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« The campaign to stop David Davis is underway | Main | YouGov survey boosts Davis, deflates Clarke »


James Hellyer

This is the best news UKIP has had for years...


The real dream ticket is Davis-Cameron.

And we need 4 million votes to get back to where we were in the 80s, UKIP does not have 4m votes so shut up about UKIP.

James Hellyer

"UKIP does not have 4m votes so shut up about UKIP"

UKIP doesn't need 4 million votes to cost the Conservatives seats. All it needs to do is mop up disillusioned Conservative supporters who won't stand for Clarke.

It cost the Conservatives about 25 seats at the last election. How many more would it be under a europhile leadership?

Simon C

This talk of "dream teams" on the part of our MPs is, sadly, the sort of fantasy football thinking that we have to put up with from our parliamentary party. It is no substitute for the measured, but rigorous, debate about future direction and strategy that the party urgently needs.

In the absence of some clear and serious strategic thinking, and the self-discipline then to carry that strategy through, any dream-team will rapdly become a nightmare.

Clarke-Redwood, thankfully, never came into being - it would have been an utter disaster not because it was strategically incoherent, but because it lacked a strategy altogether. Clarke-Anybody will be similarly doomed unless there is a clear direction. As per another posting today, Clarke's chief weakness is that he has no sense of strategy at all.

The most worrying thing so far has been the eagerness with which some of our MPs have focused on personalities, with, as Peter Oborne says in the Spectator, the careerists already calculating that Davies is ahead and joining his bandwagon, and the total paucity of any critique about what the Party now needs to do.


Didn't we try the whole 'Save the Pound, Hoorah' campaign in 2001? Where was this hidden undertow of anti-EU sentiment in the electorate then?

I think we can safely chalk that one up as yet another concern of dotty constituency chairmen who would have us stuck with another leader incapable of winning an election just so long as the party continues to yap on about the Euro, immigrants and the good old days under Maggie.

James Hellyer

"Didn't we try the whole 'Save the Pound, Hoorah' campaign in 2001? Where was this hidden undertow of anti-EU sentiment in the electorate then?"

Opinion polls consistently show that British public is eurosceptic and that those who rate the issue highly prefer the Conservative policies. However, not many people actually rank Europe as a top issue.

The failure of 2001 wasn't that the EU policy was out of step with the mainstream, it's that it only energised the core vote who care a lot about that issue anyway.

It should remain part of the mix, but robust and positive policies on more "important" (to the voters) issues like health and education should be foregrounded.

To adopt a europhile agenda would serve only to reduce the core vote without necessarily offering any matching gains.

Sean Fear

In fact, we know precisely how much support there is for europhile Conservatism. The Pro Euro Conservative Party received 1.1% of the vote in 1999.


On May 5 about 60% of the electorate voted for profoundly pro-EU parties (Labour & LibDems) the only party that substantially increased its share of the vote was the LibDems who are pro-federalist.

The opinion polls in the election consistantly showed a Labour issue lead on Europe. At no point where the Conservatives ahead.

There is also a generation of 45% of 18-21 year olds at Universities mixing with people from Erasmus schemes and EU students who are not Euro-sceptic at all - and hence vote LibDem.

Hence Britain can best be described as a modestly Euro-sceptic country, no single currency, constitution or further integration please, but lets stay a member. And ps it doesn't matter as much as the economy.

UKIP did not deny the Conservatives any seats. What denied Conservatives seats was a failure to achieve enough of a swing against the Labour and LibDem parties. Besides the Tories don't need 25 seats to form a government they need 150.

UKIP need to be pushed into the racist corner with Veritas and the BNP, not sidled up to.

The Tories have to become an alternative Government by 2009 and no British Government is going to withdraw from the EU. So stop talking about it and fix the NHS instead - because that is something people will vote for.

James Hellyer

"the only party that substantially increased its share of the vote was the LibDems who are pro-federalist"

The Lib Dems are not popular because of the pro-EU stance, but despite it. Quite tellingly it's one of their policies that they rarely mention around election times. Many of their candidates run on openly eurosceptic platforms (my former MP John Burnett, North Devon's Nick Harvey, etc).

"UKIP did not deny the Conservatives any seats."

Tell that to Tim Collins. Which party do you think UKIP voters would have supported if it wasn't fielding candidates? I doubt it would be the Liberal Democrats.

I think you are wrong on a matter of fact.

"no British Government is going to withdraw from the EU."

Even if it becomes in the national interest? Which it quite conceivably could be if moves towards ever close union continue.

"So stop talking about it and fix the NHS instead - because that is something people will vote for."

The question of Europe is an important part of the policy mix. But it is just a part.

The failure of the 2001 and 2005 campaigns was just to talk to the core vote on the issues that motivate them. Other issues should be forwarded to reach beyond that base - specifically the articulation of robust health and education policies.

Dropping the opposition to closer EU integration would not make the Conservatives more appealing. It would alienate a lot of the core vote.

Sean Fear

The issue isn't going to go away just because we don't talk about it. In fact, the issue is going to become an even more live one over the next few years, whether we like it or not.

Rather like the Iraq war, it was not at the top of voters' priorities, but it was nonetheless important, and there were and are, hundreds of thousands of voters who are prepared to cast their votes largely on that issue.

The EU election results demonstrate that to those for whom Europe matters, the Conservatives are clearly the preferred choice.


My point about UKIP not denying us any seats is that UKIP did not beat us anywhere it was Labour and LibDems that did that.

Therefore we are not trying to beat UKIP we are trying to beat Labour and the Liberals.

The point about the Liberals being pro-federalist and gaining is not that federalism is popular, but that it is something you can overlook.

James Hellyer

"Therefore we are not trying to beat UKIP we are trying to beat Labour and the Liberals."

To do so we have to neutralise UKIP - not pour petrol on its flames by adopting profoundly unConservative, europhile policies.

"The point about the Liberals being pro-federalist and gaining is not that federalism is popular, but that it is something you can overlook."

That's just a falsehood. If it were true, Lib Dem candidates throughout the Westcountry wouldn't have felt the need to run on eurosceptic tickets.

People who do rate the issue as important do vote on it. Why else would parties feel the need to hide their federalist urges?

Jack Stone

The issue of Europe is now I think totally irrelevant.The constitution is dead and the euro just isn`t on anyones agenda so its about time the party stopped having this obsession about it and concentrated on how the party can best win the next election.
The party will only win if it fights on a agenda based on the centre ground not on yet another right-wing agenda of the sort that as lead to defeats in the last two elections.
Ken Clarke and David Cameron are the party`s two most brilliant politicans who are great in both the House of Commons and on television and they will appeal to those in the middle ground who have deserted the party because it as become to right-wing.
If the party just had the courage to embrace the change that these two would bring they would see a Conservative Prime Minister in Downing Street not a Labour one after the next election.

Andrew Ian Dodge

The Constitution is far from dead. The Federasts have already been saying they are going to be carrying on regardless. If anything thanks to the French & the Dutch, the European issue is now even more important. British people are starting to realise that they are not the only ones who find the whole EU to be one big clusterf***.

If Ken Clarke were as brillant as he said he would not have lost 2 leadership elections in a row. He does not reflect the ideas and ideals of the party so he will not win unless the members are taken out of the mix.

James Hellyer

Ken Clarke is both lazy and incompetent. He was a disaster as Home Secretary. Under his watch crime rocketed. He accepted the status quo. That is not the actiopn of a man who could credibly champion public service reform. The fact that he's spent his time in opposition selling tobacco rather than opposing the government should also count against him.

I seriously doubt the Conservative credentials of anyone who supports his leadership bid.

"The issue of Europe is now I think totally irrelevant."

Not been watching the news then? The Constitution is in trouble, yet the EU eklite may try to implement it piecemeal anyway.

This very public failure makes EU reforma live issue, not a dead one.

"The party will only win if it fights on a agenda based on the centre ground not on yet another right-wing agenda of the sort that as lead to defeats in the last two elections."

Successful Conservatives do not move to the centre ground, they move it towards them. Moving towards it will only move it further to the left.

It wasn't the right-wing agenda that lost us the last two elections, it was the failure to articulate often very strong health and education policies in favour of Europe or Immigration (issues where we score higher with people who those issues inportant anyway).

Barry Graham

I agree with the guy earlier that we've got to move on from Europe. Now, as for the last 15 years when we've been tearing ourselves apart over it, Europe has been of far greater concern to the party than it has been to the public.

By continuously harking back to it, we only reinforce the perception in the eyes of the wider public that we're out of touch with what matters to them.

It seems inconceivable the constitution is going to be on the agenda for the forseeable future, ditto the Euro (Brown's no fan of it and Blair is too weak to make a stand on it.

Personally, I could quite happily live with Ken Clarke because his positives far outweigh his negatives, though, probably, Cameron would be my No1 choice.

Davis has a lot of qualities but his comments about not fighting for the centre ground do worry me.

How many more election hammerings will it take before the party realises we need a leader who talks to the whole country rather than one who is in tune with the prejudices of the retired colonels in the shire.

Our self-indulgence allowed Portillo and Clarke to be sacrificed in favour of the woeful IDS. We can't make the same mistake again.

James Hellyer

"Personally, I could quite happily live with Ken Clarke because his positives far outweigh his negatives"

Picking Clarke is the best way to ramp up any divisions on Europe in the party and make it seem more of an issue than it is.

Combine that with his tobacco selling activities, and I think that provides the BBC with their Conservative news agenda for the next four years.

"By continuously harking back to it, we only reinforce the perception in the eyes of the wider public that we're out of touch with what matters to them."

And picking a leader who is out of touch with the Conservative mainstream is the best way to keep the issue live as in "Conservative infighting over Europe" live.

The Conservative position on Europe is an important part of the policy mix. Just because it isn't the most important, that doesn't mean we should ditch it.

Yes, we need to forward convincing and strong policies on education, health, crime and the family. But we aren't going to be able to do that if out MPs sell the grassroots out and pick Clarke.

"Our self-indulgence allowed Portillo and Clarke to be sacrificed in favour of the woeful IDS. We can't make the same mistake again"

Nothing Ken Clarke has said or done since has convinced me that we made the wrong choice. His comments after the French referendum result showed him to be arrogant, out of touch and profoundly undemocratic.

Sean Fear

Dunno about you James, but I don't spend hours canvassing, leafletting etc. in order to get a warm glow of satisfaction because whoever happens to be the leader of the Conservative is sitting in 10 Downing Street.

There are actually other things I can do with my time. If I am giving up my time for the Conservative Party, I hope to have a party leader articulating (better than I can) the sort of things I believe in; not one who simply parrots whatever the Guardian and BBC say is acceptable in a Conservative leader.

Mark Higgins

Please please please let's have no more of this dream ticket nonsense! Talk of widespread coalitions, attempting to unite that which ideologically is condemned to be torn asunder, it is this fallacious talk that caused the in-fighting of the late nineties that's cost us so dear. I expected better from the parliamentary party.

First, Ken Clarke is, I fear, of the wrong generation to lead the party. You could say I'm with Michael Howard on this one. By the time he becomes prime minister if we are returned to power, he'll be going on seventy.

second, to me it matters not that the Dutch have voted no so decisively, following the lead of the french. Ken clarke could never lead a party that is, in the main, Eurosceptic. All right, some of you on here have comemnted that this leaves us marginalised, and there have been all sorts of statistics bandied around (More voters voted for pro-Europe than Anti-Europe parties being the most misleading), but the fact remains that the british public is predominantly Eurosceptic as our last two European election victories have so soundly demonstrated. The upshot is that on this issue, we don't need to change one jot as far as I'm concerned.

Nor do I think Ken clarke's effect on the UKIP vote should be underestimated. a correspondent above--the same one, I believe, who gives the statistics about pro-European electors--states that it was not UKIP that lost the Conservative party seats. if by that what is meant is that the electorate did not consider Europe the number 1 issue, amen to that. However, the figures clearly show that if you add the UKIP vote to the Conservative vote in 27 constituencies we ailed to win, we would have won them, and note that many of these were in the south-West where the UKIP and Veritas vote may well have been motivated by the effect the common agricultural policy and fishing quotas is having on this area. In short, UKIP seduced voters away from us, voters who would have reduced Labour's majority to around 30, making the election even more of a disaster for them than it already is. And is Ken Clarke going to win those voters back? Sorry, but I don't think so!

There is, finally, no correllation between erasmus students and Europhiles. I was myself an erasmus student for a year in Paris, and I had a marvellous time. what I did realise, however, is the beauty of our superbly diverse continent. So I think you'll find that just as many Erasmus students are Eurosceptic so for the sake of preserving this diversity as are attracted to the European cause by their year of dubious and not very testing university examinations. Many I spoke to seemed to want the free market and the EC pillar of the EU, but no more.

James Hellyer

Sean Fear and Mark Higgins, we are on the same page.

Mark Higgins

Glad to hear it. I hope the parliamentary party won't, in its wrangles over the leadership, deprive us of one of the most popular and consistent party lines we've held for years as the only Eurosceptic mainstream player in the politics of the larger members of the European Union. WE will lose our way if we insist on diluting this stance by means of broad coalitions of no use to anyone.

Jack Stone

The party doesn`t need to concentrate getting people who support right-wing parties like UKIP to support it it needs to get those who voted for Labour and the Liberals or who stayed at home to support it and it will only do that if it fights on the centre ground.
Europe will not win the Conservative party the election. Frankly I think those on the right of the party who are obsessed by europe have only one agenda and that is to take us out of Europe completly and I thnk they will not be satisfied until they get a leader who will try to do that and personally I think the day they get that will be the day the Conservative Party condeme themselves to opposition for a generation.
Frankly the party needs to get real and start building a coalition of the centre that will appeal to the moderate Conservatism of the British people. If the party once again goes along the same old right wing path its done in the last two elections it will simply be a path that leads to inevitable defeat.

James Hellyer

Jack, it's the likes of Ken Clarke who put Europe at the top of the agenda thanks to their insistence on forcing views on the party that are alien to the majority of its supporters. That's why events like the Maastricht Treaty were so divisive.

By making Ken Clarke leader, you would guarantee that those divisions would resurface and dominate coverage of the party.

And you do have to ask yourself whether the members would campaign for a leader and policy platform they think are wrong.

On a broader note, you are way off base by suggesting a move to the centre ground. All this would do, is redefine where the centre was and leave it further to the left.

Successful Conservatives, like Reagan or Thatcher, instead move the centre ground towards them. That is what we now need to do by finding and articulating policies that show that we can improve health and education and will care for the vulnerable.

Copying ZaNu Labour is not the way to do that. When it comes down to throwing money at problem, people will always believe Labour over us because that sort of solution is instinctively Labour's.

At the last election we had some good policies that we never communicated successfully. Our pensions policy was one of them; it benefited the poorer people in our society, but only if they were prepared to be prudent. In one stroke, that is consistent with Conservatism's core ethos, shows we do care for people on low incomes, and addresses a real problem. That is what we need to do, not copy Nu Labour.

Mark Higgins

Absolutely right. I'd also add that our defeat at the last election has t great deal to do with the fact that we started too late. Until November 2003, ideas such as the fair deal for everyone were merely embryonic, and not until the party conference do I think we really shaped a coherent vision. In the following seven months we saw Michael Howard at his absolute best and we had a coherent agenda. The way to win the next election is to maintain that message, but add to it in the way James suggests but also, in my view, by ideologically committing ourselves to preserving the ancient tenets of this country's freedom.

Why not, for instance, firmly restate our position on jury trial? Fully embrace reviewing the Human Rights Act rather than abolishing it altogether? No to ID cards?

I guarantee you that none of these ideas has a chance of being discussed if Ken Clarke becomes leader. Quite apart from the effect of foisting pro-Europe views on an inherently Eurosceptic membership and public at large, the press and media will be on the look-out for Tory civil war and the first parliamentary rebellion when Labour try and implement parts of the constitution by the back door as they surely will. either way, Europe will be the number 1 issue for a good while to come if Ken clarke takes over, and you can forget school discipline, cleaner hospitals etc. That is why we need someone to continue Michael Howard's message and at the same time be the voice of Euroscepticism, the voice of the majority in this country, in parliament. Ken Clarke couldn't do that even if he wanted to.

Jack Stone

The Mastricht treaty was forced through the House of Commons by those in the whips office ie, Mr David Davis and his friends. The very people who now say Ken Clarke shouldn`t lead the party because he is too pro-european.

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