It is a big week for the leadership of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and we at the Betfred Insights politics desk take a look at the surprising name who could be in line to replace him in the top job should things not go to plan…
Next PM Odds:
- Sir Keir Starmer - 1/6
- David Cameron - 16/1
- James Cleverly - 20/1
- Kemi Badenoch - 20/1
- Suella Braverman - 25/1
- Penny Mordaunt - 33/1
- Nigel Farage - 50/1
- Jeremy Hunt - 50/1
- Boris Johnson - 50/1
*odds correct as of 10:30, Monday 11 December, 2023.
When you start the week with giving evidence at the Covid inquiry, where your controversial ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme is expected to be put under a microscope and for it not to be the biggest issue that you are facing before even Big Ben bongs to announce the arrival of Wednesday, then you know it is going to be quite a turbulent few days for the third PM since the General Election.
Whatever happens on Monday, his evidence will dominate the news headlines and it likely won’t be flattering. Just over 24 hours later however, he faces an even bigger problem, one that could not just change his public perception, one that could end his time in Number 10.
For on Tuesday night, the shall we say, contentious, Rwanda migration plan will go before the House of Commons and back bench rebellions are very much on the agenda. Both the right and left-wings of the Conservative Party are unhappy and that is going to cause one hell of a headache for the PM.
As of the time of writing on Monday morning, both factions of the party have yet to decide exactly how they will proceed. One section want the bill strengthened before they could support it and the other would not stomach such a thing.
The important thing to note is both groups have enough MPs to sink the bill. Sunak can afford to have up to 56 abstentions and 28 of his own MPs vote against the government. So any significant change in the wording of the bill when put to a vote tomorrow evening could have real ramifications in how his backbench MPs will vote.
All of the opposition parties seem united in voting against, no matter what changes are made. Therefore we are very much in the territory of the future of this government - for seemingly the umpteenth time in recent years - will be decided by how certain factions of the Conservative Party decide to proceed.
Defeat for Sunak and the government will cause consequential problems for the Prime Minister. He could immediately call a motion of confidence in his leadership, which John Major did in 1993 following defeat over the Maastricht Treaty. This would force those who voted against to essentially support him or bring down the government. It would be a bold move, certainly for a leader who clearly does not have the majority support among his own MPs.
The more likely scenario would of course be that we return to the scenario of Tory MPs writing to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee saying that they did not have confidence in the Prime Minister. Around a dozen have already gone in according to media reports, although only Andrea Jenkyns has gone public. A defeat on Tuesday night however could see that number rise significantly, even though a General Election is at best, only a year away.
If enough people do not have confidence in the PM then they must at least have an idea on who they would like to replace him. The one name that is extremely notable in the Next Prime Minister Betting market is however a very familiar one. It is a former Prime Minister and it isn’t Boris Johnson.
The decision to bring David Cameron back into the cabinet room was a shock but also a calculated risk. If things go pear-shaped for Sunak in the short-term, it means that a known commodity, who would be acceptable to both fringes of the party is sitting there available to take charge and potentially lead the party into the next General Election. Would a David Cameron led party do better than pretty much anyone else they could forward at this point? Probably.
Of course this is still a longshot and Sir Keir Starmer is a very short 1/6 to be the next person to be sworn in as Prime Minister. The fact Cameron is now the 16/1 second-choice in the market does seem to indicate that should this week go about as bad as it could for the incumbent, then the most likely person to replace him would be very much a known quantity.
This is a market to watch closely throughout the week because if it goes as badly as it could for Rishi Sunak and a leadership election is plausible before the next General Election, then expect Cameron’s odds to dramatically come in.
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