“WELCOME to Downing Street, Prime Minister! I trust you are well. And how was Balmoral?

“Yes, it is rather a long way away. But Her Majesty was most insistent.

“Plus it might help placate the Scots. Not your top priority? Duly noted.

“Still, never mind that, what would you like to do first, Prime Minister?

“A what?? A big celebration party in the Cabinet Room? With wine brought in? Prime Minister, I scarcely think…….oh, I see, a joke…..droll, Prime Minister, exceptionally droll.”

This weekend, it is a fun game not just for Sir Humphrey but for all the family. Just what might be in the Government boxes awaiting the new PM? What will he or, much more probably, she have to deal with after the result is declared on Monday and the regal requirements settled at Balmoral on Tuesday.

First up, of course, will be the creation of a new Cabinet, perhaps building to some extent upon the wraith of governance still serving semi-loyally under the departing Boris Johnson. The key appointment is that of Chancellor. Might Nadhim Zahawi survive in office? Perhaps Rishi Sunak might endorse his successor. Perhaps. Ms Truss might well look elsewhere, seeking someone who is prepared to run vigorously with her tax-cutting theme, in principle if not in practice, given the perilous state of the economy. The name most commonly mentioned is that of Kwasi Kwarteng.


Read more by Brian Taylor: No, Prime Minister – that won’t wash. This energy crisis is an absolute disaster https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/20777554.brian-taylor-no-prime-minister---wont-wash-energy-crisis-absolute-disaster/


There has been some mild amusement to be gained from speculation over the post of Scottish Secretary. The topic has been raised with me – or, indeed, by me – in sundry conversations. It is entirely plausible that Alister Jack will be invited to remain at the helm. A former whip, he is thought to have performed with diligence and dedication.

However, there are options. It was suggested to me that Rishi Sunak might look to Andrew Bowie, the Scottish MP who has been at his side in campaigning.

In comparable fashion, could a victory for Ms Truss generate a come-back by David Mundell, who was shifted from the Scotland Office by Boris Johnson? Certainly, he has been notably close to her throughout this seemingly interminable contest, which rather lost its impetus for two reasons: one, most Tory members probably returned their votes at an early stage and, two, Ms Truss has been firm favourite from the outset.

Could either candidate serve in a Cabinet headed by their rival? During the contest, both made firm declarations of putative loyalty. Delighted to serve. Party and country ahead of personal predilection. You know the sort of thing.

In practice? Ms Truss is, quite simply, not anticipating that she will come second. If, unexpectedly, she did, then she might have to swallow pride. A rather more fundamental problem confronts Mr Sunak. He has not just contested Ms Truss in this surreal campaign, he has loudly decried the entire basis of her fiscal policy. He has lampooned her promise of instant tax cuts as “fantasy” and “fairy-tale economics”.

As I noted at the time, it is eminently feasible that a Conservative Party beset by division and turmoil is in the mood right now for a story with a happy ending, whether credible or not. Hence, partly, the seeming popularity of Ms Truss. But could Mr Sunak serve in a Cabinet dedicated to promulgating that narrative? There will be the customary pressure to preserve Tory unity. Indeed, it is already under way. Iain Duncan Smith – remember him, the “quiet man” – has warned that the party risks years in the political wilderness if the rows and rancour endure beyond the hustings.

But it would be exceptionally difficult for Mr Sunak to discard all he has said. A financial department is out of the question. Perhaps Ms Truss will spare him the bother.

How about an early General Election then? Is that in the new PM’s box. Behave yourself. Have you looked at the polls?

Speculation was heightened after the SNP declared that they were preparing for a proximate contest. However, I think that was much more about internal issues relating to the careful selection – or removal – of candidates.


Read more by Brian Taylor: OK, we get it – Tories back the Union. But what else are they offering? https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/20673891.brian-taylor-ok-get---tories-back-union-else-offering/


The current Tory contenders have before them the example of Theresa May, who threw away a Commons majority with an early election in 2017. All incoming Prime Ministers suffer, to varying degrees, from the illusion that victory relies entirely upon their winning personality and strategic brilliance. Most have the sense to dispel that chimera.

Right now, the new PM needs to unite the Tories, to combat the party’s principal rivals, whether Labour or SNP – and, above all, to set out a plan for the economy and the cost of living. Which will be far from easy. The incumbent Chancellor has said that he has prepared a shovel-ready scheme.

But the new PM will require to study it with exceptional care. Neither Mr Sunak nor Ms Truss seems particularly keen on the notion of cancelling energy price hikes – and spreading the cost over a decade or more.

Ms Truss has argued that we are kidding ourselves if we think that the issue of energy prices will be over in six months or so. If she is elected, she will implement her scheme to scrap the green levy on energy costs, she will pinch Mr Sunak’s plan to lift VAT from fuel bills, and she will adopt a programme of palliative aid, helping middle earners and business as well as the poorest.

Other big issues? Ukraine, of course, which is pressing for more support. China – enemy or rival? Post-Brexit trade. Ireland.

Then there is Scotland. Let us be frank. This ranks way down. Look carefully, Prime Minister, you will find it in your third box. Or maybe fourth.

Mr Sunak says he would work collaboratively with Nicola Sturgeon. Ms Truss wins easy Tory applause by dissing the FM. In practice, she will have to work with her. She may seek to extend the writ of Downing Street into devolved areas of policy. In practice, she will find herself thwarted – and counselled by wiser Scottish Tory heads to desist.

Indyref2? Not in your boxes at all, Prime Minister. But you have only to ask.