Cameron fell under a bus tomorrow, Osborne would be in pole position in the leadership contest – which would have been a heretical thought even six months ago."

Read the full piece.


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