Race for Second Place: No Certainty over Who Will Challenge Boris Johnson for Prime Minister

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: In this handout photo provided by the BBC, (L-R) MP Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt participate in a Conservative Leadership televised debate on June 18, 2019 in London, England. Emily Maitlis hosts the second of the televised Conservative Leadership …
Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC via Getty Images

An at-times chaotic and indecisive BBC leadership debate and fluctuating bookmakers’ odds leave no certainty in the race to become the next British prime minister, other than Boris Johnson being very likely to be in the final two.

The remaining five candidates to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader will be subjected to another ballot of members today (Wednesday) to further thin out the running, but the competition remains wide open for the coveted second place behind Boris Johnson, who has dominated proceedings so far.

Out of 313 votes cast, Mr Johnson achieved 126 on Tuesday, nearly as many as the vote tallies of the next three most popular candidates combined. He remains the bookmakers’ favourite to win the vote to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, and thus the country, but in doing so would defy an established pattern in these races which generally sees the obvious leader stumble.

It had been the case in the selections of former Tory Prime Ministers Theresa May, David Cameron, John Major, and Margaret Thatcher that they had beaten the early lead challengers. Indeed, when Theresa May became leader it had been Boris Johnson who had led the pack and stumbled when betrayed by his running-mate — a mistake he will seek to avoid making again.

Appearing to be the strongest candidate early in the race, traditionally, comes with the disadvantage of drawing fire from all other candidates; however, Johnson appears to have been relatively immune to that this time around.

Given Johnson’s commanding lead, the race being played out in Westminster now is over who should be his opponent in the actual leadership ballot voted on by party members next week, and that remains wide open. Literal establishment candidate Rory Stewart went, somewhat incongruously, from being the rank outsider to favourite with his oddball, self-effacing campaign but has again fallen back after a lacklustre performance in Tuesday’s televised debate.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — an accomplished politician and businessman but said to lack the essential charm to make a good leader, especially after the joyless Theresa May era — who Stewart leapfrogged to take second place has retaken his place as number two to Johnson. British bookmaker Betfair now give his odds at 14/1, up from 20/1 yesterday.

Despite the improvement for Hunt’s changes, that still remains the equivalent of a six per cent chance to win, compared to Boris Johnson’s 2/11, or 84 per cent.

Oliver JJ Lane is the editor of Breitbart London — Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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