Next Tory Leader Odds: Will Cameron's lobbying damage Sunak's chances?

  • Max Liu
  • 5:00 min read
David Cameron and Boris Johnson
Cameron is providing unwelcome headlines for Johnson's government

The latest UK politics odds show Rishi Sunak is the favourite to be next Conservative leader but the chancellor's involvement in the David Cameron lobbying scandal could change that says Max Liu...

"The Tories are 1.695/7 to win the Hartlepool by-election on 6 May - a remarkable state of affairs in a seat which Labour has held since 1964."

Rishi Sunak is the 3.55/2 favourite on the Exchange to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and he is 4.216/5 to be the UK's next prime minister.

He has enjoyed a meteoric rise since becoming chancellor in February last year and, even though his Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been cited as a factor in Britain's deadly second wave of coronavirus, his popularity has largely held up, according to polls.

Cameron-Greensill scandal could damage Sunak's leadership hopes

Now a scandal has emerged out of leftfield that implicates Sunak and has the potential to damage his reputation for probity. Even in a government with a reputation for sleaze, cronyism and corruption, Sunak has so far managed to present himself as squeaky clean and that's one reason why he's been favoured in the betting.

But reports that former-PM David Cameron repeatedly texted Sunak to grant Greensill Capital - the now collapsed company run by the scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill for which Cameron was working as an adviser - access to the Bank of England's Covid Corporate Financing Facility are bad news for Sunak and anyone who's backing him to succeed Johnson.

Rishi Sunak 956.jpg

Texts released last week showed Sunak telling Cameron he had "pushed the team to explore an alternative with the Bank that might work."

Maybe the chancellor was just palming off his old boss but the fact that Cameron can text Sunak shows how closely connected the current government is to Cameron.

That's inconvenient for Johnson whose government's ability to distance itself from previous Tory governments was arguably a factor in its electoral success.

This weekend it emerged that Cameron emailed a No 10 adviser while attempting to secure Greensill access to a Covid emergency loan scheme. Cameron also took Greensill along to a drink with Matt Hancock in 2019.

It looks inevitable that more revelations will emerge. Labour want an investigation into what happened and a spokesperson urged Sunak to "make a statement to parliament at the earliest opportunity and answer questions on this growing scandal."

Matt Hancock 956.jpg

So far the Johnson government has proved scandal-proof but perhaps there is only so much an electorate will tolerate. Paul Krishnmaurty has written about the threat that the Jennifer Arcuri scandal poses to the PM and recommends laying Johnson to stay in office until 2024 at 1.84/5.

The Conservatives are 2.6413/8 to win a majority at the next general election and, as we've seen, Sunak remains favourite to succeed Johnson as their leader, with Jeremy Hunt 9.417/2 and Michael Gove 10.09/1 - both stalwarts of the Cameron years - his nearest rivals in the market.

In the more immediate term the Tories are 1.695/7 to win the Hartlepool by-election on 6 May - a remarkable state of affairs in a seat which Labour has held since 1964.

Cameron is back but not as he would have planned it

History suggests there is a limit to how many scandals a government can survive.

The irony of the Cameron-Greensill scandal is that, for all of Cameron's six year premiership, Johnson was a looming spectre, using his position as Mayor of London to undermine the then PM, making no secret of his desire to succeed him and straying from the party hymn-sheet while standing for parliament at the 2015 general election.

In the build-up to the 2016 in-out referendum, Johnson essentially torpedoed Cameron's premiership by campaigning for Leave.

Now Cameron is back, looking like he could do Johnson's government serious damage and exerting more influence on British political life than at any time since leaving office. Funny how things work out.

UK - Party Leaders: UK - Party Leaders (Next Conservative Leader.)

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Wednesday 14 December, 5.00pm

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