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You are right to draw attention to the talent outside of the frontbench. It's such a contrast with what Labour has.

In addition I would list Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford and former Governor of Hong Kong; Lord Heseltine for obvious reasons; Boris Johnson, Mayor of London; Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association.

Lord Patten would be my choice to fill the gap on international human rights and justice although he may have lost the hunger.

Yesterday's men.

Sir John Major needs to be on this list.
His Times article on 42 days was masterful.

IDS is a fundraiser and speaker, not a politician. He's more like Iain Dale or Tim than Cameron. He has done well since leaving frontline Parliamentary politics showing that he was not, and will never be, a Parliamentarian. He has skills and he will no doubt have a future role under Cameron, but I hope its not on the frontbench.

John Gummer is a big green beast!

Not impressed with Rifkind at all. He's wasted a good seat in K&c, spends his time chairing ArmorGroup instead of helping fill the hole where the party's foreign policy should be

In answer to your final question, the most obvious - indeed, I'd say the only person who has persistently and consistently championed them - is John Bercow. He might not be a "Big Beast", but having served in the Shadow Cabinet and developed quite a prominent profile, he must be one-tier below the big beasts ... and he has championed international development and human rights tirelessly since leaving his post as Shadow International Development Secretary. I know he has his critics, but on this particular issue he cannot be faulted and is the only former frontbencher who stands out as having dedicated himself to these issues.

Lord Patten was superb in Hong Kong and I am quite a fan of his, due to his intellect, personality etc, but he doesn't quite fill the international human rights field completely - his views on the EU, Iraq and the US are problematic, and I fear that, although he rightly stuck two fingers up to the FCO and went ahead with his plans in Hong Kong, which was brilliant, he went a bit native when he was an EU Commissioner. Nevertheless, he is certainly someone who is a big beast, and who I would like to see brought in more - on some issues.

Alexander I trust you don't include Boris in your "yesterday's men" comment!

Ann Widdecombe is the "moral conscience" of the party and is a Big Beast. I don't agree with her on everything, but on pro-life issues she's at the forefront.

"Yesterday's men."

So what? Doesn't mean their brains can't work and that the public will dislike them.

Interesting how some former big beasts - admittedly not the biggest, but still quite big - such as Kenneth Baker, Cecil Parkinson, Gillian Shepherd, Virginia Bottomley, Norman Fowler - are seldom heard of or from these days. And what ever happened to John Moore, John Patten, John MacGregor, David Waddington? Even the likes of Douglas Hurd, Tom King, Norman Lamont, while they occasionally pop up, are fairly quiet compared with Chris Patten, Ken Clarke and Heseltine.

If John Bercow wants to be taken seriously on human rights he should not liken fellow Tory MPS to the Taliban. See Thursday's CH.

The Taliban were terrible human rights abusers and using that term demeans both the Taliban's crimes and Mr Bercow himself.

Hi umbrella man - i can't see anything about this on Thursday's Conservativehome - can u give more details? a link perhaps?

ah - found it.

Douglas Hurd - still very much around and still has a lot to contribute!

Yes, let's remind everyone of all the various men involved with the Greatest Conservative Fiasco in the History of Our Party: 1990-1997.

Time to let go of these so-called "big beasts".

The only exception is IDS.

None of the rest deserve to return to the front bench.

David Waddington
He went off to be Governor of Bermuda and after a change of administration is sort of semi-retired I gather.

David Davis was a high prospect for being a prominent cabinet minister, but bizzarely has scuppered this, despite being in a role where he could raise such issues very prominently, the public has lost interest in the by-election which increasingly is becoming about a range of issues some economic, some on social and economic policy including membership of the EU, positions on defence - more and more candidates with more and more issues.

I can't see Kenneth Clarke returning to the cabinet now, unless there was some kind of coalition government - MPs from other parties might prefer him to some other alternatives. In the event of a majority Conservative government a new PM would be looking to develop new talent for the future.

John Moore retired as a minister in 1988 due to ill health, John Patten and many of the others sort of drifted out of politics, feeling that they had done what they could and things had moved on and it was time for them to pursue other avenues of activities.

The campaigns of ID-S and David Davis aren't comparable. Most of the public disagree with Davis on 42 days. ID-S is in touch with public compassion.

Andrew Mitchell is a fantastic advocate for the real changes to trade and aid policy which need to be made to allow third world nations to stand on their own two feet.

He may not be well known, few people in the field are, but he will form part of a great team with William Hague, advancing these issues for the greater good after the next election.

I'd vote for Nigel Lawson, because he has the guts to stand up to the climate change zealots and point out that the "new religion of the new millennium" is built on seriously shaky foundations.

I agree with Tanuki about Nigel Lawson and also suggest Michael Forsyth on tax.

Let us please keep the phrase 'Big Beast' in context.

Those who realistically could be an asset to us in Governement or even in an advisory capacity are limited in my view.

Ken Clarke definitely. IDS - definitely not. A political pigmy I reckon when unaccountably he got elected as party leader - a big beast - never. Malcolm Rifkind - not sure what he has ever done except speak piously - he was very quick to bugger off down south for a safe seat. Am surprised no one has mentioned Michael Ancram - Rifkind mark 2.

Douglas Hurd -dont think so - not at all impressed with him on Question Time - surely we could have put some more lively on - with apologies to Geoffrey Howe.

Lets move on and if necessary recruit supporters etc from industry or commerce, not these old buggers who are really knocking on to be of much help in say 2 years time. Sorry for being a heretic.

Alexander King is right as usual.

Andrew Bradley on rifkind - very ignorant post.

Rifkind lost Edinburgh Pentlands in 1997, stood for it again in 2001 and only stood for K&C in 2005 after Pentlands was abolished. So it took him 8 years to "bugger off down south for a safe seat".

"In addition I would list Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford and former Governor of Hong Kong; Lord Heseltine for obvious reasons; Boris Johnson, Mayor of London; Sir Simon Milton, Chairman of the Local Government Association."

With the exception of boris, what the hell have the others done since losing us the 1997 election?

"A political pigmy I reckon when unaccountably he got elected as party leader"

Yeah that makes a whole lot of sense.

Unaccountably Elected

I'll just epeat it for those peple that can't beleive that someone wrote it, UNACCOUNTABLY ELECTED.

Yes he did say it!

No to the EU loonies such as

Ken Clarke

Clarke along with David Curry and Ian Taylor are anti-democrats and voted against the Lisbon Referendum. They are all weirdos and uberEUloonies.

Bercow is a creep. His odious behaviour in the last few years has disqualified him for ever.

I agree with Badger about Clarke, Patten and Hurd. Clarke is and always has been very pro-Europe, and if David Cameron gave him an important job, letalone a cabinet job, I would take it as a sign that Mr. Cameron was accepting the status quo with regard to the EU and the Lisbon Treaty!!

On the other hand if David Cameron has got any intention of leaving the EU anywhichway, then I would have thought it would be unwise - knowing what the media is like - to have such an ardent Euro-phile, in a position to give interviews in the way that he used to.

What IDS has done with regard to social justice is fantastic, but (cynic that I am) think this his him dry cleaning his CV.

Why? This is the man that voted against the Tory whip (Major) 40 times and who was described by Tebit by these words... "This man needs meat - we need to feed him".

Not a Cameroon, not loyal, not a party player, a failed leader; in short a single minded evangelical Tory - Camerom would be mad to take this man into his government. Completely Mad.

Sorry to be so negative for IDS fans, but this guys form is very poor.

Sir John Major, as mentioned above, would be a masterful addition to any Cabinet, but there is no chance that he would want a return to British politics at that level. However, Ken Clarke is an absolute must, and if Baron Patten would be persuaded to make a contribution, then that would further strengthen the Conservatives depth.

Oberon- I don't know IDS at all. Tribal-politically I am light years from him. I didn't vote for him and I was relieved when he stepped down. And if "big beast" means being all over the BBC whenever they want a Tory from the 90s to diss Cameron, then no, he's not a "big beast".

But. If instead we use the adjective "big" to refer to someone who doesn't give in at a setback; if we use "big" to refer to an idea - society is broken and this has consequences - which has the power to be transformational on the next Tory governent; if we say it's "big" to dedicate your life to working with whoever it takes in order to quantify a huge problem and formulate a new political style for its solution: then, I think, there are few Tories as "big" as IDS in parliament. It doesn't mean that he should be in government. But his thinking should be.

I feel very sorry for IDS, people are looking at his time as leader as anything other than the 'stop ken clarke' candidate.

He was never destined to be a great performer and he was constantly undermined from both within the shadow cabinet and the backbenches. But that doesn't mean that he isn't a nice guy and it certainly doesn't mean that he is not hugely respected.

For what its worth, I think his speaking and media skill have greatly improved since he was deposed.

PS The shadow cabinet as it stands is dire, very few of them inspire confidence and will easily be picked off one by one by a resurgent labour opposition.

I do agree with Lord Forsyth. He still has some steel in him and should be in the cabinet.

As a UKIP supporter please bring back Clarke and Patten

Let's stop trying to reunite the Tory Spitting Image regulars from the 80s and 90s and concetrate on the talent we have (Rifkind is rubbish in the media and has been a bit lazy over the past few years, despite him being correct over Iraq) Patrick Mercer is an expert on defence and the military and should get the job of Defence Secretary.

Sir John Major is slowly getting a fairer assesment of his time as Prime Minister and could add a touch of class to a cameron cabinet but I doubt he'd want it. If he hasnt taken the enoblement he's due so far why now ? Rifkind has life in him yet. Like Charles Kennedy its a pity eople of his calbre aren't interested in holyrood.

To be honest the only figure from 1997 who realy deserves a big department or cabinet role is clarke. his precience over Iraq makes him a towering figure.

I've read the etail behind the CSJ stuff and while not entirely to my tastes its a magisterial piece of work. I'd always thought IDS would make a good defence secretary. but prhaps a non departmental, cabinet rank post on poverty and welfare dependency

Anyone for the Wintertons?

Put them on the frontbrench and we might keep Brown in power til the election.

I would like to see IDS as Shadow Home Secretary and Ken Clarke as Shadow leader of the house. Both would make mince meat of their opponents Smith and Harman.

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