The Fifteen Gove Project
A suggestion for the next Tory Leader
As the Tory government slides towards the election defeat which seems increasingly inevitable, more and more discussion turns to what, or who, comes after. It seems unlikely that Sunak will be willing, or able, to survive a defeat and will follow the precedent of resigning shortly after the results come in, with neither legitimacy nor appetite to continue. The shape of the leadership contest will be determined partly by which MPs are left standing, but last week’s conference confirmed largely how it will shape up.
So far, the pitches for leadership have been largely ideological and factional. Liz Truss’ acolytes are trying to harness a return of the growth group, the Faragist faction is coalescing around immigration and “wokery”. It is likely someone from the dwindling liberal wing of the party will also have a punt. The winner will probably be the person who can combine most of these factions. Yet this should not be the only lens through which the contest is framed. It should also be about avoiding the mistakes which brought the party to this point.
Being the next Tory leader will be about more than just making speeches and opposing Labour in the Commons. It will require a restorative mission, to recentre the party and make it capable of effective government once more. The arguments against the party now are oft repeated – but foremost among these have been its inability to get stuff, even stuff it believes in, done. If this remains, it will be harder to harder to win another majority.
To rejuvenate the party, the next leader will have to dispel the sense that the Tories are interested in power, but uninterested in government. They will have to develop a platform that considers seriously how they use the levers available to them to achieve the outcomes they want, rather than inhabiting a hollow, listless government. Part of doing that, I suggest, is something I call the “Fifteen Goves Project”.