Let Conservative leadership battle commence

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Chancellor George Osborne is now David Cameron’s favourite choice to succeed him when, towards the end of this Parliament, the Prime Minister quits 10, Downing Street.

His Budget last week, in which he introduced policies Labour would have loved to have implemented themselves, must have put him streets ahead of other leadership hopefuls, notably Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and the Mayor of London, restored Tory MP Boris Johnson. After the election in May, Cameron appointed Osborne as First Secretary of State as well as Chancellor. There could be no clearer hint that the Prime Minister is already rooting for him as his successor.

Admittedly, there are a number of years between now and the start of the Tory leadership battle, and there will be plenty of bumps and potholes along the way.

But there is no doubt that with his Budget last week Osborne won over the great bulk of the Conservative parliamentary party – and the bookies as well. That puts Osborne well ahead of the field in a marathon in which both Theresa May and Boris Johnson are both puffing and panting in his wake.

They have a lot of catching up to do, even if Osborne runs out of steam...

Andy Burnham, allegedly the front-runner in the Labour leadership stakes, appears to be getting butterflies.

He is alarmed, apparently, that hard-left candidate Jeremy Corbyn may be creeping up on him as the race continues. I wonder whether those Labour MPs, who ensured Corbyn had enough backers to enable him to take part in the election at all, now regret their “kindness”.

The big unions, who backed Ed Miliband in 2010, are now doing the same for Corbyn. Nothing would please the Tories more than a Corbyn victory.

But what must be equally, if not more, worrying for Burnham is that the former Home Secretary, the popular Alan Johnson, has said he believes Labour should elect a woman leader.

Johnson’s intervention is a huge boost for Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary.

It is ironic though that had Johnson stood for the leadership this time, he would almost certainly have won by a landslide.