Most Tories think Howard should have paused for breath before announcing his departure, but in reality he has just stated what we all know, he will keep the seat warm until after a party rule making conference. Nevertheless, he has fired the starting gun so:-
David Davis is clear 5/2 favourite with solid right-wing credentials and cross party support, he slotted Beverley Hughes at immigration and played the fight against Blunkett cleverly, despite Blunkett being very wiley. Malcolm Rifkind (7/1) has not got a hope of winning for the Tories, if by some chance he became leader it would be a fourth term for Labour, forget him. Guido cannot understand why he is being talked up. Doc Fox (8/1) has been over-promoted merely as a result of organising Howard’s leadership bid, that he is a serious prospect reflects the paucity of Tory talent (6/1). David Cameron (9/1) would be wise to keep his powder dry, but may be scared to miss his chance. Andrew Lansley is in the running too. The bookies have him down at 10/1. George Osborne is too young. Oliver Letwin is too wet for the right and not seen as a safe pair of hands by his colleagues. Kenneth Clarke would divide the party on Europe, if he could drop his Euro-enthusiasm he might have a chance, but the right won’t trust him and its not clear that he cares for the job. John Redwood is too unpopular nationally. Michael Ancram is a Marquis, forget him. William Hague at 14/1 seems attractively priced (if he wanted the job). Alan Duncan might throw his small but perfectly formed hat in the ring.
Expect newly elected Nick Herbert to help run the David Davis campaign – watch for www.ModernConservatives.com to be the online platform. Watch out for one damaging story that could destabilise Davis, everyone is digging into it, but nothing has been proven.
This is probably the battle for the future premiership. Expect the next few months to get a little messy. Hopefully.