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« John Maples MP: David Davis has the personal qualities to make him a successful Tory leader | Main | Editorial: The leadership campaign’s seven most significent events (so far) »


John G


"Willetts has developed an effective, conversational style both at the Despatch Box and in the media."

Contrary to most comments that have been posted about DW on here, I agree. I think that it is a style that will make Brown feel very uncomfortable.

James Hellyer

I suppose there are really two questions hanging over David Willetts.

The first is that old bugbear of the contest so far - personality. Willetts certainly comes across as amiable and quite diffident. Does it matter that Willetts seems less forthright than some of the other alternatives?

The second concerns policy. Willetts ideas all seem to be long terms. The danger here is that the party seems to expect instant results (see Howard's rapid adoption and abandonment of various strategies). Could he control the parliamentary party?

One last thing, where was it reported that the Lid Dims fear him?

James Hellyer

"Contrary to most comments that have been posted about DW on here, I agree. I think that it is a style that will make Brown feel very uncomfortable."

Mr Howard and Mr Hague could make Blair uncomfortable at the despatch box. They couldn't connect with the wider public though. What matters is not so much making Brown uncomfortable as winning hearts and minds outside of Westminster.

Wat Tyler

Nobody really wants to clobber Willetts. He seems such a decent thoughtful bloke. I hope our new leader finds a meaty role for him, and that he doesn't get too bruised in the meantime.

Simon C

It's significant that David Lidington ducks the personality issue. In the end, we need a leader who can capture the electorate's imagination as a potential Prime Minister - who will win on the question: "Brown or Willetts?"

There are other essental qualities too - and DW has many of them - but this is also a sine qua non, and he doesn't tick that box.

DW for Shadow Chancellor? - yes please.

As I have said before, a key moment in all this will be the one when DW withdraws and supports another candidate.

By the way, am I alone in thinking that it is less than compelling to argue that DW is the leader the Lib Dems fear most? Certainly, we need to supress Lib Demmery wherever it emerges, but our goal is government, not vying with Lib Dems in opposition.


"our goal is government, not vying with Lib Dems in opposition". Surely in order to get into government, the party needs to claw back some of the many votes lost to the LibDems over recent years. As the last election showed, it is not good enough to hammer Labour when disaffected voters find the LibDems a more agreeable choice than the Tories. The problem with DD is that his hardman appeal will not be attractive to the kind of voters that someone like Willetts would connect with. That said, if Willetts were given a prominent role (eg shadow Chancellor) in a DD team then that - along with the likes of Green and Kirkbride - would be an appealing combination for those who might otherwise be tempted to vote for Cameron or one of the other "modernisers". Perhaps DW should change tack and talk about international affairs/homeland security as it seems to be his "statesman" potential that has yet to be demonstrated. If he can carry this off I certainly think he would make an excellent leader.

Simon C

"our goal is government, not vying with Lib Dems in opposition". Surely in order to get into government, the party needs to claw back some of the many votes lost to the LibDems over recent years."

Agreed, but to win them back we need to look like a government in waiting. That will enable us to win voters back from both Labour and the Lib Dems, as well as from amongst those who have given up voting altogether.

To say "vote DW because he scares Charlie Kennedy the most" is simply not ambitious enough.

Mark O'Brien

That's a very good summary of Willetts. He's certainly got a lot going for him, and Mr. Lidington's summary makes it easier to understand why. But I still struggle to picture him as the next leader of the Conservative Party.

He is a decent enough chap, and that may make him an effective Leader of the Opposition. But is it realistic to suggest that his gentle nature might be a hindrance come the day he moves into Number Ten?

Ray Davies

"along with the likes of Green and Kirkbride"

Green defo yes, Kirkbride for heavens sake no. I still haven't forgiven her for the way she try to make political gain out of MMR. I am sure Davis will have a position for her in his shadow cabinet (unfortunately).


"I still haven't forgiven her for the way she try to make political gain out of MMR." If memory serves, JK sought to give parents the option of single jabs alongside the MMR and to get Blair to confirm (at a time when the govt was trying to reassure people that MMR was safe and denying parents any choice) he had allowed his son to have the MMR. I think she should be applauded for standing up for parents' rights to decide what is best for their children - a conservative principle that could usefully be applied in many other policy areas.

Ray Davies

There have been several studies into the MMR jab and everyone apart from one (i.e. the totally discredited Andrew Wakefield study - he of course was funded by solicitors to descredit the MMR jab) confirmed that the MMR jab was totally safe.

I found her trying to use political capital on such dodgy science was the political equivalent of "Dr" Gillian McKeith.


Willets is well respected in political circles but in terms of PM (which is what we need to look for) material I'm doubtful. David Cameron has been on the front bench just a few weeks but is already better known than David Willets. I'd welcome him getting a key role in a David Cameron or Theresa May administration, both look more leader-like.


David Willetts would be a valuable member of the cabinet, but I don't see him in the leadership role. He is a likeable person, as John Major was. He is certainly a man who most MPs would probably get on with, but has he got that ruthless streak that a leader needs?


I think the thing with the Lib Dems is that a lot of the voters that deserted Major for Blair have now deserted Blair for Kennedy. And are depriving us of marginal seats. Also once they get in they are bloody hard to shift and in the celtic fringe there is a real fight in what should be conservative homelands.

I think Willetts will not become leader, but he could be the next Keith Joseph, the intellectual chief of the party.

Michael McGowan

While I don't see Willetts as the next leader, he is a class act. Whoever ends up as leader should give him a proper job and the scope to think the unthinkable. Ditto Damian Green whose Macmillan Lecture was excellent. A welcome change from the usual Vichy Tory mantra of the TRG and the Bercow/Nick Gibb clique that Tony Blair is invincible and that all the Tories can hope to offer the electorate is Blairism Lite.

The point about Willetts scaring the Lib Dems is crucial. For nearly ten years, the Tory Party at Westminster has buried its head in the sand when it comes to tackling the Lib Dems. That HAS to change very very soon. Moreover, that overpromoted student politician, Charlie Kennedy, is likely to get dumped in the next few years which will give the Tories an interesting opening. If they play their cards right, they should be driving a wedge between statist tax-hiking petty authoritarian Lib Dems such as Norman Baker and Evan Harris (whose natural home is the Labour left); and real liberals such as David Laws and, possibly, Mark Oaten and Lembit Opik. Willetts and Green are good candidates to lead this particular charge.

Barry Graham

Agree with most of what has been said.
We could do a lot worse than DW but I'm not sure he’s PM material.
I agree with the media consensus that he's made the most thoughtful contribution to the debate on the party’s future of all the leadership candidates.
Whoever wins, DW deserves a prominent role in the Shadow Cabinet (I would have no problem with chancellor).
His niceness is not a menaingless platitude but a real virtue in challenging the 'nasty party' image and, in the process, the LibDems.
Personally, I hope he'll give his backing to David Cameron in due course.


Yes, a Willetts endorsement will be of considerable value. I suspect it would be worth more to the candidates perceived to be on the right/traditionalist wing (ie Davis, Fox) - who co-incidentally have the tempting prospect of the shadow chancellorship to offer, a position that appears to be taken on Cameron's team. I have difficulty envisaging what role Cameron could offer him that would not ultimately be subordinate to Osborne, other than a Deputy Leader/Policy Coordinator role perhaps. Willetts was rightly put out when Howard promoted Osborne to shadow chancellor so this will be an important test for Cameron.

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