Regional MPs primed for key jobs if Boris is our new PM
PUBLISHED: 20:38 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 20:38 18 July 2019
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Iain Dale, who has chaired the majority of the Tory leadership hustings, takes a look at how Boris Johnson would form his cabinet if he is elected to be the next prime minister next week
In four days' time Britain will have a new prime minister. In all probability it will be Boris Johnson. He will inherit a country which is more divided than at any time since May 1979, when Margaret Thatcher was elected in the wake of widespread industrial strife and the Winter of Discontent.
The Iron Lady stood on the steps of Downing Street and declared that where there was discord, she would bring harmony. Expect a similar message from Mr Johnson when he makes his remarks to the waiting throngs next week. It will be a key moment for him, and the country.
I've chaired 10 of the 16 Tory leadership hustings around the country over the last few weeks, and it has been interesting to observe both candidates at close quarters, and have the privilege of questioning each of them over the course of an hour each time.
Jeremy Hunt's quiet, reassuring manner goes down well, even with those who aren't supporting him. People nod in agreement with the points he makes and there's little antipathy towards him, even when he says something they don't agree with.
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Boris Johnson provokes a different reaction. Sitting on the stage, watching the faces of the audience, they invariably break out into smiles as soon as Boris Johnson starts speaking. He makes them feel good about themselves, and they haven't experienced that feeling for a long time. They want an election-winner, and they see Boris Johnson as a more likely election-winner than his opponent. Time will tell whether they are right.
In the final hustings in London on Wednesday night, Boris Johnson chose Norfolk MP Liz Truss to introduce him. Ms Truss is in a very good position to bag a top job in Johnson's cabinet, given that she was the first cabinet minister to endorse him. She's made no secret of her desire to be the first female chancellor of the exchequer, but she has some severe competition for that post. If she doesn't get that, it would not surprise me if she was promoted to the post of business secretary.
Any new leader wants their own person in the post of party chairman, and Jacob Rees-Mogg is being tipped for that post, although his talents may better be deployed at the Treasury. The current party chairman, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, has had to stay above the fray but is widely thought to have done a good job in organising the campaign and hustings. He would also be a good tip for the business department, given his business background, but even if he doesn't get that post, he will certainly be one a minority of the current cabinet to be retained. Suffolk MP Matt Hancock is likely to stay as health secretary.
All prime ministers deserve a fair wind to see if they can deliver what they have promised. Boris Johnson should be no different, but will be. He has only three months to prove that he can deliver on his promise to get us out of the EU by his pledged date of October 31. There are many barriers in his way, not least some of his own MPs and parliament. Frankly, if he manages to do what he says - and with a deal - it will be the biggest escape act since Harry Houdini. Greater minds than mine cannot see a path to him being able to achieve his goal, but with Boris Johnson you never know.
Boris will be a s**t-or-bust prime minister. He will either be brilliant or the worst PM in living memory. There are few shades of grey with Boris. It's either triumph or ritual humiliation. Either way, the prospect of a November general election becomes more likely by the day. If he loses an election his leadership will be very short-lived, and by the beginning of 2020, I could be chairing yet another set of leadership hustings. God forbid.
Email Iain at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @iaindale