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« Liam Fox asks Gary Streeter to run new Tory human rights group | Main | Matthew Parris applauds David Davis but endorses David Cameron »



It’s sad, Mr Editor, that they just can’t (or won’t) raise their game. I’ve only now read the offending letter - and I think it’s very good. It does NOT seem to be from someone who is miffed that she wasn’t treated nicely. It’s from someone who understands what is really wrong with the Conservative Party - its inability to connect with people - and she wants it to change. If they can’t recognise that it’s from the heart, and from the heart of a supporter who really wants DD to succeed, then they are blind.

To be fair, it’s easy to get blinded in their situation. A few weeks ago, these guys were small-time players. Now, they could - possibly - be heading for a place in history. Their perspective is bound to get wonky. And this is their first real test. Do they just keep doing the same thing over and over again, acting like a little school gang, or do they step up to the mark? My passion is cricket: in a nutshell, can they stand there in the heat and bat all day, or will they fold in time for tea?


Anyway, I’m getting fed up with this leadership race. What’s it really about? A few characters in search of a job.

The question we should be asking ourselves is: what is the Conservative Party for? If it didn’t exist, why would it need to be invented? Whatever else one can say about Labour and Blair and Brown and Skinner and Benn - they do agree on one thing, which survives even the contortions and stretchings of recent years: that the Labour Party exists to make sure the people at the bottom get a better deal. After that principle, they may disagree on anything and everything, but they all agree on this one basic vision and purpose.

The Conservatives don’t have that same vision and purpose. In Thatcher’s time, it was really rather easy: to rescue the country from its quasi-socialist decline. Can anyone suggest what it would be now?

I think that in the eyes of the leadership contenders, the only purpose of the Conservative Party is to give them the top job in Downing Street. The rest of us exist solely to ‘do the necessary’ to get them there. Why would anyone want to join such a party? This kind of politics must lead to an ever-declining party base, with the mechanisms of campaigning being paid for by a few rich donors and/or the taxpayer. It becomes nothing more than a very expensive, poor-quality reality tv show.

Cameron/Osborne have said that one of their three ‘tests’ of whether to support a policy is if it accords with Conservative principles. Fine. Can they please say (or can someone else try on their behalf) what those principles are? I think I’d be content with just a single one. But to genuinely meet this challenge, to be meaningful, this principle must be capable of being opposed by a reasonable alternative, otherwise it’s just another motherhood-and-apple-pie pronouncement. And this principle must also lead inevitably to some major policy which is different from what is currently being offered by the Labour government. And it must be central, not marginal.

If any of the leadership candidates can do this, he or she would have passed the first hurdle to qualify for Prime Minister. If not, then they might as well admit that they’re only there because of their own vanity and arrogance.

I might as well admit my own prejudice, which is that DD’s speech to the CPS last week came pretty close. I would love to see Cameron go one better.

Unlikely. For now, the Conservative ‘debate’ remains a mere side-show. Within that, my vote remains firmly with DD. The Conservative Party has to break decisively with privilege. (An Etonian CAN do that too, although we’d need to see something pretty special. Better than that awful guff in the Spectator last week by Vicki Woods!) But I expect to be spending much more time this summer watching cricket than thinking about the Tories.

James Hellyer

If it is Davis's race to lose, he certainly seems to be trying to do so. This long contest is a good thing. In a shorter competition, we would have been bounced into a Davis-Cameron run off by now. However it is apparent that neither man has really deep support (although Davis has most). We are at least getting to see their strengths and weaknesses before giving them the top job.


Hmmn, it *is* a pity that Davis can't raise himself to the interpersonal skills of, oh, Duncan Smith, The Greatest Leader of the Tory Party ever.


What's that meant to mean, 'Ironist'? That it would be good enough to be better than IDS?

That's what I find so depressing: it's all aimed at the tiny little inward-looking circle of Westminster. No big stage for these boys. Some of us, Ironist, don't even live in London. Fancy that!

Wat Tyler

I understand what Lauren is saying, and it would be great if as well as having the right convictions, and the ability to speak in direct everyday language, and the iron will of a winner, DD was also able to emote like...well, like Tony ,I guess.

But having met DD myself (for the first time) last night, I find her account very hard to square with the warm engaging man I encountered.

And as for being a hero, someone who has fought his way up from the bottom, and who seems determined to give similar opportunity to those he left behihd there, he's already a hero in my book.

But maybe Lauren and I are looking for different things in our heroes.

Jack Stone

Since the Conservatives lost power they have had the reputation as the nasty party but have been lead by nice men. Should Davis win the leadership it will be the nasty party lead by the nasty men.
By the way it would be interesting to know who William Hauge backs. I bet its not Davis and I bet if Davis does win the brilliant William will not be back on the front bench this side of the next election.

Wat Tyler

"Wat Tyler tried to explain the negative reaction of the ‘group of twenty’ by falsely identifying the group as aggrieved IDS supporters."

Ed- you're much better informed on this group than I am, but I'd still like to know who they are. I'm sure we all want IDS era vendettas to be laid to rest- particularly since Davis already took one bullet for his supposed sins back in 2002.


Could Davis have helped us to win seats like Cheadle (which I believe he didn't visit), I doubt it. Would Davis help us to to gain the votes of the people we haven't been able to regain: women, young voters and professionals. I seriously doubt it.

James Hellyer

"But having met DD myself (for the first time) last night, I find her account very hard to square with the warm engaging man I encountered."

I find it very easy to square with the abrasive man I encountered!


Personally, I don't think the main worry is whether DD is a nice man to meet or not. The bigger point Lauren Booth was making was about whether the party can engage with normal people. I think she was only using her personal encounter as a spingboard for this wider point.

Wat Tyler

James- so is he Jekyll and Hyde, or have you and I got very different standards?


Wat, I think Buxtehude's point is what you DD guys really need to respond to... I think DD probably can "engage" but he needs to work at it.


Wat, I want DD to win. That's why I'm arguing about this.

James Hellyer

"I don't think the main worry is whether DD is a nice man to meet or not."

You are right about the wider point, but I think this specific one has some value.

If Davis can, for want of a better phrase, turn off Conservative supporters as he did when I met him, it does raise the question of whether he can connect on a broader level.

And Wat said...

"James- so is he Jekyll and Hyde, or have you and I got very different standards?"

I imagine he was trying hard to make a good impression at last night's function. I met him a couple of times, several years ago, through my University Conservative Association. Of the MPs we had visit us, besides Sir Edward Heath, Davis was the most unpleasant to deal with. I guess rude would be a good word. If he was like that with young activists, lord knows what he's like elsewhere, but I'm not surprised by a lot of the rumours.

James Hellyer

Buxthude, I *don't* know if I want him to win. He has to up his game and sell himself to us.

Jonathan Sheppard

Ms Booth,

I was interested to read your open letter about your meeting with leadership hopeful David Davis at a recent event. I think that you judge Mr Davis somewhat harshly after your fleeting encounter. Are you really saying that what you want is the a full toothed smile and a warm embrace from a politician? That is Mr Blair’s style and quite frankly I can’t take any more of that sort of politics.

If you are saying that the Conservative Party failed to win the last General Election because of people like Mr Davis then I have to take the opposite tact. We as a party failed to win the last election because we didn’t have enough people like Mr Davis.

For too long our party was made up of the public school ruling classes. Things have improved and it was heartening that we had a Grammar school boy as our leader taking on a Public school boy educated leader in Tony Blair. Yes it was a huge disappointment that we did not form a Government 3 months ago – but the foundations have been set. I joined the party 15 years ago as a 15 year old who was being brought up in a single parent family. The reason I joined was because I believed the party was a meritocracy and I still believe that. I believe in Mr Davis because I believe he wants to turn Britain into a meritocracy. Somewhere where you can achieve based on what you know rather than who you know.

You say you are looking for a hero. Someone who can communicate with the masses and empathise with the hopes and dreams of British people. Well I say look no further than David Davis. I don’t know him well, but I have met him. He came up to Bassetlaw before the election – a constituency in North Nottinghamshire where mining used to be the main industry. This parliamentary constituency isn’t regarded as fertile Conservative territory. It never appeared on any list of target seats produced by the BBC, and most people will never have heard of it. But David Davis did visit – and he spoke with people and heard about their hopes and wishes for the local community.

When all the votes were counted Bassetlaw was held by the Labour party. As the parliamentary candidate there was no one more disappointed than me. I felt that people in Bassetlaw had been let down. We wouldn’t be able to give the people the extra police they wanted, to reclassify cannabis, or to increase the drug rehab places that were needed because we weren’t in power. To really change people’s lives for the better the Conservative party needs to be electable again – and under David Davis that can happen.

Perhaps I am looking for something different from you Ms Booth. I am not looking for a hero. I want a leader who will deliver for not just for me but for all hard working people. I want that common man (or woman) with uncommon abilities. I want someone with a track record for fighting what is right and for delivering what he promises rather than being faced with constant smoke and mirrors which has typified the current Government. I want a leader who does not base policy decisions on focus groups and what the latest fad is. I want a leader who doesn’t think that re-branding something will be a cure all. I want a leader who doesn’t believe in Kentucky Fried politics – who leads a party that can engage with the whole country, and doesn’t say one thing in one region and something else in another.

You say you want to believe Ms Booth. Take a chance. I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t be let down.

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