Remember one of the maxims of Theresa May’s disastrous premiership – that she hadn’t been challenged because no-one else wanted the job?
Well, that turned out to be nonsense. At one stage early in the contest 12, yes 12, people of varying degrees of ability, were up for becoming the next Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury of the United Kingdom.
There were so many people going for it that the Conservative party literally had to change the rules to narrow down the field quicker. As I write, there are six people left and one, overwhelming, favourite. I’d argue this isn’t just blonde ambition, but blind ambition.
As the current MP for Maidenhead Theresa May pointed out at a recent Cabinet meeting – nothing has changed. In fact, things might actually have got a little bit worse for whoever gets the top job next. Here’s why:
Imagine you are the next Conservative PM. You will inherit the current government’s wafer-thin majority of five seats and that’s with the support of the DUP. The first thing you have to do is to reach another deal with our friends in the North of Ireland.
I’ll wager they’ll want a. Even more money and b. A guarantee over the backstop, further tying your hands with Brussels.
Plus, the DUP will still hold those ‘unreconstructed’ views on social policy, enough to embarrass any Conservative leader with liberal sympathies.
Labour will want to cause trouble, so they’ll probably hold a vote of no confidence in your new government within hours of you getting the job.
Lose the vote and two things could happen. Jeremy Corbyn could be PM by mid October having gathered together an anti No Deal alliance of SNP and Lib Dems. Or there will be a General Election, which will take a huge amount of time and energy and which you might lose.
But say you survive the No Confidence vote and there’s no election, there is still loads of trouble ahead. You’ll have a matter of weeks to agree a deal with the EU and remember, they say they won’t shift at all on the withdrawal agreement.
You could just go for a No Deal Brexit, but merely announcing that will lead to even more trouble on the home front, including members of your own back benches, and any pro-remain ministers, resigning.
You could push for an extension, but that would lead to a massive drop in your political credibility – especially if you’ve told everyone that we will leave on the 31st come hell or high water. Not leaving by the deadline would likely be a resigning issue.
And then there’s the likely economic shock after Halloween, probably enough to cause you some severe political difficulties in the short term.
Oh and you’ll have the SNP on your back, badgering for another referendum. Find a way to put them off the scent, or you’ll be remembered as the Conservative and Unionist PM who presided over a split in the union.
And there’s also an horrific in-tray, full of all the stuff that Theresa May failed to do on key issues like adult social care and local government finance. Not that you’ll get the time to look at anything remotely connected to domestic policy during those first few months, but it’ll still cause you political problems.
The chances are you won’t be PM for very long. In fact, it could all be over by Christmas. Your honeymoon period literally lasted hours and your administration barely got off life support. Congratulations, you helped put a Marxist into Downing Street!
Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.