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« Voting closes on ConservativeDemocracy.com at midnight | Main | The leader that Tory MPs really want is William Hague »

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buxtehude

Are the Notting Hillers quietly collapsing? There are the strong rumours that things are now tense between two of their leading lights (following one of them sleeping with other one’s father-in-law, and simultaneously with a central office apparatchik - don’t they just remind you of the Bloomsbury set of unhappy hedonists?) Meanwhile NH cheerleader Boris looks like losing his editorship of the Speccie over the summer. Andrew Neil is taking more and more control. Notice how the mag’s endorsement of Cameron - trumpeted to happen this week - failed to materialise. Maybe even Cameron, well-known as a wobbler, is having second thoughts.

If that is the case, who would then be the not-Davis candidate? Maybe David Willetts? DW would be a wonderful advertisement for the Tories - thoroughly likeable, and profoundly respected. Maybe not a dynamic leader, but a superb shadow chancellor. If it’s a Davis v Willetts contest, then it’s unlikely to become horrid the way Davis v Cameron will certainly be, and any wounds in the party will be easily healed.

Or if not DW, then Theresa May? She would also provide an interesting, positive contest which would not harm the long-term interests of party.

As things stand, if Cameron does stay in the race, then the contest is clearly between him and Davis. Yet Cameron seems very unlikely to win - and if you’re not already one of his clique, then attaching your name to it must seem so pointless, as it will not in itself win you any position and it might make you look foolish. There is certainly no intellectual or principled reason to be pro-Cameron. On the other hand, even if you can’t abide Davis, supporting him means being on-side with the probable future leader. If nothing else, it makes you look as if you belong to the real world.

But many thoughtful Tories who consider Cameron a fatuous option also find the Davis team hard to stomach and unimpressive. That is why there is still room for a serious third candidate. Someone unlikely to win, but to make this contest substantial, and to provide the healing touch after a Davis victory. Fox? May? Willetts? Lansley? Which one?

Jack Stone

Those who support David Cameron believe he is the only contender who can make the party electable again by bringing the party back to the centre and give the party a more compassinate, caring image that will help the public trust it again to improve public services not cut them.
If David Davis is elected the party will once again fall into the trap Labour as set for them in the last two elections of running on a right-wing platform of tax cuts etc that Labour will once again portray as certain to lead to cuts in public services.
The party were once the most successful party in the world at winning elections because it was pragmatic and didn`t let dogma get in the way of winning elections.It needs to rediscover this if it is ever to once again be the governemt of this country we all undoubtably love.

Simon C

I think you are being a little unfair on Fox's speech to the Heritage Foundation.

We need to put the speech in context of his entire approach to foreign policy. Last week he announced in the House of Commons the party's new position that a flexible Europe is incompatible with closer and deeper union - the first time that has been explicitly stated.

In this speech he said: "I hope that in five or ten years time, we will look back on the current structure of the European Union and find it unrecognisable." This could be the prelude to some very interesting proposals on the party's new vision for the EU.

The speech was in Washington at the Heritage Foundation - significant in itself, given the damge done to the party's reputation in Washington recently. We need to re-build bridges and re-establish credibility.

He had a gallop through the long-term structural problems faced by the Old Europe economies; nothing new to EU watchers over here, but important messages for a Washington audience which needs to understand the EU in the light of the facts, not its supporters' rhetoric.

Lastly, he cut to the heart of the development debate, arguing for robust resolve from the West in relation to better governance and free trade.

Step by step, Liam Fox is starting to revitalise Conservative foreign policy. After the last parliament our approach to foreign policy badly needs some principle, direction and energy. This is what he is providing.

Simon C

If you judge the candidates by the character of those they are gathering around them, Willetts certainly does better than some others.

I would agree that his speeches on the party so far have had the most intellectual content - that's his great strength - and that he would make an excellent (Shadow) Chancellor. His media appearances are becoming a little less wonkish as well. But in the end, he won't be able to capture the public imagination as our prime minister to be. The wife of one of his supporters says he reminds her of her old maths teacher - and that's his main weakness.

Assuming he doesn't go all the way, the moment he decides which other candidate to back will be an important one - provided that the candidate buys into Willetts's ideas. I think he will be the kingmaker.

Michael McGowan

I take issue with Jack Stone's comment about the Tory Party winning elections on the basis that it was pragmatic and did not let dogma get in the way. That may have been true in the 1950's, the high noon of Butskellism, when the Tories could still draw on vast reserves of instinctive middle class deference which no longer exist and could wheel out heroes from the war years to buttress that deference. That era is long gone. The Tories essentially followed Jack Stone's advice in 2005: they ran on a New Labour-lite platform of tax and spend with almost no new ideas for invigorating public services. Their share of the vote virtually flatlined and is likely to if they repeat the experiment. I didn't vote for them not least because I couldn't see how things were going to improve significantly if there were regime change.

Michael McGowan

David Willetts is clearly a nice man and a very bright one too who gets his sophisticated message across in a measured way. But I have this nagging feeling that he really doesn't have the stomach to challenge any of the following deeply-cherished dogmas of the left:

1. that a high and rising tax burden, especially on the middle classes, is the only path to "social justice".

2. that comprehensive education is a ladder of opportunity and that selective education is intrinsically evil.

3. that public services (health, transport, education) can only fairly be provided by state-run monoliths out of taxpayers' money.

4. that people who use their post-tax income to buy private helathcare and education are by definition snobbish, selfish and evil.

5. that crime is falling and that anyway criminals are helpless victims of their circumstances. Their victims should shut up and go away.

6. that the conventional family unit is no more than a bourgeois lifestyle option and that it should not be preferred over any other living arrangements, however unstable.

7. that people should be rigidly pigeon-holed along lines of race, class and sexual orientation.

8. that the only answer to rising teenage pregnancies and the rise in STDs is to offer better and earlier access to contraception and abortion.

9. that in divorce cases, women are always victims and men are always villains.

10. that the answer to Britain's lack of competitiveness is either to ignore it or to encourage mass immigration and to force 50% of the population to take on large debts to acquire so-called degree qualifications, many of which are content-free and worthless.

It is interesting that Polly "Pot" Toynbee, high priestess of left-wing authoritarianism, has a soft spot for Willetts....not least because he seems reluctant to challenge robustly any of the great articles of left-wing faith which have led to so much social degradation.

GZulfar

"There are the strong rumours that things are now tense between two of their leading lights (following one of them sleeping with other one’s father-in-law, and simultaneously with a central office apparatchik - don’t they just remind you of the Bloomsbury set of unhappy hedonists?)"

That rumour is as old as the hills (and was printed in the Daily Mail oh about 18 months ago).

Surely you could do better than that...

buxtehude

Sorry, I had no idea. Shows how out of touch I am!

Wat Tyler

May I interject a more serious note, and congratulate our Editor here on two things:

1) winning his DT accolade

2) Giving DD a sensible +4 score- unlike last week (and Ed- since you admonished me for unworthy personal comments on Doc Fox, I am a reformed character- notice it wasn't me talking about hedonists)

James

This week a commentator criticised the Conservatives for having no coherent Foreign Policy. If Dr Fox concentrated on this rather than his own leadership ambitions then maybe the Party would get somewhere!

James Hellyer

"This week a commentator criticised the Conservatives for having no coherent Foreign Policy."

Care to explain how it is inconsistent?

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