I just bet actual money on Liam Fox to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, I’ll win £873.25 if my bet comes through.
Here’s my betting slip, I have £11.50 on Fox to become leader at average odds of 76.93.
Before we go any further, I need to clarify that this is a pretty dumb bet at stupid odds. There is very little chance of it paying out.
The Conservative Party are due a change of leader and David Cameron will step down sometime between the EU referendum and the next General Election in 2020. The main candidates to replace Cameron are George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Theresa May. You can get odds on those candidates at 11/8, 3/1 and 8/1 respectively on PaddyPower at the moment. As you can see, betting on Fox is a long-shot, but, there is some method in my madness — let me explain.
I’m basing my bet on two things. Firstly, there is something weird going on in politics at the moment that favours dark horse candidates. And secondly, I think that whichever way the EU referendum goes, it will blow the established order in the Conservative party apart and create a political mood that will massively favour a eurosceptic candidate.
Let’s start with the dark horse theory. Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of the Labour Party, despite starting out at odds of 100/1. Don’t be fooled by all the talk of the insurgent supporters paying £3 to become registered Labour Party supporters in order to vote for Corbyn. Yes, they were important, but Corbyn would have won without them — regular Labour party members were fed up of the politics as usual and voted in the radical candidate.
This is happening all over the Western world, just look at Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders who have a very good chance of leading their parties despite starting as massive outsiders.
Arguably, the roots of the surge in support for Corbyn within the Labour Party lie in the decision in 2003 by former Labour Leader Tony Blair to go to war in Iraq. Many Labour Party members felt betrayed by that decision and electing Corbyn was a change to finally take their revenge on the leadership of their party. This brings us on to my second point — the EU referendum.
If the Conservative Party have their own Iraq War type scar, it is Britain’s membership of the EU. The vast majority of Conservative party members want Britain to leave the EU, yet Cameron is doing everything in his power to make the UK stay in it. It simply doesn’t matter which way the EU referendum goes, the Tory leadership election will be the first chance the party’s membership gets to give the party’s establishment a good kicking.
If the UK votes to stay in the EU, the membership will be furious and will be in no mood to elect anyone who backed the remain campaign. That will be doubly the case for anyone who was previously eurosceptic, but changed their allegiance to the remain campaign — which is exactly what it looks like May is going to do.
And if the UK votes to leave, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Party membership is going to be in a forgiving mood. They don’t just want Britain to leave the EU, they want it forge a new direction for itself in the world, striking new trade deals and asserting itself as a proud independent nation again. Would they really vote for Osborne, a man who admits he has no contingency plans in place for a Brexit, to lead their party?
Fox ticks all the boxes to be an anti-establishment candidate of choice for his party’s base to vote for. He’s campaigning for a Brexit, slamming Cameron’s proposed renegotiation deal and generally is more right-wing than current Tory party leadership on just about everything. Other people might end up ticking the same boxes, such as Priti Patel and Sajid Javid, but Fox is ahead of the game.
There are two, rather large, caveats to all this.
Firstly, under the rules of Conservative leadership elections, Conservative party MPs get to decide which two candidates the party membership gets to vote on. The party’s MPs are probably less eurosceptic and anti-establishment than the party’s membership.
The other is Boris Johnson, if he decides he wants to lead the leave campaign, anything could happen.
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