[a senior Tory MP] and others are tearing their hair out at an outbreak of leadership plotting and backstabbing at the top. They can't believe that after years of taking flak for austerity on doorsteps, senior figures are at one another's throats, apparently jostling for position in case the Tories fail to win a majority in 2015 and Cameron has to go. The party seems gripped by fear. A series of briefings and resulting stories splashed over Tory papers, MPs say, show Osborne, Cameron and Michael Gove are clearly out to stop Boris Johnson seizing the crown when the prime minister goes.
… The main players in the plotting, MPs say, are supporters of Osborne who believe their man has proved himself and think they have to plan now to stop Johnson supplanting him, in case there is a vacancy after the election. Gove is claiming not to be interested in the leadership himself, which is what ambitious politicians often say. His main aim, it is said, is also to help Osborne and stop Johnson, but he is keeping himself very much in the mix.A day earlier Gove had been the subject of the FT Weekend Magazine’s cover and a feature by George Parker and Helen Warrell, How far will Michael Gove go? Their article has attracted attention because it quoted Gove deploring the over-representation of Etonians in David Cameron’s inner circle and indeed its main focus appears to be on Gove’s activities as Education Secretary. However, the leadership question is unavoidable:
Two scenarios are widely discussed among Tory MPs: that Cameron would certainly quit after a 2015 election defeat or that he steps down in the next parliament after his 2017 EU referendum.Gove, it seems, is dedicated to securing Osborne as Tory leader and stopping Boris Johnson. The article notes his protestations that he wouldn’t want the top job himself, although at its conclusion the authors don’t seem totally convinced. But earlier one of their comments on Gove hardly seemed like an enthusiastic endorsement of his potential as Prime Minister either:
Gove’s career path has in some ways been blocked by his own political views. He could not be sent to the Foreign Office lest he provoked a war or pulled Britain out of the EU, while his friends say he would be driven mad at the Home Office by the constraints of EU Law and the European Convention on Human Rights when dealing with Islamic extremists. As for the Treasury, Gove has never been animated by economics.The intriguing question is why all this now? I don’t believe that the Conservatives have already abandoned all hope of winning in 2015. So why so much worry this week about Cameron’s successor in three year’s time? Perhaps a remark by Gove about being PM having “seen David close up” provides a clue:
The pressure of the job is phenomenal and it takes a toll on you and your family and I don’t think I could do that.Could it be that if Cameron doesn’t lose and go in 2015, he intends to stand down soon after victory anyway? Either way, he would be joining that select group, the former Prime Ministers, at a very young age:
From Bullingdon Club to Donebullying Club in 30 years, one could say.
(1) Cameron assumed to depart in either May 2015 or November 2017.
(2) PMs after Thatcher assumed to live to 90. PMs from Macmillan to Thatcher lived to an average of 89.
(3) Major was the second youngest departing PM since Queen Victoria, Rosebery being 48 in 1895.