”The more I consider my options, the prospect of my becoming a candidate by the autumn becomes more attractive… I am listening to my parliamentary colleagues. Whatever I decide, I know this, that it would be a real privilege to be the person who could lead this party from Opposition to Government at the next election.”
With those words (recorded in this morning’s Times) Ken Clarke signaled that he will probably stand in the still-congested race to succeed Michael Howard.
After some of his likeliest backers had endorsed other candidates (Damian Green – David Davis and Peter Luff – David Cameron) there was an increasing sense that the former Chancellor would not have a third go at the Tory leadership. But, in a speech to the Tory Reform Group last night, Mr Clarke showed that he relished the prospect of defeating Labour’s sure-fire next leader – Gordon Brown:
“He [Gordon Brown] is an experienced, formidable campaigner who will need to be challenged on his economic record as well as his broader domestic agenda if he is to be defeated in today’s presidential electoral politics.”
Until other candidates follow Alan Duncan’s lead and drop out there will be no united ‘Stop-Davis’ coalition. Without that coalition Mr Davis’ frontrunner momentum may become unstoppable.
Mr Davis’ momentum was helped further yesterday with the public backing of Treasury spokesman Philip Hammond. This blog has also learnt that Patrick Mercer will soon endorse the Shadow Home Secretary. These and a very few other identifications will be reflected in a soon-to-be-updated ’Who’s backing who?’ feature.
A ConservativeHome survey has revealed that Ken Clarke is not popular with Tory grassroots members. His best chance of becoming leader will arrive if, as expected, MPs abolish one-man-one-vote leadership elections.