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« David Davis: The turnaround expert? | Main | David Cameron rejects surrender in Iraq »


Jonathan Sheppard

I didn't watch it - though colleagues of a pretty neutral political persuasion indicated it did nothing to help the party.

The worrying things about such a long leadership election is the possibility that it could turn more people off from politics as they don't see it as important when compared to issues that influence their every day lives.


I'm glad I missed it.This summer has been pretty depressing from a political point of view.The party has spent the last three months talking exclusively to itself and few seem to be interested.
I dread to think what conference will be like if this continues.

Oberon Houston

I wouldn't expect much from the Newsnight team with Kirsy fronting it, her journalistic integrity is shot to bits. On the subject of biased reporting, I was quite shocked at the Telegraphs very bilious anti-Ken tirade in Comment today, and the nine similarly worded letters published, then the pro-Davis leader in both Business and City Comment. I've written to complain.

EU Serf

Glad to see so much of substance was discussed.

Selsdon Man

Someone should have been invited to make the case for the other candidates. Is this is another example of BBC bias - or ignorance ar laziness?

The candidates will keep their policy statements for Party Conference and the following campaign period. I expect Mr Cameron (at Mr Osborne's urging) to back the flat tax later in the campaign. Today he will be focusing on Iraq and Islam.

The main problem is that the campaign is too long. It may take place next year if the convention does not support the planned changes with a two thirds in favour. I hope Francis Maude has a Plan B (e.g. electoral college) to offer in September.

Mr Houston, I agree with your comments on Ms Wark. The Telegraph is supporting Davis, the Guardian is backing Clarke and the Times will back Cameron. We await the other papers. We need their views and opinions to enhance the contest.


We shouldn't be too surprised about the Telegraph. Its reporting during the last leadership election was that of a crazed tabloid rather than a respected broadsheet with (according to Private Eye), sub eds and political writers being warned not to let anything seen as positive to Clarke into the paper.


"Someone should have been invited to make the case for the other candidates."

Fair point, Selsdon Man. Liam Fox wasn't mentioned or represented last night even though he has more pledged supporters than others who were spotlighted. Newsnight is giving every candidate an opportunity to make a film for the programme but partiality in such general features isn't what we pay the BBC to provide (although it's what we've come to expect).


It is all of course made rather more difficult by the fact that no candidate, other than Rifkind, has officially declared at the moment.

Wat Tyler

I only caught the tail end of the studio discussion, but I'm sure what everyone says about it being unhelpful is right. Let's face it, Newsnight are hardly friends.

The one thing Mrs T and I thought as we sipped our Ovaltine, was that Ed V looked and sounded pretty plausible. And not for the first time.

Yes, we know he's currently backing the wrong horse, and yes, he's the progeny of Hampstead socialists, and yes, he's terribly inexperienced. But he's definitely got something.

Now, I know I'm a hopeless optimist on these matters, but I reckon that for the first time in a long time, our next generation (Ed, George, Dave, Nick etc etc) is looking...well, strong. I think they stack up very well against Labour's irritating band of 12 year old cloned apparatchiks.

Once we've got this leadership marathon out of the way, I hope and expect that DD will put in place some proper development plan for them.

Our much derided talent pool is slowly starting to fill up again.

Selsdon Man

Disraeli, the other candidates may not have formally declared but they have campaign teams in place, e.g. Chris Grayling is managing Liam Fox's bid. That has been in the public domain for several weeks. Why was Chris not invited by Newsnight to support Liam?

Editor, I agree with you. I did not see the programme but assume that Crispin Blunt did not have the opportunity to make the case for Malcolm Rifkind.

Sadly, the BBC current affairs coverage is not only partial but superficial. The important policy and philosophical statements by the candidates are not receiving the coverage they deserve. The media, including ITN and the press, is dumbing down the campaign. That is not good news for the candidates, their supporters or the Party as a whole.

John G

I was also somewhat surprised by the absence of any proponents of Liam Fox - it's not as if he's particularly short of them. It reminds me of a comment posted weeks ago, suggesting that the mainstream media is ignoring him in the hope that he'll go away. If that's the strategy, it's certainly failing.

What I don't understand is why, if he has such a good campaign team - as Watlington suggested (see earlier link) - he is getting absolutely zero press coverage? Is that not a criticism to be levelled at Grayling, Heald and the like, or is it a purposely below-the-radar campaign? I suppose hat could be beneficial - Davis, Cameron, and even Clarke and Willetts to a point, have not really benefited from the length of their exposure to the public. Perhaps the Fox team thinks that the time will be ripe for a move in due course...

Guido Fawkes

Widdicombe is manifestly barking mad.

There should be a primary system - the parliamentary party are no more sensible than the membership and this is the 21st century.

Maude better get his act together on this...

Tory Voter

I returned to vote Conservative again at the last election, having voted Blair twice, with more conviction in my vote than at any time since I voted for Margaret Thatcher. Stephen Dorrell MP hit the nail on the head in the summer when he pointed out that the Conservatives need to attract back those voters that used to vote Tory before Blair, but that did not vote Conservative at the last election. It's wise not to have the local constituency activisits decide the leader, because they are the backbone of the existing party which does not have enough appeal currently to win power. No disrespect to them but the equation for power is 'existing Tory voters' (T) + %x 'previously Tory voters but not recently' + %y 'young adults who are new voters' + %z 'voted before but never Tory', must = or > a parliamentary majority.
T + %x + %y + %z = or > Parliamentary majority for a Conservative government. Clearly the more of x and y voters you have the less you need z voters. My guess would be that you need some young voters but that Tory voters tend be middle aged or older (true even in Margaret Thatchers time). You really need a high % of x voters, because it will be a bit more difficult to get y voters, and almost impossible to get z voters (who if they don't vote Labour will vote for a smaller party). David Davis is in the right position to bridge the age gap in British politics, neither too young or too old. Personally I think Ken Clarke would be a much better PM than Blair, but my personal preferences are irrelevant. You have my vote already ! There is no way I'm voting for Brown next time. Dave Cameron is a serious contender but you need him as a shadow top minister, he simply does not have enough experience. David Davis has much more shadow front bench experience. Davis is right is that he can unite the party - so it has people like the shadow Chancellor and Theresa May in it, but it has the credibility of a good mix of ages (lets hope Rifkind and Clarke stay in the commons). There are so many issues that the Tories can start to make ground on now (e.g. crime, too much tax and red tape damaging the economy, a sense of real unfairness in terms of opportunity for hardworking people, too much public sector money going astray, foreign policy etc. etc. )

Selsdon Man

I agree with Wat that the new generation ( with a wide range of views) is shaping up well. Philip Hammond, Eleanor Laing and several other frontbenchers would make excellent Ministers. The new intake (Gove, Afriye, Carswell etc) has plenty of talent too. They should have the opportunity to make a mark in this Parliament.

We also need to ensure that there is a prominent role for William Hague as one of our best orators and communicators.

Selsdon Man

I agree with Wat that the new generation ( with a wide range of views) is shaping up well. Philip Hammond, Eleanor Laing and several other frontbenchers would make excellent Ministers. The new intake (Gove, Afriye, Carswell etc) has plenty of talent too. They should have the opportunity to make a mark in this Parliament.

We also need to ensure that there is a prominent role for William Hague as one of our best orators and communicators.


I did see Newsnight. It might almost benefit Fox that he was not on it (although like others I wonder why he wasn't represented), simply because everybody else was so aweseomely dreadful.

Willetts: I suppose I should exempt him from the dreadful charge, but he showed again that he is an ideas man, not a leader. Interestingly, he appeared to hint that he might be actively looking for a leader to take his ideas forward. Who could that be?

Gove's beard must go. Now. Not because I don't like beards (I am a great one for individual choice) but because it was horribly whispy. His voice seemed an octave higher as a result. He could shave it off for charity - that might be the point I suppose. Content - unmemorable. A pity, as I am a bit of a Gove fan.

Duncan was unwittingly hilarious. A self-confessed moderniser, opposed to the "Tory Taleban" (whatever or whoever that might be), whose leadership premise was that the party needs to reach out beyond its traditional core....hob-nobbing with the Duchess of Belvoir at the CLA Game Fair. The Game Fair is a splendid event - I was there too - but it's not exactly a high-density target for urban swing-voters.

Widdecombe - shrill & interrupting. If the Clarke camp is putting AW up as its cheerleader in chief, he might as well not bother.

Michael Brown for Desperate D: "personal narrative, personal narrative..." (yawn) - no ideas at all. Oh, and Etonians are bad for the Party.

Vaizey - actually a pretty assured style. But then nobody doubts that Notting Hill Tories are a triumph of style over substance, and the substance not only did nothing to reassure about Boy David's inexperience, but even raised new doubts. See the Editor's summary above. Also, the line that the Boy D has lots of experience at the top end of government because he was a special advisor is a real turn-off - Jo Moore was a special advisor too. Special advisors are not a popular brand.

One way or another, they all failed Simon C's tests: not one of them expressed a vision for the country, or any burning desire to make Britain a better place.

So, at least Fox had nobody out there to damage his campaign. But it would be good to see his team come out fighting now. Word has it that they know this. Endorsements are pending, and the Doc is due to speak to the CPS in a couple of weeks.

Tom Greeves

Although Howard's early resignation has left us a bit dead in the water for the moment, it did serve two purposes:

1. It emphasised that anything short of winning an election is unacceptable.

2. It allowed for a period of intelligent reflection and debate.

It is to the great discredit of those who have failed to take advantage of point 2 that they have let the Party down.


Forgot one thing about Willetts. He embarked on a history lecture: Disraeli's rebuilding after the Corn Laws split...Butler after 1945. Fascinating to us anoraks, no doubt - but of no interest whatsoever to voters needing reasons why they should come (back) into our fold.

So I suppose he was dreadful if he wanted to portray himself as a PM in waiting. But I think he's playing a different game. Who will he back?

James Hellyer

Well, that was depressing. It seems our MPs' grand vision is to have increasingly petty and irrelevant arguments about themselves. Their display was truly pathetic.

I expected intellectual vacuity from the Davis camp, which stayed true to type by focussing on narrative at the expense of all else except personal attacks. I expected the Clarke campt to be as mad as a badger, and Widdecombe obliged. I expected the Cameron crew to be nicely spoken, but every bit as vacuous as the Davis team. This was an almighty waste of time and effort.

If the contest continues in this vein, it will lose even my interest. Perhaps it's time for the Fox camp to make their voices heard. At least Dr Fox has defied expectations to date. We could do with more of that.

James Maskell

I watched a small bit of it last night, namely the bit where Widdecombe tells the guy off for interrupting her then interrupting him...ridiculous. Its sad since Ive seen her talk before when she came to Margate last March and she seemed completely different last night.

I genuinely hope that this isnt a sign of this contest. I find it sad that the most successful party of the 20th Century which had brought radical change in every facet of British life rips itself a new one everytime they discuss the future of the Party. If I wanted to see people having stupid arguments Id watch repeats of Big Brother!

Wat Tyler

James- since I didn't see the prog, I admit to being on slightly thin ice, but your jab about DD's camp being "intellectually vacuous" really can't pass.

You may not altogether agree with the "Reform" agenda, but come on, it's not vacuous.

And while we're on the subject, I'm sure we both agree that intellectuals generally don't make good leaders.

James Hellyer

I'm sorry Wat, but Davis's camp is intellectually vacuous. All they talked about on Newsnight was... BIOGRAPHY. Oh and Etoniand being BAD. That is vacuous stuff.

Beyond his CPS lecture, biography is all the Davis camp has offered. It is an incredibly shallow campaign.



As I understand your last post, you are saying that the Davis campaign is not intellectually vacuous because he has somehow appropriated Reform's ideas as his own.


If so, worryingly,

1) That says nothing for Desperate D's ability to come up with any original thoughts of his own. Cogent analysis and problem-solving aren't his strong points, you imply; he has simply signed up to one think tank's ideas. Bought the job lot.

2) It gives credence to the notion that his best speeches are in fact Nick Herbert's.

3) It rather undermines Reform's attempt to position itself as an independent organisation.

In reality, though, Desperate's crew bang on about his "personal narrative" at the expense of any ideas at all. Michael Brown had nothing to say about Britain's needs at all.

James Hellyer

Exactly Bellman. Michael Brown said a) DD had a good personal narrative (Council estates and all that) and b) that Iain MacLeod warned us about Etonians... in the 60s.

The only substantive DD policy speech was word for word Herbert. Left to his pwn devices, DD loosens his collar and that's about it.


Ed Vaizey, in today's Guardian, has written about his own experience on this Snoozenight programme:

"Last week I lost my Newsnight virginity. I appeared on the programme in front of Kirsty Wark. It felt a bit like an audience with the Queen. My co-panellists were Michael Brown and Ann Widdecombe. By the time we had finished, we had made the royal corgis look models of good behaviour. We were supposed to be discussing the leadership of the Conservative party. We ended up having a shouting match. The whole spectacle must have been completely unedifying. It will have switched off many more than a handful of neutral voters. I agree with the many who have told me that this is not the way to conduct a leadership campaign. Lesson learned."

'Good for you Ed' - Ed.

He uses the rest of the article to make the case for David Cameron, who he thinks is the best 'fresh start' possibility for the Tories.

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