With the rolling political crisis roiling British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government, the question of if he might be replaced as Conservative Leader – and therefore Prime Minister – has been circulating. And, with the ability to bet Boris Johnson odds on PredictIt, there’s money to be made.
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What’s The Crisis?
Due to COVID, there have been two extensive lockdowns, the first at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and then one in the winter into Spring 2021. During both those lockdowns, there has been a pattern of rule breaking by members of Johnson’s staff, as well as him appearing at an outdoor Bring Your Own Booze party during the first lockdown.
Johnson’s been embroiled in scandal for not following the rules his own Government set, and had to claim to Parliament that the BYOB event was, to his understanding, a work event – a claim that has been disputed by many reporters, and former senior aide Dominic Cummings.
Given his party’s now down in every poll, and with allegations of party officials harassing members of Parliament, a potential caucus vote on Johnson’s leadership is possible, if 54 MPs call for a vote by filing a letter calling for one.
There were media reports that there would be the threshold hit last week, but as of now, there has been no vote called, and there appears to be a bit of a lull in the news, at least until Sue Gray releases her report into these events.
Boris Johnson Odds: Will he remain prime minister through February?
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The only way Johnson could be replaced that quickly is if Sue Gray’s report is entirely damning on Johnson, has proof that Johnson knew that it was, in fact, a party, that he went anyways, and that his answer to Parliament was a lie – and then he decides to resign, and not stay on until his permanent replacement is found.
The reason Johnson is highly likely to stay on in the interim, no matter what, is that any potential interim successor would have to be someone who does not want the permanent job, and with the exits of George Osborne and William Hague from the Parliament, there isn’t a party elder who can do the job for a few months.
Even if Gray’s report is as damning as it could be, and there’s a majority of MPs voting to replace Johnson, the process of picking the new leader would take weeks, both for Tory MPs to select the two candidates who would go to the party membership, and then for the party to conduct the leadership election between those two candidates.
In 2016, Theresa May was functionally handed the job because of the crisis that just having voted for Brexit constituted, and therefore the party was willing to force her opponent out to speed up her coronation. In 2019, the Brexit disaster meant that May’s resignation took on a more hectic pace, but even still, she resigned in May 2019 and Johnson was sworn in in July.
Even if that same pace was kept, that would see Johnson leave in March, after the February deadline for this market – and all of this assumes that Sue Gray’s report will be this disastrous, which the general belief is that it won’t be.
Boris Johnson Odds: Will he remain prime minister through May?
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This is harder, but probably not.
If Johnson isn’t forced out in the next two weeks or so, the Tories will keep him through the next electoral test – the May local elections in (amongst others) London, Wales, and Scotland. If the London elections are disastrous for the party – if they match the sorts of results that national polls suggest now, or even something close to it – that’s when the Tories will move against Johnson.
May was forced to resign as Prime Minister after the party’s horrendous, disastrous May 2019 pair of election results – horrible results in the local elections in early May, and then the European elections later that May. She would resign the morning after voters voted in the Euros, because while the results weren’t known, everyone knew they’d come in either 4th or 5th.
Waiting for bad election results to get rid of a leader is commonplace, and the likeliest outcome seems, as of now, that Johnson will muddle on through the allegations, be given the elections as a test for his ability to work through the crisis and come out the other side, and then either keep him or start replacing him then.
With a majority government and time, which they didn’t have in either of the last two leadership changes, even if Johnson resigns in early May, there’s no way he’d leave by the end of the month. The Tory Party will want the ability to scrutinize their own contenders, given the time to reset on the other side of the dual crises of Brexit and COVID.
For the next leadership election, whenever it comes, a debate about what the Tory Party is about – in terms of their relationships with Europe and China, in terms of the role of government in a post-COVID world, and a dozen other issues – will dominate, and will take time, which means even if Johnson’s a lame duck, he’ll still be Prime Minister.
Oh, and there’s a good chance Boris can recover in the polls by May – if these issues fall to the wayside, if COVID cases keep falling and the British people are under no restrictions by election day, if the Tories can find some money for infrastructure and transit policies that will be popular by then – which means there’ll be no leadership challenge this year.
Next G20 Leader To Leave Office
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If Johnson can find his way to staying in office, then betting Jair Bolsonaro to be the next G20 Leader to leave office makes a lot of sense. Macron’s gonna win again in France, and unless you’re scared of Biden dying, you’re really just betting whether Boris can make it to October or not.
Bolsonaro is a huge underdog to win another term, and betting him at under 20 cents to be the next gone is a steal, because Johnson’s chances of long-term survival are much higher than people are giving him credit for.
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Boris Johnson’s been one of the best survivors in British politics – from saving his reputation after lying to his leader in the early 2000s to becoming Mayor of London, from making it to Theresa May’s Cabinet, resigning to try and destabilize her and then almost killing his own ambition to then becoming Prime Minister.
A lot of people have written a lot of preemptive eulogies for the political career of Boris, and every time they’ve been wrong.
Trusting the great survivor to survive again is a smart bet when considering Boris Johnson odds.