Rishi Sunak has emerged as one of the favorites to replace Boris Johnson.
The chances of the former chancellor becoming the UK’s next prime minister are very low at the moment – but anyone paying attention a few years ago could have seen a much bigger payback.
Philip Thompson, a blogger for the Political Betting website, argued for Sunak – then Chief Treasury Secretary with very little public profile – to become Prime Minister two weeks before the 2019 general election in which Johnson secured a huge majority .
At the time, Sunak had a 200/1 chance of being prime minister, with Thompson describing scenarios where Johnson would no longer be party leader.
One of these scenarios was “Johnson running into trouble at the start of the next term and has to be replaced by a former conservative statesman”.
Among the names tipped to take over were Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt – with Sunak far behind in the odds.
Labor electing Sir Keir Starmer to replace Jeremy Corbyn has been raised as a potential obstacle to Johnson winning another election, as well as any problems Brexit may cause after the 2019 election.
Thompson also raised the possibility of a member of the “next generation” of Tory MPs replacing Johnson instead of the old “heavy hitters”.
Watch: Keir Starmer accused Rishi Sunak of being a ‘Johnsonian’
Describing his prediction that Sunak would be that person, Thompson wrote how he was ‘frequently used in media appearances’ during the election campaign, highlighting how he was handpicked by Johnson to represent the Conservatives in a debate. televised.
Thompson suggested that Sunak’s 200/1 odds wouldn’t stay long – meaning anyone placing a bet in 2019 would potentially win big if Sunak won as currently predicted.
What Thompson couldn’t predict is how quickly Johnson will be replaced – with COVID, Partygate and the Pincher scandal all contributing to the Prime Minister’s downfall.
Sunak had the support of 88 MPs after the first ballot on Wednesday night – more than any other candidate with Penny Mordaunt second with 67.
However, his popularity among Conservative party members is not a sure thing, with a recent YouGov survey finding rivals Mordaunt and rising star Kemi Badenoch were asked higher than Sunak in terms of preference to replace. Johnson.
But Sunak is leading other rivals, including Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat and Suella Braverman, and he can still get the premiership – depending on who he faces in the final round.
Despite stepping down as chancellor to force Johnson out, Sunak said he would not ‘demonize’ the prime minister and insisted that Johnson’s controversial former aide Dominic Cummings is not had “absolutely nothing” to do with his leadership campaign.
Sunak also attempted to be realistic about the economy, decrying “uncredible” tax cut offers made by some of his rivals.
He said he would only cut taxes ‘once we get inflation under control’, adding: ‘We need a return to traditional conservative economic values and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales “.