Johnson as Ulysses. After his many shipwrecks, bloopers and scrapes, Ithaca finally looms into view.

The rolling list of which MP is voting for which candidate changes all the time.  But when we published our ToryDiary this morning there were, of 313 Conservative MPs eligible to vote, 239 who we had registered as voting for a candidate.  That left 74 undeclared.

One cannot assume that every MP who declared for a candidate voted for him: after all, this is “the most sophisticated electorate in the world”.  But let us presume for a moment that Tory MPs did as we thought they would.  (Both our list and Guido Fawkes’ seem to have performed very well.)  In which case –

  • Boris Johnson took 30 of the 74 – rising from 84 votes on our list to 114 in the ballot.
  • Jeremy Hunt gained seven – advancing from 37 to 43.
  • Michael Gove, three – from 34 to 37.
  • Dominic Raab, four – from 23 to 27.
  • Sajid Javid, four – from 19 to 23.
  • Matthew Hancock, three – from 17 to 20.
  • Rory Stewart, 12 – from seven to 19.
  • Andrea Leadsom, seven – from four to 11
  • Mark Harper, two – from eight to ten.
  • Esther McVey, three – from six to nine.

So, then:

  • Johnson is the big winner.  We asked this morning whether those uncommitted 74 MPs would break decisively for him.  Scooping 30 of them, almost half, is arguably not decisive, but…
  • Hunt needs to shift the dial.  True, he put on votes.  But only seven, by our reckoning, compared to Johnson’s 30.  The fact is that he needed a big slice of those 74 MPs to get within touching distance of the front-runner, and didn’t get it.  He needs to shift the dial sharply next week.
  • Gove hangs on in there.  We thought it possible that his total would collapse entirely after last weekend’s revelations and their consequences.  It didn’t.  But to add a mere three votes to the total we had for him suggests that he now has a last chance to get back in the contest.
  • Johnson is squeezing Raab.  Not all those who voted for Johnson today did so enthusiastically.  Some will have done so reluctantly – on the basis that a general election is probably coming, and that Johnson is the candidate most likely to save their seats.  That has cut the ground from under Raab’s feet.  He put on four votes.
  • Javid is misfiring.  A lovely video this week, Ruth Davison’s support just when he needed it, some good ideas and an appealing back story.  So why hasn’t his candidacy taken off?  Our take is that Javid’s is fighting the wrong campaign.  For better or worse, Conservative MPs are concentrated on who could win a general election.  Javid has done little to project poll ratings which suggest that he might be able to do just that.
  • Hancock isn’t taking off.  He has chosen to enter what has become a crowded field on the centre-left of the Party.  And has got duly squeezed between Hunt’s payroll-strong backing and Rory Stewart’s insurgency – with Gove sniffing around the same vote for good measure.  There will now be pressure on him to withdraw.
  • Stewart’s chutzpah knows no limits.  He has fought a brilliant guerilla campaign, exploiting Twitter to move quickly, speak out, respond rapidly, seize attention and outwit some ponderous rivals.  He now argues – citing ConservativeHome’s own polling – that his share may be small, but that momentum is with him.  He’s right.  But…
  • Harper, Leadsom and McVey are out.  And most of their votes will have come from the Party’s centre-right.  There simply isn’t enough support there for Stewart to squeeze.  To have even the remotest chance of getting within striking distance of Johnson, he would have to persuade Hunt, Gove and Hancock to pull out.  And that won’t happen.

Barring a big upset, Johnson is now set to make the final two in the MPs’ ballot.  There will be pressure on the other candidates to fold.  As Mark Wallace argues on this site today, it should be resisted.

What now looks very likely is a relatively swift, month-long members’ ballot that will return Johnson.  After his many shipwrecks, bloopers and scrapes, Ithaca at last looms into view for Ulysses.

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Author: Paul Goodman


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