With the breakout of a global pandemic many forgot that Brexit was around the corner, and with it the tenure of the man elected to get it done comes into question. While it is unlikely the Conservative party will do away with Boris Johnson, his handling of the coronavirus has certainly revealed some cracks in his leadership. If the Tories choose to go in a new direction, there are definitely some exciting (and less exciting) candidates to fill number 10. Here we break down who the candidates could be and what they could bring in their role as Prime Minister.
Stick Is The New Twist – Boris Johnson
While most of the conjecture here will be about people who do not currently inhabit No. 10, it is important to highlight that Boris Johnson has already launched his new goals for the post-brexit/covid era. Having shown Cummings the door Johnson has made announcements that put the environment and the military at the forefront. This strange overlap in policy highlights issues with both Boris Johnson and, some would say, the Conservative party in general. The party is not one that champions conservatism but is instead focused on making sure they hold the power in Downing Street; this particular platform is emblematic of a wishy-washy stance in politics. Boris was elected on his ability to win an election off of “charisma and personality” and he continues to play both sides without having a strong ideal of his own. This general lack of backbone was particularly poignant during the pandemic as people in both camps either found the restrictions were too draconic or did not go far enough. It is this very problem that may get him removed after he fulfils his promise of “getting Brexit done.” Meanwhile Boris will now be known as the Grinch who Stole Christmas after making a characteristic u-turn by cancelling Christmas, declaring it would be “inhuman” to do so only days beforehand. It is seems increasingly unlikely Bojo will again ever reach the same levels of popularity that won the party the last election.
The Outsider – Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage is not typically a friend of the conservative party, at least under its current form, but would not shy away from calling himself a conservative in the broader sense. Both UKIP and latterly the Brexit Party have been able to push the Conservative party towards Farage’s platform and the same is likely to happen again with his new Reform party. With the knowledge of the threat he presents, CCHQ might try to court him and give him the voice he has so desired by making him the head of Her Majesty’s Government. Reform’s first campaign to refund fees for students who have been kept under ‘house arrest’ by coronavirus, with lectures cancelled or heavily disrupted, might cause a surprising surge in Farage’s popularity. However, while his premiership would certainly give the party a renewed adherence to their namesake of conservatism, Farage is nothing if not divisive. Claims of racism and hyper nationalism have plagued parts of his political career and his general electability is lower than the average current Conservative MP.
Included in the “Outsider” category is political upstart Laurence Fox. The aims of his Reclaim party generally align, mostly, with Farage’s Reform party and vow to bring “common sense” back to Britain. Unfortunately, what Fox gains in his general appeal he loses in his lack of experience. While this may be an attractive quality for those who believe in “draining the swamp” it makes others turn their noses up and certainly precludes him from any position of authority within the Conservative party.
The Heir Apparent – Dominic Raab
As First Secretary of State and past candidate for party leadership there could be some reasonable expectation that Dominic Raab would succeed Johnson as the next head of the Conservative party. However, it would not be a particularly inspiring one. Outside of his commitment to a meritocracy there is nothing to distinguish Raab as a leader or as a politician. A successor par excellence the same shortcomings apparent in Johnson’s leadership will likely be repeated by Raab and he’ll be without the initial appeal of Boris’ personality.
Also included in this category are Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove, and Theresa May, all of whom are more notable for their apparent failure than they are for any great political nous they have. Being Chancellor during a pandemic is no enviable position; unfortunately it has poisoned Sunak’s water and the corona economy will hang over him for most of his career – especially when considering the ‘Magic Money Tree’ will soon die out. Similarly, May is dead in the water after a failed effort at leading Britain through Brexit. Lastly, Gove is more unpopular than the likes of Dominic Cummings and thus should never be a serious contender to lead the party to an election victory.
A “Hometown” Hero – Desmond Swayne
Throughout the whole of the Coronavirus pandemic I have been enamoured with Desmond Swayne. Of course, there may be a small amount bias as he too is a St Andrean. However, there is still much to like about a potential leadership from Swayne. An economic conservative and general libertarian Swayne provides new direction for the conservative party. He has been critical of the government’s response to coronavirus calling it “herd stupidity” and in general seems to have more conviction than anyone at the top right now. Unfortunately Swayne has not left the back benches since David Cameron left office and ever since an email scandal in 2006 he may not have the best relationship with other members of his party.
Burn It All
If none of the above really suit your fancy we could, of course, embrace the monarchy completely. Who knows whether HM Queen Elizabeth II has what it takes to fully administer the country but it is uncertain anyone else does. There are some monarchies that are not doing amazingly (although they usually carry the name sultanate) but both Monaco and Luxembourg seem to be doing well, especially given the current circumstances. Perhaps the best solution to our lack of backbone in the Conservative party is to get rid of it and give the Crown some real authority – though it might be better to wait until the scandalous Netflix series is old news.
I have no idea what David Cameron does these days but a quick sounding of my peers would say that he was very alright as prime minister. Perhaps alright is not a very inspiring review but it may also be the best review possible given the current set of options. After all, he did manage to successfully drag the country out of the Great Recession and keep 10 Downing Street from Miliband’s hands (albeit with the help of the Lib Dems). While there is no reason David Cameron would come back into politics I’m sure he would be “alright” again and that may just be good enough.
The Conservative party is conclusively rife with candidates bouncing on their edge of their seats, hopefully waiting to become the next Prime Minister. Sadly for our country, quantity of candidates seems to be outweighing quality, and as a result it may very well be Keir Starmer who fills No.10 next. Especially when one considers the high-school-esq drama that has occurred under Boris, with The Dominic Cummings Scandal, interventions by his fiancé Carrie Symonds via WhatsApp, advisors Lee Cain, Dominic Cummings, and Sir Alex Allan out, Neil Ferguson and his married mistress, reports of Priti Patel bullying, and infighting between lockdown Hawks and Doves, it is no wonder people are starting to look elsewhere for a someone who is a strong leader, rather than merely promises to be.
Alexandre Denizé and Olivia Groom
The opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and may not reflect the views of the The Liberty Club