With the voting in the Conservative Party leadership contest closing at 5pm today, we are at the end of a near 8-week contest to crown our next Prime Minister. With next week set to be a monumental one we look at what is set to happen:
Monday 5th September: The new Prime Minister will be announced in a small event at 12.30pm, attended by Tory grandees, MPs and Peers. The new PM will wait until the next day to officially form a Government and take over duties.
Tuesday 6th September: In the morning, Boris will make a resignation speech and make the 1,000-mile round trip to Balmoral Castle to offer his resignation to The Queen.
The new PM will make the same journey and is expected to make a speech on the steps of Downing Street at 4pm. This will be followed by the cabinet reshuffle which is expected to go into the night and potentially Wednesday morning.
Wednesday 7th September: The new Cabinet is expected to meet in the morning before the PM takes part in their first PMQs at 12 noon.
This will be followed by the appointment of junior ministerial roles in the afternoon, which could spill over into future days.
Should Liz Truss win, reports say that an ‘emergency fiscal event’ or ‘mini-budget’ will be held on Wednesday 21st September to implement her tax cuts and any further help with the cost-of-living.
But can we Truss reports that Liz will emerge as the victor?
Since the Conservative leadership contest was narrowed down to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, we have had 6 weeks of speculation, policy announcements, hustings and media interviews (from Rishi, anyway). However, throughout that period the needle hasn’t shifted. Liz Truss remains the overwhelming favourite to succeed come Monday, with betting odds having a Truss victory at 91% probability. The most recent poll has her lead at 30 points plus.
Despite being one of the most recognisable and well-known politicians in the country, Rishi Sunak has struggled to gain any momentum. Even with a slick machine behind him, in the 6 weeks the odds of his victory have rarely gone above 10%. With the fame, it looks like Conservative members knew from the off what they thought of him. One explanation could be his trustworthiness numbers – previous polls had half of the public not trusting him, a trait unlikely to make people vote for you. On the other hand, it seems like Boris Johnson passed on his Teflon suit to Liz Truss who has deflected a lot of criticism to remain the frontrunner. Prime Minister Truss looks all but nailed on but you can never be sure in politics.
New policy announcements have been very light in the last two weeks. Indeed, Liz has reportedly spent this time preparing for Government and pulling together her top team. No fewer than 39 MPs have ‘seen the light’ and have backed Truss since it became clear she was the frontrunner. In fact, this light was so bright that a few Rishi backers came to conclusion that Liz was for them after all. No doubt they are doing this out of duty to the electorate and not to get a job in the new Government.
So, who will occupy the Cabinet? Will Liz cull the naysayers or will she attempt to heal the party after bitterly fought contest? After all, even though it seems so obvious Truss will win, nearly 200 MPs have refused to publicly back her. With roughly 150 backers and around 100 Government positions to fill, some non-believers will surely get the call up.
Some seem easy to predict: Kwasi Kwarteng looks set to become Chancellor, Therese Coffey who ran the campaign is tipped for Chief Whip or Cabinet Office, both roles that require someone you trust. James Cleverly could become Foreign Secretary, and Suella Braverman is reportedly lined up for Home Secretary, a reward for being the only former leadership contender to back Truss before the final two. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke have both been tipped for BEIS Secretary – a big job during the energy crisis – with the other set to become Levelling-Up Secretary. Having Kwarteng and Rees-Mogg in key roles during the energy crisis would send a big message on the direction of travel, with both supporting new oil and gas licences. Ben Wallace will surely stay in post and there will likely be key jobs for Lord Frost, Kemi Badenoch, and Nadhim Zahawi.
Will Liz offer Rishi a job? Either way, Rishi hinted he wouldn’t take one arguing that Cabinet ministers “really need to agree with the big things”. Jeremy Hunt turned down a job after Boris bested him in the 2019 leadership contest. Rishi’s key supporters Stephen Barclay, Michael Gove, Grant Shapps and Jeremy Hunt are likely to miss out if reports are to be believed. However, this posturing in the media could very well be wrong. Cabinet speculation should always be taken with a pinch of salt as people look to leak their way to the top.
Liz Truss may inherit a majority of nearly 80 but it would be a daring move to be so bold in only giving top jobs to her supporters. The Conservative Parliamentary Party is large and unforgiving, and they will respond to any slip ups. And with energy bills through the roof, inflation set to rise even more and the war in Ukraine showing no sign of ending, there will be many bananas on the path to the next election.
Becoming PM is always an enormous challenge. But few predecessors will have inherited an in-tray as daunting as the new one will face on Tuesday. To Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, good luck!