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« David Cameron's candidacy dealt two blows | Main | Which pundits are backing which candidates? »


James Hellyer

"their fledgeling campaigns could be damaged by close combat with their rivals so early in the race"

So early in the race? With the contest all but declared in May and Chairman Maode saying our new leader will be in place by November, how the hell does the Conference count as early in the race?

Jonathan Sheppard

When judging who would make the best leader surely its important to look at their recent achievements fron the recent past. Interested to hear what people regard as each of the candidates achievements for the party since 2001

James Hellyer

Well, David Cameron was our 2005 General Election Policy co-ordinator (though he seems to keep quiet about that now).

Dr Fox has successfully started to rebuild bridges with the Republican Party, which led to us getting Voter Vault. During the election campaign he was responsible for setting up some new Constituency based campaigning groups (such as Conservatives Direct) that were centrally directed on the US model (i.e. briefed on the issues of the day, givel "lines to take", etcetera).

Ken Clarke has... sold tobacco.

I'll let Wat put the case for DD.

Jonathan Sheppard

I am also keen for the leadership contenders to keep the pressure on the Government during the campaign - something which I hope those with a vote will be watching. It's all well and good talking about where the party needs to be heading - while the Government gets away with introducing x y and z.

It all promises to be an interesting few months.

Kenneth Irvine

Voter Vault was useless in Twickenham where it was Lib Dem-Con fight. More than half of those identified by Voter Vault as potential Conservative supporters were Lib Dems. It would have better to toss a coin.

That was not Liam's fault though. It needs to be more sophisticated to deal with the Lib Dems and nationalists. In the US, it is a two-way fight now that the Reform Party has imploded.

We need to invest more in modernising our campaigning techniques. We need to hear more from the leadership candidates on that. So far, Liam is well ahead on that issue.

Jonathan Sheppard

Liam should be ahead on those issues given that is what he was tasked to do. Agree with the issue around Voter Vault. Blue Chip is even worse - and Conseravtives Direct wasn't the success it could have been. However - it is a step in the right direction. One of the biggest tasks for a new leader is to actually appreciate that the majority of members wouldn't be too IT literate - and an education process needs to take place to ensure that members - particularly in positions of power locally see the value of these new methods - that us younger members use every day.

"Conseravtives Direct wasn't the success it could have been."

The resistance of local associations to what they saw as interference didn't help.

James Hellyer

I agree that Conservatives Direct wasn't the success that it could have been, but a lot of the team leaders I've talked to through it agreed that it actually helped get people involved who'd found their local associations off putting.

Jonathan Sheppard

That's pleasing to hear. I wish Conservatives Direct had been given greater prominence - as it seemed to be an extremely useful tool which could really be exploited.

The thing that really worries me and is something I will raise (any anecdotes please email me) is how Associations are putting off activists. New members are often not made to feel welcome - especially if they are young, and we need to combat this.

Sean Fear

I've heard good things about Voter Vault from some constituencies - it seems to work best where you have a straight Conservative/Labour fight.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far all we’ve heard from the candidates is either brain-dead managerialism or re-heated Thatcherism. No doubt, they’re saving the good stuff for when the contest officially begins


I've not heard good things about Voter Vault either. I'm dubious about building links with the Republicans too much either. Bush is not popular here (not wise for conservative leader to appear too cosy with him) and with the Democrats favoured to win in 2008 (although by no means certain). At least at a public level, I would look for a neutral approach that could be constructive with either party.

I think it is difficult to judge the 'policy coordinator' role that David Cameron had. Did it mean he came up with the policy? or he just co-ordinated that policy he was told during the election? If it was the latter then lets not forget we started the campaign fairly well before Howard et al. got railroaded onto immigration issues. The job title suggest DC should take some of the blame but I for one don't really know what the job entailed and DC has since been linked with quotes critical of the negative (and unethical) campaign in Cheadle.

One interesting point that seems to be coming from much of the leadership debates is that a lot of users of this site see Liam Fox as acceptable even if he is not their first choice. This is in contrast to Davis, Cameron & Clarke who all have firm opposition as well as support.


"Interested to hear what people regard as each of the candidates achievements for the party since 2001"

Why don't we go back to 1997, when we left Government?

Clarke: As James Hellyer has pointed out, demonstrated his commitment to developing trade in emerging ecomonies throughout the er...flogging cigarettes. Took time out to stand for the leadership in 2001. Became an even heavier weight figure, and now looks altogether too heavy to last for much longer.

Davis: 1997-2001. At a time when the Party needed all the talent at its disposal, stayed off the front bench & concentrated on his own reputation as Chairman of the Public Accounts committee. Made "helpful" interventions setting out his own manifesto for the party in quiet news periods. Apparently registered his leadership campaign website during the 2001 general election (which may explain his majority that year).
2001-5: fell out with the party leadership, and did not rein in cohorts such as Forth & Conway who publicly undermined the leader.

Cameron: 1997-2001: Gained some media experience at Carlton. Successfully won back the Labour-held seat of Whitney.
2001-5: Obtained his entire parliamentary experience. Co-ordinated an election campaign he has since devoted considerable energy to distancing himself from.

Rifkind: Had a crack at winning back Edinburgh Pentlands, to his credit. Built reputation as elder statesman by appearing on Newsnight a lot, particularly after selection for K&C. Sadly, looks like an elderly statesman.

Willetts: Lots of good speeches at Shadow Work & Pensions. Powerful analysis. World remains not set alight.

Fox: Served the party. Constitutional affairs spokesman; Shadow Health; Chairman. Introduced reforming element to Health policy through patient passports. Activities as Chairman as in other posts above.

Doc Fox seems to have the best track record. Since the election he has also given the most original speeches, and got on with his job more conspicuously than the others.

Jonathan Sheppard

Harsh analysis of Davis I feel.The importance of PAC surely isn't self serving. Having worked for a compamy who has appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee I have seen how important the role of the Chairman can be. Fox has indeed had many posts. The role of Chairman is thankless. Was he any more successful than Davis? Was Fox more successful in Health than Davis has been with the Home Offiec portfolio? Seeing off a Cabinet member and a Minister surely deserves praise.

James Hellyer

"Seeing off a Cabinet member and a Minister surely deserves praise."

Surely the whistle blowing civil servants deserve the credit? The ministers went not because Davis bested them, but because their civil servants came forward to say they were not telling the truth.

Davis handled the material he was given well, but he was still given it.

Jonathan Sheppard

Oh come on. That's like saying blair deserves no credit whatsoever from how he has lead his party to 3 victories and its all down to his speech writers and his advisers - and he is just a puppet.

Much as I'd like to believe that - unfortunately Blair has been a great asset to the Labour and you cant take that away from him.

Some people don't like David Davis - which I can accept - but you can't say he hasn't been effective. Out of the rest of the Shadow Cabinet he has to rank near the top with regards calling the Government to account.

James Hellyer

"Oh come on. That's like saying blair deserves no credit whatsoever from how he has lead his party to 3 victories and its all down to his speech writers and his advisers - and he is just a puppet."

That's a false analogy. If Davis hadn't been given the material by concerned civil servants, there would have been no scandals to bring the ministers down (we wouldn't have known about the visas being rushed through, for example).

It's simply ridiculous to claim that he saw off a Cabinet Minister. That makes it sound like it was all down to him. It wasn't. But he did play his part well.

James Hellyer

I suppose what I object to is Davis (or anyone else) being given all the credit for getting dealt a good hand.

Jonathan Sheppard

Becoming leader requires being in the right place at the right time, a bit of effort and a lot of luck.

There's a long way to go in this race.

Jonathan Sheppard

To use a football analogy - if you don't shoot you don't score. A striker may be given lots of great passes - but its down to him to put it in the back of the net. Of course its a team effort - but the striker gets the credit if they score, and coversely any criticism if they don't.

Cllr Graham Smith

I suspect it's npt so much that "their fledgeling campaigns could be damaged by close combat" that is stopping such face-to=face debates as the lack of an audience.

It is rumoured that many former conference regulars have decided there is no point in listening to political speeches made by people who well be out of the Shadow Cabinet within a few weeks of this year's conference and have therefore decided not to attend.

However, with applications for passes closing on Monday, no-one in authority seems prepared to say whether the number of valid registrations from constituencies so far received has yet reached 50$ of last year's attendance at the Bournemouth Party Conference...

Jonathan Sheppard

On the subject of Conference you would be amazed how much passes cost for business representatives. I wait to hear jaws dropping across the nation when I tell you for the Lid Dems its £450 for a pass if you are going on behalf of a company.

The sad thing is the Conservatives don't make any money out of Conference as its outsourced to CCOCL.

James Hellyer

Is there any advantage to be had in lobbying the surreal opposition, though?

Jonathan Sheppard

You may say that - I couldn't possibly comment.


"Harsh analysis of Davis I feel.The importance of PAC surely isn't self serving."

The PAC is certainly an important committee. But it's a backbench committee. After 1997 Hague needed all the talent he could muster on the front benches. One of the less attractive traits of a number of our MPs is that they have refused invitations to serve on the front bench at a time when the party has needed them. Davis has been one of these refuseniks. Clarke and Maude have been others. If you are an MP, and you are asked by the leader to serve on the front bench, you need a very good reason to say no.

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