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« Heseltine urges Clarke-led dream ticket to stop David Davis | Main | Cameron supporters rule out alliance with Ken Clarke, the Tories' new Eurosceptic »


James Hellyer

This is certainly bad news for the Davis camp. Alongside the ongoing Fox campaign, it means that Davis has no real primacy over the parliamentary party's right wing. That makes him all the more vulnerable to whoever the moderates "not Davis" candidate is.

Of course, this could always be a ploy on the part of Cornerstone to force Fox or Davis to adopt more of their agenda. Whether that would be wise for either party after Hayes and the six's ill judged contributions to the Spectator, is a matter for debate.

Mark O'Brien

I'd have thought Cornerstone would be best aligning themselves with Liam Fox. By associating themselves with a candidate who stands no chance and is not taken seriously, they will have lost their opportunity to be a strong force in policy-making for the next four years.

James Hellyer

Thats' why I suspect this may be something to put the screws on Davis.


This could be good news for Fox. Reality will bite at some point for the Cornerstone group, and it will realise that, despite their qualities, neither Bernard Jenkin or Edward Leigh are leadership material. Then it will rally round Fox.

In the meantime, Davis's support seems to be becalmed - the "rolling thunder" campaign (who came up with that name?) smacks more of a desperate roll of the dice than a confident strategy. Whilst Cameron will forfeit support if he flirts too closely with Clarke.

The Clarke-Cameron & Davis camps seem to be united only in their dislike for eachother.

There is room for a unity candidate to come through the middle. Given the make-up of the party, that is likely to be somebody from the right, whom even if the liberal wing do not always agree with, at least they will not loathe.

Even if the Cornerstone group ends up supporting Fox, the fact it had some initial reservations may help him reach out to all the sectors of the Party.

If our new leader arrives in post unbeholden to one faction or another, that will strengthen his initial platform and increase his prospects of leading a united parliamentary party.

BTW - is it true that, as The Times reports, DD has ruled out renegotiation of European treaties? If so I would have thought that even the venerable Wat Tyler of this and other parishes might pause for thought.

Wat Tyler

Yes, the whole thing sounds like an attempt to influence DD rather than a serious leadership bid.

Although, I must say, you never quite know with these someone once observed: 'Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.' And I did once saw one of these guys wearing a very fetching velvet smoking jacket.

Wat Tyler

On Europe, this is the first I've heard of it.

We know DD is Euro-sceptic, but to my knowledge, he has always been assiduous in sticking to the party position- ever since Major made him a whip and there was all that unpleasantness with the Maastrict rebels.

But of course, we're in a new situation now, and my feeling is that DD will make his position clear before the voting. It's just that he hasn't yet done so.

Wat Tyler

I presume the story came from the Cornerstone hustings sessions. And although I don't know, I suspect he was asked 'Will you pledge to renegotiate the Euro treaties?' And he said 'No, I'm not prepared to make an open-ended commitment like that right now.'

And they got upset with him. As we know.

The Political Thinker

Well, that was certainly an interesting article.

Firstly, I’m curious about the comments in regards to Davis and Fox. I certainly hope Davis will define his position on Europe, as it would be rather disappointing to find out he is only broadly eurosceptic, and I wonder what they mean by Fox is too socially liberal?

Secondly, I too think they’re just trying to put pressure on either Fox or Davis, and get one of the two to take a more Cornerstone view of things. Will it work? What happens if they fail?

And, who would stand, Leigh or Jenkin? Which one of these two could put the most pressure on Davis or Fox, or doesn’t it matter?

I must say though, at first I thought Cornerstone would support Liam Fox, but as Bellman says, if they do eventually back Fox, then this could be to his benefit and increase his chances.


Bernard Jenkin is very vain and a complete tool.

I doubt he would have 1 parliamentary backer.


I think you're being unfairly unkind to BJ, Edward. Not so long ago he gave a thoughtful speech on 'To Be A Conservative'. Here are three sections from it:

Competitiveness: "While Asia is on the rise, Europe is in decline. The European Commission itself projects that the EU's share of global trade will halve by 2050 . This in part reflects significant demographic decline, but also a failure to liberalise markets effectively. The so-called European social model locks in high regulation and rigid labour markets. There are 19 million unemployed in the EU. The Lisbon Agenda was launched in 2000 with the express intention of making the EU the most competitive developed economy by 2010, but five years on, there is no prospect that this will be achieved... British business complains that the EU is damaging the British economy by raising costs, by adding more regulation. And despite strong UK economic growth, the OECD forecasts UK government spending will exceed 45.2 per cent of GDP next year, up a staggering 8 per cent in just five years. It is astonishing that such a rapid deterioration was not a central issue at the recent election. The UK is deserting the lower tax-and-spend policies of its other English-speaking competitors (such as Ireland, Australia and America). We are converging with EU un-competitiveness."

Constitution: "The present government have further unbalanced the UK constitution. They have not only increased the pace of centralisation in England through endless target setting, initiatives and controls, but their programme of constitutional reform has been piecemeal and disjointed. The different schemes for devolution to Scotland and Wales have entrenched unfairness in the constitution against the English, whose MPs cannot vote on education or health in Scotland, while Scots MPs have forced through student top up fees and foundation hospitals in England."

Europe: "The national interest demands a relationship with our EU partners based on trade and cooperation between democratic sovereign states, instead of supranationalism. We cannot therefore avoid a fundamental reform of the existing treaties. If necessary, the Conservative Party must be prepared to assert Parliament's supremacy to break the deadlock. We should also make it clear to our EU partners that any revised terms of membership will be subject to a referendum."


Edward Leigh? Bernard Jenkin? They are having a tin bath aren't they?


OK then

whenever I met him he came across as very vain and a complete tool, and everyone i know in westminster thinks he is an utter arse

Selsdon Man

Bernard Jenkin is a social liberal - in my experience one of the most liberal in the party. In his speech to Policy Exchange he said

"I was one of the first Conservative MPs to vote to equalise the homosexual age of consent at 16, long before such views become a political fashion statement".

What does our editor, Mr Leigh and the rest of the Cornerstone group think of that?

John G

Glad I'm not the only one who finds it somewhat strange that Cornerstone would refuse to back Fox because he's not suitably socially liberal, and end up supportign BJ.

I was very impressed by that speech that the Editor has quoted - BJ made a number of very interesting points - but I'd be surprised if all the Cornerstone members would swing behind could be a move that backfires, weakening the Cornerstone voting group, rather than "putting the screws" on Fox or Davis. Leigh would make more sense in that respect.

It'll also be interesting to see the DD/LF response to this. I for one would be very worried if either of them reacted by emphasising their right-wing nature of their beliefs/policies, given that that's exactly the kind of reaction that has dogged the Conservative Party - and led to some of its problems - in the last few years.

Selsdon Man

I would like to endorse the postive comments made about Bernard. I was only pointing out that he holds views on a key issue that would be opposed by Cornerstone supporters.

Edward Leigh could only be a "bargaining chip" to put pressure on DD and Dr Fox.

There is only one Eurosceptic, social conservative who could defeat the other declared candidates - William Hague.

Now that would make the contest more interesting! Especially if the grassroots members retain their vote - even as part of an electoral college.


Edward - I don't want to delete comments on this blog but can we avoid personal abuse? If you don't like BJ give a reason but let's have no playground-style insults.

Selsdon Man - I think it is possible to combine a socially liberal position of the kind you mention on the homosexual age of consent with, for example, a socially conservative support for eliminating the marriage penalty in the tax system. You are on to something, however, in raising the possibility that Cornerstone is more of a coalition than a unified block. Some members certainly wouldn't agree with BJ's vote on boys being able to have gay sex at 16. The overall bias of the group, however, appears to say that the breakdown of the family - and its many dire social consequences - should be addressed by Conservatives (and as a bigger priority than more rights for minority groups).

Selsdon Man

The mere fact that an alternative candidate is being sought suggests that the support for DD is not as solid as previously suggested by journalists and commentators.

Your (the editor)other point on social liberalism and conservatism is well made. The problem is that classical liberalism (or libertarianism i.e. support for a limited state to promote individual freedom and responsibility) is confused with libertinism (freedom without responsibility or moral restraint).

David Willett's recent speeches are classic examples. He has commented that a conservative is a libertarian with a family - suggesting that libertarians are anti-family. Libertarians in reality do get married, have families and support family values in my experience. There are also many who are committed Christians and oppose abortion. Willetts also blames family breakdown on individualism rather than the welfare system that promotes libertinism because the state is responsible for individual actions.

Another example is that Hayek has been denounced by social conservatives (such as Lord Griffiths in his Wilberforce lecture) as a dangerous liberal. Hayek was a strong family man who believed strongly in traditional institutions as the basis of a free society. That is why Churchill (used the Conservative paper ration to reprint The Road to Serfdom) and Thatcher (made him a Companion of Honour) admired him so much.

The mere possibility of a new Cornerstone candidate is therefore of great importance. It demonstrates that there is a potential schism on the centre-right of the party. To avoid that schism, there needs to be a rational discussion on philosophy, terminology and definitions to avoid unnecessary conflict between groups who are natural allies. That debate needs to happen now.

Oberon Houston

I don’t want to sound too miserable, but reading the whole of Jenkin’s speech was a bit of a chore and it was pretty dull stuff. He got us going with a “Many contributions to the present Conservative debate have seemed vacuous and clichéd”, and then proceeded to serve out exactly that.

After the long drum roll, he wandered on to talking about the repositioning of the country to meet the new challenge of Asia, fine but where’s the crucial insight. There was none, just a vague threat towards the European question. The left was in limbo-land.

Then there was the treatise on the dissolving of the British social fabric. I’m sorry, but there was nothing interesting here either, no insight for me. Just the vague threat, as many floating voters would see it, of disapproval of their life-style choices and a hint that as yet undecided things would be done to pull them into line.

Possibly feeling that he was boring himself writing it, he then panicked and tried to get pulses going again by dredging up every scrap of rhetoric he could. Very dull and very very long.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of interest in Edmund Burke and his political theorising rejecting the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity in place of the much more reliable experience and tradition (hear hear), Peel’s brave repeal of the nasty Corn Law in 1846, Disraeli and the 1867 Reform Act, Churchill, Thatcher and so on…. Bernard, You missed out “the ladys not for turning” and Churchill’s’ Beaches speech, Cardigan leading the way at Balaclava, and Chinese Gordons holiday in Khartoum. All very stirring stuff I agree, but not when stuffed into in this speech. It came across as vacuous and clichéd.

Mark O'Brien

Selsdon Man, I've always felt that a bridge can be built between the two sides based on the following principles:

1) It is not the job of politicians to dictate how people live their lives. I'd imagine that is the primary argument (or one of them) of the social liberals. If I'm wrong, then one of them should tell us what it is they believe in (apart from winning elections).

2) The traditional institutions of marriage and the family remain the best thing for adults and their children, and there is a wealth of statistics to prove this point if we need to call on them. However, all that politicians can do is campaign and use their considerable exposure to promote marriage, and not use any legislative tools to bring their beliefs, however well-founded, onto the Statute Books.

3) The first responsibility of the next Conservative government should not be to subsidise marriage or to subsidise (further than we do already) 'alternative lifestyles' but to stop subsidising people's lifestyles at all.

I am convinced that if the State actually stops seeking to engineer society (inadvertantly or not) and allows people to make their own choices about what lifestyle they want to lead, then more people than today would marry and raise a family out of choice - the primary 'lifestyle goal' of the social conservatives, if I'm not mistaken. And if they don't, then they should be neither supported nor punished, but left to make their own choices.

I am certain that this is the only argument which can unite both the social conservatives and the social liberals. Neither will be wholeheartedly delighted by the settlement, but it's better than letting a schism tear us apart.

paul d s

Edward Leigh must stand - it will give us all a laugh.

Obereon Houston

...good point Paul. I love amateur dramatics. Do you think he'll go on a dream ticket with Redwood?

Selsdon Man

Paul, I'm not sure that Mr Leigh would give us laughs - sermons definitely. If he is to be our new Pope, who would be his cardinals?

Mark, a bridge can be built between social conservatives and social liberals if we agree that main task is to reduce the role of the state. I agree with your other points.

My main concern is that some social conservatives are trying to divide the centre-right to further their own careers.

The party needs to resist factionalism and retain its newly found unity. So far, the leadership contest (by being drawn out over so many months) is in danger of promoting factionalism.

Selsdon Man

Leigh dream ticket with Redwood? No chance. How about IDS? Both are Catholics after all!


"I love amateur dramatics."

We can tell you've just been to the Edinburgh Festival, Oberon!

I agree with Selsdon Man. The key way of uniting social conservatives and liberals is to focus on reducing the size of the state. But, as discussed here and here, can we agree that an initially active government is sometimes necessary to produce long-term reductions in the demand for government?


Re: Selsdon Man - the leadership contest is promoting factionalism now and most people are just not interested. Modern day people text, vote, and know the winner at the end of the night.

Ladies and the masses have votes too guys and like it or not leaders have to be attractive to us ALL - not just in looks, or intelligence but in general appeal.

You probably didn't notice Mr Blair meeting and greeting some of the X Factor contestents on Saturday ITV prime time - jumping out of the Labour Party battle bus (just to refresh in voters minds who he is and where he belongs). Today a leader has to be accepted through the media, so there is no point picking someone super intelligent but who has no charisma (this is where the Labour party may become unstuck next time).

The vacuous but attractive Anthony won Big Brother - even though Derek created a very popular impression and wasn't liked by his internal housemates - he was very popular outside and would have beaten two other candidates hands down if he hadn't been nominated out by the people inside. More attention should be paid to how this popular section of society are prompted to vote and what attracts them to their favourite candidate (even paying to have their say). When the voters decided who they didn't like - they chose en masse to ensure Craig only got 4% of the vote, however, Derek did make a connection (even with none Tory voters)in the main due to the fact that he managed to get people to empathise with his point of view now there's a clever trick.

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