A week of contrasting fortunes cast on PM Rishi Sunak and leadership adversary Boris Johnson sees Betfair Politics revise its markets on the future of a divided Conservative Party.
The passing of a revised Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has strengthened PM Sunak’s credentials to lead the Conservatives into a likely 2024 General Election. Former PMs Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were among the 22 ‘Tory rebels’ to vote against Sunak’s deal agreed with the European Commission (EC).
Having avoided a backbench revolt, the week was heralded as Sunak’s best since his premiership began last October. Yet, the passing of a landmark NI Protocol Bill was overshadowed by Johnson taking a stand against the Privileges Committee, which is investigating whether the former PM broke COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Betfair spokesperson Sam Rosbottom said: “Boris Johnson was as short as 18/5 to be the next Conservative leader at the start of the month, however, odds on that happening have drifted to 7/1 since he was grilled by MPs over Partygate.
“The former Prime Minister, who repeatedly insisted he did not intentionally mislead parliament, remains the second-favourite to take over from Rishi Sunak, with Kemi Badenoch the 4/1 favourite.”
Clouds darken over Johnson’s political future, as the Committee could recommend a suspension of more than 10 days, triggering a by-election contest in his Uxbridge constituency.
Mocked for his ‘absurd responses’, Johnson is said to be preparing for ‘the worst case scenario’, in which he is ready to gamble his remaining political career on the electorate of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Should Johnson finally be cast aside, the outlook remains gloomy for Sunak, who remains in command of a much-divided party on all key policy issues – the economy, migration, energy policy, Brexit and the levelling-up agenda.
Sunak has vowed to fight the next election on a “party unity and message discipline”, but is aware of existing and growing fractures within the Conservative camps and its tribal members.
For now, Rosbottom concluded: “Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland was passed and backed by Labour MPs earlier this week, but the Prime Minister is odds-on at 20/21 to leave his role next year.
“However, as stands Labour remains odds-on 8/11 favourites to win a majority at the next General Election, while the Conservatives trail behind at 17/2, with no overall majority 2/1.”