The campaign to stop David Davis is underway. Columnist Bruce Anderson is leading the charge. He began the attack in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. In a bad case of editing he referred twice to the plotters and conspirators, undermining Michael Howard, as “friends of David Davis”. But it was in this morning’s Independent that Mr Anderson really let rip:
”Some of those touted as candidates for the Tory leadership are young and untested. George Osborne, David Cameron; both are under 40; and just completing their fourth year as an MP. Yet in their brief innings, they have shown class and style. Their performance at the wicket makes the selectors stroke their chins: ‘If they’re good enough, they must be old enough’.
David Davis is old enough: 56 and an MP for 18 years. But in all those 18 years, there has been no indication that he is good enough. He has never said, written or done anything to suggest that he is anywhere near prime ministerial calibre.”
He attempts to demolish Mr Davis’ CV in his article:
> He attacks his speaking style – “at the Despatch Box, he sounded like a freshly captured slave who had just been chosen to become a castrato”.
> He describes him as self-obsessed when a Foreign Office Minister and relates a tale when he awoke his jet-lagged Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, with a “rambling tale” about a newspaper article that had been critical of him. [What Mr Anderson doesn’t say is who recounted this story of Sir Malcolm and Mr Davis’ conversation…]
> David Davis is accused of shunning William Hague for reasons of jealousy.
> His ability to win the support of fewer than 20 MPs for his 2001 leadership bid is put down to his unpopularity within the parliamentary party.
> What Mr Davis did as IDS’ Party Chairman is described as “one of the great mysteries in modern British politics”. Mr Anderson suggests that he showed almost no signs of activity and “Tories in the country waited in vain for visits from their Chairman”.
> He is surrounded by an “unsatisfactory bunch” of Tory MPs – Eric Forth and Derek Conway are mentioned by name – who are already over-promising jobs to people: “Unless a Davis team found room for six shadow chancellors and six shadow foreign secretaries, the promises made on Mr Davis’ behalf could never be kept.”
Opponents of David Davis know that support for the Shadow Home Secretary is much weaker in the parliamentary party than amongst the rank-and-file membership. If they succeed in the restoration of the parliamentary party’s supremacy over the leadership election they still think that David Davis can be stopped. Two MPs have told this blog that a grand anti-Davis coalition involving some sort of Clarke-Cameron-Rifkind ticket may be engineered.