Then again, Osborne could be too damaged for the Tories. Johnson has to be the favourite, but there are some in the parliamentary Tory party who wouldn't go near him in lead overalls. And I'm not entirely convinced he'll do the business. There's mileage in the bizarre Stephen Crabb/Sajid Javid ticket, there's Theresa May, of course, whose now-you-see-me-now-you-don't intervention on the side of Remain would hardly have harmed her, and I'd throw in a wild card like Anna Soubry too. Though as someone who'd like to see the Tories dashed on the rocks at the bottom of a deep abyss, I'll be rooting for Osborne or, even better, the disgraced former minister Liam Fox. If MPs selected this hapless pair as the choice before the membership, it might cheer me up a bit.
However, there is an assumption doing the rounds that whoever becomes the new Tory leader will call a general election. Dave observed that this should be the case at the beginning of his long farewell to the House this afternoon. I'm not entirely convinced as there is a perfectly viable and Machiavellian alternative: a national government. There are three advantages accruing to a Tory PM going down this path rather than taking a risk while politics is in such a febrile state:
1. It allows them to pose as a unifying figure concerned with healing the nation. As we saw with the Coalition, and every joint operation the Tories have ever been in (with the notable exception of the war time government) they are rarely damaged from buddying up with other parties. By inviting the others into government, they can make the claim that all corners of the UK would have a presence at the Brexit negotiating table. There are no special interests, no backroom manoeuvres cutting deals for the City, the property speculators, and whatnot at the expense of the fisherman, road hauliers, and other constituencies that don't reap the benefit of the single market. It's also much easier to sell than the Tory/LibDem Coalition because there is an actual crisis now - the previous one having been cleaned up by the time they got a whiff of power.
2. The markets are already craving stability. Businesses want to know that a Britain on its way out of the EU is a safe place to do business and park cash. A national government, assuming its MPs command a very large majority in the Commons would absolutely signal that the period of political crisis is over. Or at least give that appearance. A calm politics and a steady state economy would serve the new Tory PM well as s/he leads the exit negotiations, and set them up a nice, fondly remembered legacy too.
3. It could destroy the opposition though, to be accurate, Labour are having a good go at that themselves right now. Nevertheless a national government would serve the Tories well. The question of who the Tories would form a national government wit h would be, well, bits of the Labour Party. Supposing, as is likely, that Jeremy survives, braves another leadership contest and is still in situ just as the new PM rocks up at Number 10. The offer of a national government would be too good for some Labour MPs to resist. From their point of view, Jeremy cannot win an election, they're screwed anyway, so why not take a chance on ministerial office? It would be better than sitting on the backbenches and chumming with the lobby hacks at the Portcullis House coffee shop. The party splits, but as far as they're concerned Labour's now a toxic label, so why not? There would be a rump PLP left in the House, and it would be unlikely they could seriously threaten the new Tory leader for a good time, suiting them down to the ground.
Is this likely? I can't see any reason why it's beyond the realms of possibility.