What happens next to the Britain's Conservative Party? - OPINION

  06 July 2024    Read: 931
  What happens next to the Britain

Conservatives are pondering what the future looks like this weekend. The immediate answer is: it looks bleak.

Rishi Sunak is still the party leader, and folk I talk to tell me he is up for sticking around for a couple of months, but perhaps not much longer.

That would give the party the summer to work out who its next leader should be.

The thing is that the whole rulebook for a leadership contest needs to be worked out by a party committee that doesn’t yet have people on it.

It is called the 1922 Committee, and it will meet next week to decide who sits on its executive. It will then work out a timetable for a contest. The party board is also expected to meet early next week.

Here is the question that is being kicked around within the party this weekend: how long should the Tories take to find a replacement for Mr Sunak?

Some argue they should follow the model from 2005. Michael Howard lost the general election to Tony Blair, but he stuck around for several months to give the party space for a longer debate and discussion about its future.

David Cameron emerged in that time to beat the favourite David Davis, and went on to become prime minister in 2010.

But others who suggest it needs to be a bit quicker look at 2010 to make their case.

In 2010, when the now Lord Cameron became prime minister, Labour spent some time selecting a successor to Gordon Brown. Ed Miliband, now back as a cabinet minister, emerged as the winner.

But some Tories think that by then, the new government had managed to frame a narrative about Labour overspending and the need for austerity - and Ed Miliband had lost the argument before he had started, because Messrs Cameron and Osborne had stolen a march on their opponents.

Mr Sunak isn’t going to down tools straight away. I am told he is willing to remain leader for now, including doing Prime Minister’s Questions in the coming weeks, and putting questions to Sir Keir Starmer.

To state the obvious, that won’t be easy for Mr Sunak – the man vanquished by the electorate, putting questions to the bloke who beat him.

But he thinks it is his duty to serve his party in the short term at least.

If things drag on longer than that, perhaps his patience will run out.

Those within the party suggesting there needs to be an element of pace to all this look ahead to the prospect of a Budget in September, and think it would be sensible to have a new leader in place by then.

That would also mean they would be in post for the Conservative Party conference a few weeks later.

And the jockeying for position is underway already.

The former home secretary Suella Braverman didn’t even wait for polling day to come and go before she was making her case.

And today I spot in my email inbox an invite to former security minister Tom Tugendhat’s birthday celebrations.

I have no doubt Mr Tugendhat - a former leadership contender - enjoys marking the passing of another year as much as the next person. But he’s holding the bash at a Westminster think tank on a weeknight. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think there might be a splash of politics to accompany a slice of birthday cake.

For others this weekend, there is the more pressing matter of working out what comes next for them personally.

One former cabinet minister who lost their seat texts me: “In the end there is no way to hold back a national political tsunami! Hopefully all a bump in the road when viewed from greater distance.”

Let’s see.

The soul searching begins here for the Conservative Party.



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