The National:

WHO remembers Sir Anthony Meyer?

The former soldier, diplomat and politician died in 2004, remembered really for only one thing – he was Margaret Thatcher’s "stalking horse".

By definition a stalking horse is a real or artificial horse behind which a hunter approaches its prey. In British political terms it means a person, usually a backbench MP, who challenges the leader of his or her party so that the real contenders can then step in to the leadership contest.

Meyer did his job well back when the very pro-European MP for a Welsh constituency decided to try and smelt the Iron Lady. He needed only proposer and seconder and got them – the contest was on.

In an editorial tribute to him, the Guardian noted what happened: “Sir Anthony’s campaign only attracted 33 votes, but another 24 ballot papers were spoiled. By this act of defiance, a significant fraction of the party broke through the carapace of invincibility that had surrounded their leader since her third election victory in 1987. Sadly for Sir Anthony, no more serious candidate – specifically, his friend and fellow wet Sir Ian Gilmour – took the opportunity of hiding themselves in his shadow in true stalking horse tradition ("The wets were truly wet," he was said to have lamented) and it took another year for a viable challenge to be mounted.”

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No wonder the wets stayed wet – the incredible vehemence directed against Meyer by the pro-Thatcher press was vile even by their standards, and included the exposition of the MPs long affair with a singer and model.

That second challenge came from Michael Heseltine and when she failed to finish him off at the first vote, Thatcher resigned and cried her way out of Downing Street, turning her team towards John Major who duly became PM.

The Guardian noted: “It takes guts to be a stalking horse, as the failure of even a single Labour MP to challenge Gordon Brown latterly proved in comparable circumstances. Sir Anthony was deselected as a candidate two months after his challenge.”

It says everything about Boris Johnson’s perceived weakness as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party that he could soon be facing a stalking horse who would challenge his leadership to set up a contest that would be joined by the real wannabees in the party. They will deny it but Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel have that “lean and hungry look” which Shakespeare ascribed to the politically ambitious.

Now this may seem like wishful thinking on the part of his many opponents, but as The National reported, several MPs from his party have composed letters of no confidence in him.

The Mirror quoted one source: “There have been meetings going on in Portcullis House where there is gaming as to how he could be got rid of, not yet ready for a stalking horse situation unless we start to see further erosion in polls.”

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It would take some organising as no fewer than 54 MPs would have to write to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, requesting a leadership contest – the 22s changed the rules after their Blessed Margaret wept.

But who would be the Stalking Horse? The Joukers has two suggestions. They are both Scottish and therefore expendable. They are also ambitious and might just fancy getting a higher profile. Step forward Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and the party’s former vice-chair Andrew Bowie.

Neither are going far at the moment, and wouldn’t be much missed if their stalking failed.