Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Why no Tory can lecture another on leadership challenges

The continued speculation about who in the Conservative party is putting the most effort into preparing their leadership hat to throw into the currently non-existent ring is quite amusing. But it also means that those involved will struggle to have such a moral high ground when they need to lecture backbench colleagues for getting overexcited about potty-sounding leadership challenges after the European elections.

Boris and George Osborne may be engaged in a strange fight about who is gaining the most currency with backbenchers so that they’re in the best possible position post-Cameron, while backbench unrest will be focused on Cameron’s own position. But the problem with this hysteria, where the Boris camp suspects Osborne is doing better and then ramps up its own efforts, which is then met with a redoubling of the rival camp’s efforts, is that it suggests that ministers are being similarly disloyal to their leader, regardless of whether they’re after his job once he’s departed on his own terms.

One MP watching the latest intervention from Michael Gove whispered to me at the weekend that:-

‘He’s moving the camps away from Cameron. They know we are doomed and so they don’t want to be tainted with failure. It’s all about isolating and blaming Cameron so that post-2015 Osborne and his allies can be viewed as having been sad and unwilling partners in Cameron’s elitist court’.

Even if that is not the attitude of the Gove/Osborne alliance, it makes it much more difficult for the party leadership to denounce troublesome backbenchers as ‘disloyal’ when those at the top are hardly giving the impression that they’re entirely focused on getting David Cameron re-elected as Prime Minister of a majority Conservative government.

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