Published: 19:59, 14 January 2022
It may seem rather premature but the prospect of Boris Johnson being forced out of office by ‘partygate’ has inevitably triggered the question of who will succeed him?
The removal lorry may not be parked outside 10 Downing Street just yet but the bookmakers have reacted swiftly - and included in various shortlists is the name of on Kent MP might be in with a shot.
While the odds appear to favour of the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or the Chancellor Rishi Sunak should there be a vacancy in the coming weeks, the Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat has an outside chance to pull off the political equivalent of an FA Cup knockout.
The MP, a former soldier is well regarded by his peers across all sides and his role as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has given him a high-profile.
He also has the merit of being part of the new younger political generation of the Conservative party, with many party members feeling that it is time to move away from the old guard and to install a PM who can modernise the party.
His odds of succeeding Boris Johnson put him down as an outside bet but history has shown that may not necessarily mean much.
Who would have thought that John Major would succeed Margaret Thatcher? Or that Theresa May would become leader and PM unopposed?
Paddy Power, which prices Tom at 16 to 1 to become the next PM, suggests a run-off is most likely between the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
A Paddy Power spokesman said a crowded field made the race to succeed Boris Johnson unpredictable.
The spokesman added: “With more people vying for the top job than you see at a No10 lockdown party, it really is all to play for during the sort of happening, but not really happening, beauty contest to be the next Prime Minister.
"The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the early favourite, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss just behind, but given the Tories previous for taking out their rivals and themselves at the same time, it might that the last person standing gets the crown again. Anyone heard from Theresa recently?”
Among Conservative MPs, the calculation they have to make is whether they want a potentially disruptive leadership battle now and if they don’t, do they wait until next year and limp on?
The choice may not be theirs to make: if the report they are waiting for is sufficiently critical, Boris may be ushered out unceremoniously sooner rather than later.
Into the mix will be the feelings of rank and file members who do the foot-slogging and leaflet drops in all weathers and are mightily aggrieved.
Away from the betting odds, the party may be slightly alarmed at their slide in the opinion polls in the aftermath of the various allegations of parties during lockdown.
Polls of course offer only a snapshot of public opinion but the decline in support for the man who delivered his party a sound election victory two years ago is among events filed 'unexplained.'