You can’t always get what you want

As the song goes, you can’t always get what you want. And based on an Ipsos Mori poll reported yesterday in the Evening Standard, either the British public or Conservative Party members will go home disappointed when David Cameron eventually steps down.

The poll found the public want Boris Johnson to be Conservative leader when David Cameron steps down, which will happen at some point before 2020. But the Conservative Party want George Osborne to lead them into the next General Election.

As poll results go, this one’s pretty unsurprising. It shows the ubiquitous appeal of BoJo, and also the stranglehold that Osborne has over the Conservative Party machinery – a grip cultivated over a decade of manoeuvring and positioning his allies. But it does show the Tories face some difficult questions when Mr Cameron decides to call it day – and suggests the Party might be better served if he goes sooner rather than later.

The Conservative leadership picture is getting pretty crowded. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, is the latest to throw her hat in the ring. Theresa May has long been considered one if not the principal rival to George Osborne. The likes of Michael Gove (unlikely given his fractious relationship with teachers while Education Secretary) and Sajid Javid have been touted as possible candidates. And let’s not forget it wasn’t too many years ago that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was mentioned in these conversations.

In many ways it’s something of a moot point. Barring economic calamity, the Chancellor remains well placed to capitalise on his years of preparation. He’s clearly the heir apparent, most recently doing the statesman-thing in China (where he was tactfully deflecting questions about how he appeared prime ministerial). And, as things stand, the next Conservative leader will face off against Jeremy Corbyn, who at present is struggling in the polls.

But the Conservatives will have learnt the lessons of the Labour leadership battle, and will be keen to avoid any fractious contest of their own. They’ll also be keenly aware of the need of the next leader to win the support of the public – particularly if it’s not Mr Johnson. So while people are talking about David Cameron maybe standing down in 2018 or 2019, don’t be surprised if it might be a little bit earlier.