For Steve Richards, in today’s Independent, the question topping this post is the key question facing the Conservative Party. He attacks the “absurd” and “superficial” nature of the leadership debate up until now and its focus on appealing to gays or not wearing ties.
The task of challenging Mr Brown will be a daunting one. The Iraq factor – which damaged Labour’s standing amongst its most traditional voters - will be unwinding by the next election. And if the economy is weak it may actually play to Brown’s advantage. A YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Justice found strong support for Mr Brown being in charge of a troubled economy. Brown in 2009 could parallel Major in 1992. Voters may prefer Labour to revive the economy if they still enjoy a lead on economic competence (which is currently double figured).
Mr Richards argues that only two Tories are up to the job of challenging Mr Brown – Ken Clarke and David Davis. He says that Mr Clarke’s popularity with the electorate and Mr Davis’ frontrunner momentum make them the stand-out contenders.
David Cameron is rejected as untested in the heat of political battle – but his “time will come”.
Mr Richards is optimistic that the Tories can do well at the next election:
“They seek to flourish in a conservative country that has not been fundamentally changed by a Labour government. They do so with the potential support of powerful right-wing newspapers. This should make them optimistic.”
Nick Wood, former Tory Director of Media, is much less keen on Ken Clarke. Mr Wood thinks that the Tory contest will be a Davis v Cameron clash. On Clarke he writes:
“Clarke, or a leftish disciple such as Rifkind, may yet stand. But given that he is out of step with most of his party over tax and spending and public service reform, as well as Europe, and given that at 65 he is old enough to be Cameron’s father, he stands no chance of beating Davis.”
Read Nick’s full article on conservativehome.com.