The process to select our new PM is well underway but much of the commentary has been misleading at bestby Philip Cowley / June 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
The race for the Conservative leadership—and the keys to No 10—is well underway. An enormous cast of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring and the first round of voting is upon us. Here are five things that I think people are getting wrong or misunderstanding about the contest.
The chances of the favourite
It has become received wisdom that the favourite never wins—in this case Boris Johnson. It’s been true in every contest since 1965, sure, but this isn’t some iron law of politics. It will be true until the day the favourite does win, at which point it will become false. It used to be true that in every Conservative leadership contest in which a woman participated they outpolled all their rival men. I doubt that one will last today either.
The rules of the contest
This misunderstanding is close to a constant of leadership races, not helped in this case by the decision to change the rules mid-contest, inserting hurdles that did not previously exist. In true 1922 Committee style, these changes do not appear to have been terribly well thought out. The requirement to have eight supporters before making it onto the ballot has not especially winnowed down the contest—it is still the largest field seen in a leadership contest. Other new hurdles demand that to get through to the second round requires 17 votes, to get through to the third requires 33; these are intended to speed things up, but poorly performing candidates might well have dropped out anyway, as had happened previously. Plus, the rules do not say what happens if only one person clears these hurdles (do they become leader without going to a vote of the party’s grassroots?) or indeed if no one does (the contest ends?).
The guidance rules on spending are similarly fun, if you like that sort of thing. They provide lots of detail on what is to be done to comply with the spending limits, but nothing on what happens in the event that a candidate does not comply. They require election spending returns to be submitted up to 28 days after the result is declared, by which point the winner will be safely ensconced in No 10 and unlikely to come out if it turns out they spent too much…