"As our MPs return to their constituencies, three things come to mind:
- We could have had a new leader by now.
- We could have had a Conservative MP for Cheadle.
- We could have won the general election (or at least denied Labour a third successive victory)
That we have achieved none of these things is testament to some outstandingly awful leadership. As we contemplate the choice of a new leader the issue that faces us is not the social background of the candidates, nor their charisma, nor even their agenda. What counts above all, is their determination not to revisit a strategy that has repeatedly failed.
We should be under no illusions that this is a very real possibility. Indeed, the party seems so hell bent on repeated failure, that it managed to get in another one just before recess i.e. Cheadle.
Nevermind that this came mere weeks after the general election fiasco, which should have been the end of everything shallow, negative, irrelevant and unbelievable in our approach to campaigning, will still did it again. What’s more we achieved this feat with Francis Maude, that high priest of modernisation, as Party Chairman.
Of course, we’ve tried to get real before. William Hague had his ‘kitchen table conservatism’. IDS had helping the vulnerable. Michael Howard had his famous Saatchi gallery leadership acceptance speech (penned by one F. Maude). Each promised a fresh approach. Each was abandoned.
So I’m now past caring whether the leadership contenders went to Eton, grew up on a housing estate or were found under a mulberry bush. What really counts is their ability to supply proof that they will lead the party in a new and indivertible direction. What might this proof consist of? Well, I hope readers of this blog will suggest their own tests, but I will submit the following:
Each candidate should submit their own timetable for action (to coin a phrase), consisting of concretely defined policies, campaign strategies and party reforms that they will have in place by given date, with a letter of resignation as the only acceptable substitute for delivery."