When David Cameron announced that he wouldn’t serve a third term, he made it inevitable that Westminster would spend much of his second term wondering about who would succeed him. Well, in the new Spectator, Nicky Morgan becomes the first Cabinet Minister to make clear that she is interested in standing when Cameron steps down. She says that ‘A lot of it will depend on family’ but makes clear that she believes there needs to be a female candidate in the race and hopes ‘that, in the not too distant future, there will be another female leader of a main Westminster political party’.
What I was most struck about when interviewing Morgan was how, when I asked her what her pitch for the top would be, she didn’t shy away from the question. Instead, she offered up a manifesto based on her experience in turning her seat, Loughborough, from a marginal into one with a Tory majority of more than 9,000:
‘I represent a part of the country that I think is incredibly down-to-earth. It wants good schools, good hospitals, solid economy, support for those who have started businesses and wants to know that the government is on their side.’
In any future leadership contest, Morgan’s success and experience in Loughborough will be a big part of her message. The other fancied contenders—George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Sajid Javid—all represent safe Tory seats.
The idea of Morgan as Prime Minister might seem a bit far-fetched today. But if David Cameron manages to stick to his departure timetable, revealed in this week’s Spectator, and carries on until 2019, Morgan will have been a Secretary of State for five years and a much better known figure than she is today. She is also carving out a distinctive position in the party for herself; she’s the president of the modernising pressure group Bright Blue.
One other thing worth remembering about Morgan is that she is consistently underestimated. When she arrived in parliament in 2010 as part of the strongest Tory intake in a generation, few tipped her for the top. But only one member of that intake made it to the Cabinet before her, which was no small feat considering that she had a marginal seat to tend to as well. She is, definitely, one to watch.