At last, the contest begins. The supporters have been gathering for weeks, some holding back to see whether to support a winner or a genuine choice. It has been hard to keep up with those joining or pretending to join and withdraw but the list on this site has been updated, and campaign site links added.
As I predicted here (“Supporters come out, but no Kingmaker”), MPs have been dividing according to their expectations of promotion or demotion – some for Boris, to be seen to back a probable winner, some mainly on the Remain side for Hunt as the strong challenger, effectively the level-headed not-Boris candidate, and some for Gove as ‘Not-Boris but still Leave’ perhaps, but an MP backing Gove still leaves the door open for office if Boris Johnson does win, Michael Gove being a longstanding friend of his. Others have backed Rory Stewart (who is genuinely popular in some quarters) as a way of hedging their bets.
There may be many more who would in an anonymous contest vote for Andrea Leadsom, but until she is seen as a winner and a bearer of patronage, she cannot attract those choices. On the other hand, she need not – she will be recognised as competent and valuable to whomever wins at the end of the day.
We can expect drop-outs, and soon, and only later will we learn whether they will suffer from their presumption at the hands of the new leader and his team. The immediate problem with a candidate’s dropping out then then he or she, will have to pick a patron. There is no avoiding the humiliation of the position, but it may be disguised by the oleaginous support then given to another, so best to choose the likely winner.
ConservativeHome has at last come out for Boris, as long expected.
Amber Rudd is in the papers for backing Jeremy Hunt, the latest Remain-leaner to do so, and the papers sound surprised, as if she had previously backed Boris, which she did not.
Jeremy Hunt then is doing well as the main ‘Not-Boris’ candidate, but is hampered by his past habits, namely voting Remain, and by having Remain supporters following him. Michael Gove, who under normal circumstances would be ahead, now looks foolish, his campaign stuttering, trailing clouds of white dust behind it. Raab remains unknown, for now, amongst ordinary voters, and there seems little danger to those who say they will support him, unless he attacks Boris Johnson too fiercely which might expose them to the flak should the latter win.
All this is to the advantage of Rory Stewart’s backers – he might not get anywhere near winning, but he has not been causing ructions and so he is or now a safe fence to sit on. The real contest however is not now – it is when the field is reduced to choose the final two. Then the terminally worried must get off the fence and stand to choose a patron or be punished by the new regime for choosing unwisely. 1e0