So this morning everyone’s fuming about Jeremy Hunt, for obvious reasons. The man’s both a fool and a knave. I think he’s more the former than the latter, but I can appreciate why other people, especially women, might think it’s the other way around.

I joked on Twitter earlier today that future historians might see the Autumn of 2012 as the moment when the Tories entered the “taking the piss” phase of the Parliament, and I think there’s probably something to that.

But I wonder whether something else is going on, and what we’ve been seeing recently is a bunch of Tory politicians trying out different strategies to position themselves in a post-Cameron, post-Coalition, very probably post-being-in-Government Conservative Party future, with Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Jeremy Hunt each taking a different approach.

Johnson and Gove are obviously the more substantial politicians, Johnson as a populist critic of the Coalition (while also sucking up to the bankers), with Gove casting himself as The Future of the Right (the subtitle of the book he wrote about Michael Portillo once upon a time).

But Hunt’s engaged in the same kind of game: David Cameron rescued his career when he moved him to Health, and now he’s signalling to the wackier part of the Tory Party that he’s on their side in the culture wars, setting up a marriage of convenience: both the Tory Right and Jeremy Hunt now need all the friends they can get, as they look to an uncertain future.

The political strategies are different, though what Johnson, Gove, and Hunt do have in common, I think, is that they’re the three senior politicians who are most publicly betting that Leveson will prove in the end to be a paper tiger, and standing by the Murdoch gang.

But for these three–as for much of the rest of the Tory Party, I suspect–the Cameron & Osborne show is almost over, and the jockeying for position after the electoral disaster they anticipate in 2015 has already begun.

4 thoughts on “Tories”

  1. Surely it’s much simpler than you say. There are so many things involving health that he doesn’t want to talk about, like privatising the health service, cutting budgets and generally acting like toe-rags. A cheap shot like this must seem like nice distraction.

  2. Surely they are all three of them best identified in terms of the American jobs they want after all this ghastly business of pretending to work in middle-management on a rainy shithole six hours from Manhattan is over. Johnson has the “special correspondent on the Daily Show” angle, Gove has made his pitch for the Shirley Williams job at Harvard, and so Hunt has realised he needs to pitch for the John Derbyshire role at Heritage.

  3. I’m coming late to the party here Chris, but this was such an interesting post that I think it’s worth a comment even 9 days after you posted.

    I agree that what we have now is Johnson, Gove and Hunt all setting out their stalls for a post-2015 leadership election. Johnson has the most free hand because he can’t be sacked by Cameron for disloyalty, although he has in fact decided for the moment that loyalty is the best form of disloyalty, if you see what I mean. Boris’s best shot at the leadership is a big Tory defeat after which he would be turned to as the big saviour. He will find it tougher if the Tories only lose narrowly, or in a hung parliament.

    Mickey Gove is setting himself up as the credible alternative to Liam Fox on the right wing. The media are (at the moment) painting him as a successful education reformer – how long that can last, I don’t know. He stands a good chance in the event of a close Tory defeat.

    Hunt is more telegenic than Gove but perhaps also, therefore, might suffer from being too similar to Cameron in general demeanour. He also faces the possible banana skin of the continuing fall-out from Leveson. I think he’s a good outside bet, but an outside bet for post-2015 leader nonetheless.

    Interestingly, none of the 2010 intake have yet broken through into front-line politics in the same way that Cameron did in the 2001-05 parliament. It seems unlikely that anyone from the 2010 intake will be well enough established to fight credibly for the leadership by 2015 but there are still over 2 years to go and that could be a rash assessment.

    The other matter of interest is: what happens if the Tories almost make it, but not quite? e.g. a hung parliament and a Lib-Lab coalition or Labour minority govt. Cameron is an arrogant SOB and he will try to cling on as long as he can, I’m sure. He won’t go quietly unless he really has to. Could get messy out there…

  4. I don’t think Hunt is a credible leadership challenger: he’s too discredited after Leveson. He’s just trying to secure some kind of political future for himself, after Cameron, knowing that the only reason he isn’t out on his ear right now is that Cameron is terrible at sacking people.

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