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« | Main | Telegraph pours cold water on Ken Clarke's leadership bid »


Daniel Vince-Archer

About time too, although surely it would have been wiser to wait a few days for all the hoo-ha about the Clarke campaign to die down a bit before making this announcement? I fear it will just get buried underneath the Clarke news...


Agreed Daniel. It looks pretty desperate & driven by somebody else's agenda.

James Hellyer

Jolly good. I hope Sir Malcolm finally kicks his campaign into gear. He has a distinguished parliamentary career behind him (if somewhat lacking in the transformational achievments of the likes of Michael Howard), and is an excellent speaker. More importantly his views are generally sound. If he is to be taken seriously, he now needs to lay out his agenda and stop "trashing the brand" (and being trashed for trashing the brand).


Desperation in more than one quarter...apparently the boy David is breaking off a family holiday in the West Country in order to give a speech tomorrow. At least that's what the Standard says.

James Hellyer

I'm not sure Sir Malcolm is desperate. His campaign has slowly been stepping up a notch since his Sunday Telegraph interview. I suspect he'd planned to unveil his team this week, but had the misfortune to have his attention stolen by a bigger beast whom nobody thought would declare until after the Constitutional Convention.

Lait, significantly, backed Clarke last time. Bottomley always likes to be "different". Pelling is a traditional One Nation Tory. I had marked them as potential Clarke supporters and they would probably support Ken in a final with Davis. On a final ballot, he may be stronger than we think.

Rifkind needs some heavyweight supporters quickly.


I see Sir Malcolm is on Newsnight talking about what a disaster the war in Iraq was, following on from today's tragic stampede. Since the leadership election hasn't formally started yet, and he is still a member of the Shadow Cabinet, shouldn't he be sticking to his brief and leaving foreign affairs to Liam Fox, and not using today's unfortunate events to bolster his bid?

James Hellyer

"Since the leadership election hasn't formally started yet, and he is still a member of the Shadow Cabinet, shouldn't he be sticking to his brief"

Sir Malcolm was on record as opposing the War in Iraq anyway. He'd spoken about it on Newsnight many times previously, including before the election.

He could hardly do a 180 degree turn now.

Daniel Vince-Archer

The trouble is there aren't really any really influential heavyweights left to declare but you'll have to forgive me as I'm about to embark upon yet another of my rambling speculative musings...

I'm sure one of the candidates will inevitably be dubbed Thatcher's chosen successor but whether that will be a curse or a blessing or a total irrelevance is open for debate. No doubt Tebbit will weigh in and add his 'support' for the same candidate. Personally I can't see this kiss of death/irrelevance from the ghosts of government past being given to anyone other than the right-winger Davis or their former colleagues Clarke and Rifkind.

The other pre-1997 'grandees', namely Hurd and Major will probably lend their support to either Clarke or Rifkind as well, with Hurd being open about it and Major letting it be known who he prefers off-the-record.

Of more relevance/interest (to me anyway!) is which candidate (if any) Howard's immediate predecessors as leader will support and my hunch is that, like Howard, Hague and Duncan Smith would choose to back Cameron, although both men are on good terms with Fox and could be the spark that re-ignites the fuse to his leadership campaign. (Yes, I'm going metaphor crazy again.)

There are quite a few middleweights whose support is still up for grabs though. You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like current Shadow Cabinet members Ancram and Spelman have managed to keep their noses clean so far and have avoided committing to any of the contenders. I suspect Spelman is a Cameronite but Ancram is harder to call (did he back Duncan Smith or Clarke in 2001 after he dropped out?).

Maude, although officially neutral, will undoubtedly be backing the new Portillo (Cameron). Redwood's support is still available but I doubt that any of the contenders will actively seek that particular kiss of death to their credibility until they get really desperate.

Assuming Willetts backs Clarke, the remaining middleweights to court support from are the remaining contenders May and Lansley, as well as the former contender Duncan. As I mentioned elsewhere, I can envisage Lansley plumping for Clarke, May climbing back on the fence she sat on in 2001 and Duncan either jumping into bed with Cameron (metaphorically speaking of course) or joining his ideological twin Bercow on the Clarke team.

So to summarise my ramblings then, unfortunately I can't really see where Rifkind is going to get any heavyweight (or middleweight) support from, apart from possible support from his pre-1997 colleagues. Please feel free to disagree with me and tear apart my speculation - I do actually quite like Rifkind and would be delighted if I get proven {sic?} wrong!

Daniel Vince-Archer

Rob - with all the signs indicating that Clarke is going to exploit his opposition to the Iraq war to the max, perhaps Rifkind wanted to get his comments in early this time? Besides which, Cameron has already abandoned his brief to talk about Iraq (and home affairs for that matter), therefore can Rifkind be criticised for following suit? Iraq has been the most contentious political issue for quite a while now and I would argue that it is important for the leadership contenders to clearly establish where they stand on the issue.

James Hellyer

If the proposed electoral rule change is defeated, then that may well help Sir Malcolm, if it did remove Ken Clarke from the equation. If that doesn't happen, I can only see the "One Nation" Conservatives splitting between Clarke and Cameron, with most going for whoever is perceived as the strongest Stop Davis candidate.

For what it's worth, Tebbit and Thatcher will endorse whoever is the candidate of the right, just like they did the last two times.

More interesting is the question of what people like Michael Ancram will do. He did back IDS in 2001, by the way.


Daniel - I do accept what you're saying, and maybe it would be unreasonable to expect leadership contenders to stick to their Shadow Cabinet briefs until the formal contest begins. And as a former Foreign Secretary, maybe his comments on the Iraq discussion were relevant. But it was difficult to see his appearance on the show as being anything than other than an attempt to remind us he's still there amidst all the Ken Clarke publicity, and I personally found that kind of motivation a bit unseemly, considering the context of the discussion was a thousand fatalities in Iraq.

Although I'm also prepared to accept I'm judging him too harsly...

Daniel Vince-Archer

Rob - I agree almost completely with your point about Rifkind seeking to remind people of his presence. All his recent pronouncements seem to have coincided with the key moments in the Clarke campaign over the past few weeks and have a distinct air of 'yoo-hoo, look at me, look at me!' about them as cashing in on the Clarke-generated publicity is the only way of gaining attention for him at the moment.

I'm half expecting an announcement from Rifkind declaring he has the support of Redwood around the same time as Clarke's upcoming speech on Iraq! Is that the sound of a barrel being scraped?

Selsdon Man

It has been reported that Bottomley and Lait are Malcolm's campaign team rather than just declared supporters.

Can anyone confirm this? If so, it is not as strong enough to convince other MPs to support him.


When I posted yesterday I didn't know what Cameron's speech today was going to be about. As Wat has pointed out on his site, there is a sad irony in interrupting a family holiday to talk about the work-life balance.

If this speech has genuinely been in the diary for some time (as his spinners claim):

1) Why had nobody heard about it before yesterday?
2) Why on earth did the boy D agree in advance to break off his holiday to deliver it?

Daniel Vince-Archer

Well said Bellman, I haven't yet decided whether Cameron's move is cynical or just plain desperate... (Has Cameron developed Rifkind's knack of bad timing?)

Is it likely that Clarke deliberately timed his candidature to coincide with Cameron's holiday?

James Hellyer

"I've long suspected that Ken Clarke's decision to stand would force Malcolm Rifkind out of the race and that Sir Malcolm would endorse Mr Clarke. Sir Malcolm is showing no signs of confirming my suspicions."

Is it possible that Sir Malcolm is a blocking candidate, but that the candidate he's trying to block is Ken Clarke? In his recent interviews, Sir Malcolm has stressed his euroscepticism and Ken's unfortunate europhilia. Is it possible that he's acting as a repository for "One Nation" votes that would otherwise have gone to Ken?

Selsdon Man

Malcolm Rifkind probably thought that Ken was not going to run - leaving him to hoover up the older generation One Nation vote. Ken's campaign has scuppered those plans and he is probably fuming - hence the barbed comments.

Cameron's holiday break shows that he is rattled. He appeared edgy in his interviews - not a good sign for his team.

Daniel Vince-Archer

Having seen key Cameron supporter Oliver Letwin in a debate on C4 News the other night with Clarkeite John Bercow and read through the coverage of Cameron's speech yesterday, it is all too apparent that Cameron is relying too much on the youth card in his battle to beat Ken.

Also, his decision to interrupt his holiday to give the speech (I don't think anybody seriously believes the timing of the speech was coincidental) was totally Rifkindesque (i.e. a panic reaction to the momentum Ken has been building and attempt to cash in on the publicity to remind people he's till in the race).


Agree with you Daniel about Cameron "doing a Rifkind" yesterday. I don't understand Cameron's Camp thinking that being young automatically makes you in tune with youth - it certainly didn't work for William Hague. Incidentally, it was trailed that Cameron was giving a speech yesterday. Has anyone got any details of it, as I only saw a few interviews on a hill.


Sorry, scrub that last request I made. I found the link to Cameron's (rather short!) speech.

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