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« We mustn't imitate Blair, warns David Davis | Main | Is Ken Clarke about to run? »


James Hellyer

"The guy is selected and the MPs find they can't work with him... We have to do better than that."

Not quite, Mister Monbiot, the MPs have to better than they did last time and remember that Labour and the Lib Dems are who they are meant to fight - not each other.

Simon C

"...and the MPs find they can't work with him"!!

Only after the election by the membership, as if they were somehow uninvolved before? Let's get this straight.

At the time of the last election, IDS had been in parliament since 1992, and on the front bench since 1997. MPs had plenty of time to assess him, and decided to put him in the short-list of 2 to present to the membership. He was not an unknown quantity to MPs.

It is hardly a ringing endorsement of our MPs' judgement to say that they only discovered afterwards that they couldn't bring themselves to work with IDS.

It is also worth pointing out that in both the last two parliaments, too many of our MPs refused front-bench posts when they were offered them. In most cases, that is really inexcusable. Their energies should be focussed on representing the party and taking the fight to the country. Why else are they there?

James Hellyer

"It is hardly a ringing endorsement of our MPs' judgement to say that they only discovered afterwards that they couldn't bring themselves to work with IDS."

I strongly suspect that tactical voting in the Commons stages of the election backfireed on its instigators. I think they were trying to bounce the members into accepting Clarke by knocking out who they perceivedd as his main rival (Portillo)and giving the members the choice of Clarke and a virtual unknown.

Simon C

If that's the case, it's a further example of poor judgement, because the strategy failed.

Also, if they are not in touch enough with their membership to anticpate how the members' vote might turn out, how can they be in touch with the wider public?

Not sure whether your thesis is correct, though, James. It would be interesting to research this question, by finding out how many of our MPs let it be known whether they were supporting Clark or IDS in the membership stage. My recollection is that a fair number of Portillistas went over to IDS rather than Clark.

If it can be shown that, in the event, a majority of MPs actually went for IDS not Clark, that would help nail this attempt to bame it all on the members once and for all.

James Hellyer

I think some Clarke suporters backed IDS in the final rounds in the Commons so they could remove the (apparently) more credible threat to their candidate that was Michael Portillo posed.

It backfired because the membership opted for anyone but Clarke.


The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in again. You can't totally exclude the membership from having any say in the leadership selection. Members will want some input. After all they are the ones who do the leg work for the party and not just at election time, but all year round by raising money, recruiting new members, delivering literature etc etc and keeping the Conservative brand alive in the area.

A compromise needs to be found where both MP's and members have a say but with the MP's having the final say. It could be that MP's draw up a list of candidates, say a minimum of 4, which is then put out to the membership to find out their opinion. The MP's would then know what the membership thought but they would have the last say. Just taking into account the views of Association Chairmen would not be enough.

The mistake last time was that the membership were only given 2 candidates - from both ends of the party which ended up being divisive. Also it was the first time this method of selecting a leader had been used. We need to learn from the mistakes made then and rather than just writting off the membership's views we should try and find some kind of compromise to include all sides.

Also when MP's say the choice has to be someone they can work with they have to remember that the membership also want a leader they can support and follow. Its a two way thing.


Also the Clarke IDS contest took months and merely exposed the wounds in the conservative party, whereas the one that selected Major took about a fortnight.

Sean Fear

It is hugely hypocritical for MPs to complain about the election of IDS. The fact is that Clarke, Portillo, and IDS all finished up with the support of around one third of the Parliamentary party; the MPs couldn't agree who they wanted as leader, so effectively handed the decision over to the membership, and then whined about the outcome.

The removal of Margaret Thatcher in 2000, the failure to remove John Major in 1995, and the election of William Hague in 1997, hardly suggest that our MPs' collective judgement is any better than that of the membership.

Michael McGowan

Quite so, Sean. It seems that the very people who most want to deny the members any democratic say are the one who spend all their time telling the media about how the Tory Party must "represent the face of modern Britain". What chance does the Tory Party have of attracting new members who are not tribal Tories if they are being offered no voice in the running of the Party but are still expected to pay their dues, fund-raise, canvass and leaflet for the Westminster cabal?

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