endIf Theresa May steps down, who will replace her?

The bookies have their favourites: Jacob Rees-Mogg (7/2), Boris Johnson (15/2), Michael Gove (11/1) and Amber Rudd (12/1). Four people the public know well.

But, at secret talks between political strategists this week in a Pall Mall club, it was felt that the smarter money might be on one from the following trio of baggage-free MPs:

James Cleverly (Braintree): Aged 48, JC was appointed Conservative Party Deputy Chairman in the January 2018 reshuffle. Elected and re-elected with enormous majorities in 2015 and 2017, Cleverly is a boisterous and confident personality who has openly admitted his ultimate ambition to be “team captain”. Prior to Parliament, he endeared himself to millions by calling Simon Hughes, the ex-Liberal Democrat MP, a “dick” on Twitter. He advocated a Brexit vote in the 2016 referendum. UKIP Home Affairs spokesman, Richard Bingley, who stood against Cleverly in Braintree, said: “Our hustings were very friendly but probably very boring. We agreed a lot except on our favourite colours. I’m sure James was just trying to be difficult as he was wearing a blue tie at the time!” Since his promotion, William Hill offer Cleverly at 33/1.

Damian Hinds (East Hampshire): Aged 48, a PPE grad from Oxford, Hinds has impressed all before him with his mix of erudite social conservatism and poise in dealing with Civil Servants and Media, as he recently acquired the turbulent office of Education Secretary. Although he voted ‘Remain’, Hinds is liked across all wings of the Tory Party for his pragmatism: “The people have spoken and it is now up to everyone in politics and public life to move forward with positivity and purpose.” According to Jacob Rees-Mogg, a contemporary at Oxford, “he doesn’t make mistakes”. Also, to his credit, Hinds can point to a successful business career before entering Parliament. His risk will be stoking the hornet’s nest of teaching unions, perhaps over pay bargaining, performance improvements, or even wading into a quagmire over Faith Schools (Hinds experienced a predictable backlash in his defence of Faith Schools back in 2014). A bit of loose change on 66/1 at Ladbrokes might be a superb future investment!

Gavin Williamson (South Stafffordshire): Aged 41, he has made a stupendously good start as Defence Secretary since being appointed in November 2017. Said last week that vile jihadi terrorists should never be allowed back in the UK. He also reportedly roasted the MoD for flying the EU flag. Williamson backed ‘Remain’ in the 2016 Brexit referendum but seems to back a clear break with Brussels on the Brexit Cabinet Subcommittee. His difficulty will be handling defence cooperation negotiations and being at least seen to win some notable victories for sovereignty, whilst his boss Theresa May seems fixated on backing UK/EU joint security initiatives. Odds at 25/1 with BetFred are intriguing but prices have tumbled to 10/1 with PaddyPower in recent days.

That’s it. I’m off to my local turf accountant…

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