George Osborne’s ambitions have long been common knowledge in Parliament. Furthermore the great political chess-player had seemed on course to achieve his aim and succeed his great friend and ally David Cameron into Downing Street, securing the front-runner status after the Conservative victory in 2015.
The Conservative victory in 2015 and the almost messianic status that Osborne received in the light of the win as a political strategist now seems a long time ago. Since then the former Chancellor has produced one questionable budget, played a leading role in ‘Project Fear’ and has lost his job with his reputation in tatters. Politically things have looked better for George Osborne!
So could this change in the future? George Osborne remains influential in the Conservative Party. Throughout his time as Chancellor he promoted many of his allies, some of whom now occupy powerful positions in the party. This gives Osborne a strong base for any future leadership contest. Added to this Osborne has begun to position himself as the champion of the modernising wing of the party. This gives him political room to exploit and allows him to maintain his influence and relevance in the new political landscape.
George Osborne remains young (he is only 45!). This gives him plenty of time. He has shown no desire to leave Parliament and has hinted he is yet to give up on his ambitions recently claiming he didn’t know ‘how this story ends’. Osborne can afford to be patient, even waiting for May to step down after a successful time in office. A vacancy does not have to occur immediately for Osborne to remain in the game.
The political situation in this country remains complex. Theresa May has enjoyed a solid start as Prime Minister but with Brexit negotiations to come things will become more tricky. Should May fail to take the party with her on Brexit, her position is far from insurmountable and a new vacancy may arise sooner than expected. In that climate Osborne’s experience could make him an attractive choice in what would be an open contest.
Much has to happen before this is even a possibility and we are largely talking about hypotheticals. However there does remain a plausible scenario where Osborne takes over from May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister either after a successful May government or a failed May government. George Osborne has been written off before in politics and has bounced back, so when it comes to the former Chancellor, it is wise to never say never!
It has been a tumultuous period for UKIP of late. The populist party has bounced from one crisis to another in recent times, beginning when Nigel Farage stepped down after the referendum triggering a leadership contest. This contest quickly turned into a farce when front-runner Steven Woolfe failed to make it onto the ballot submitting his forms late, paving the way for Diane James to win the contest. Diane James lasted 18 days in charge before resigning leaving questions about whether she had wanted to run in the first place. This resignation meant Nigel Farage was announced as interim leader and it was confirmed a new leadership contest would take place.
Steven Woolfe was first to declare his candidacy in this new contest promising to learn lessons from the last contest. Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to Nigel Farage and editor-in-chief of Breitbart UK also confirmed his desire to stand. This was before things took a turn for the worse in Strasbourg this week when Steven Woolfe was rushed to hospital (fortunately he now seems to be recovering!). It later emerged there had been an “altercation” between Woolfe and Mike Hookem (another UKIP MEP) over the news Woolfe had been in talks about defecting to the Tories (exactly what happened here is still unclear, so it’s unwise to speculate at this stage). Subsequently an inquiry has been announced.
These events have been seen as being systematic of the underlying tensions which have existed in the party for quite some time. For a relatively small party UKIP are riven by factions and infighting. At its most simple it can be split between those who are loyal to Farage and those who are loyal to Carswell (UKIP’s only MP) but in reality it is far more complicated than that. After recent events major donor Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party if Woolfe is barred from standing and Neil Hamilton and Douglas Carswell stayed in the party, possibly taking away UKIP’s war-chest. From the Carswell wing of the party it is considered likely Suzanne Evans will run for leader paving the way for a very bitter leadership campaign.
Despite all these problems UKIP have showed they are still a political force winning a council seat off Labour in Hartlepool and continuing to poll around 12%. Of course there are challenges ahead, such as re-positioning themselves and finding a leader with similar appeal to Farage but this indicates there remains a place in the British political spectrum for a party with right-wing populist appeal such as UKIP, especially given questions about Labour’s long-term future. Whether this is UKIP in its current form or whether it is a new party or movement is up for dispute, but what is clear if this particularly form of UKIP wants to survive then they need to sort themselves out fast as they will not survive many more weeks like this.
So Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership contest. Again. After a bitter summer full of dispute and wrangling Jeremy Corbyn decisively defeated Owen Smith and strengthened his hold on the Labour Party. In doing so Corbyn ended the debate about who will lead the party into the next election, but added to a more profound question; can Labour ever win again?
It is hard for even the most optimistic Labour supporter to make a case for the Labour Party winning the 2020 election. The proposed boundary changes could cost Labour as many as 20 seats and the latest polling puts Labour a staggering 15 points behind the Conservatives. There is no historical precedent for an opposition party winning from this position. Politics has been strange in recent times, but it is not that strange!
So if we rule out 2020, what about future elections? The synopsis also looks bleak for the Labour Party in this regard as well. In their traditional stronghold of Scotland, they now only have 1 MP and currently sit in third place behind the Conservatives. Furthermore research has found a lot of working class Labour voters who voted for Brexit deserting the party. Without these voters it is impossible for Labour to gain a winning majority. This is a long-term problem for Labour and as of yet there has been no solution.
Perhaps most seriously there is the question of whether the Labour Party can or even wants to stick together. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned of a split and a large proportion of Labour voters now consider this to be likely. Figures from all sides of the party such as Chuka Umunna, Hilary Benn and John McDonnell have called for unity and have denied rumours of a split, but still the headlines won’t disappear. Can the Labour moderates really cope with another 4 years of Corbyn?
Political parties have no divine right to exist and certainly have no divine right to win. This is certainly true for the Labour Party. It is foolish given what is happening in politics in the world to make a definitive prediction on this topic, but what we know is that political parties do have a shelf-life and Labour could be reaching the end of theirs. Labour as an electoral force are on a precipice and it is anyone’s guess as to whether they can or ever will recover.