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« A new 'Telegraph Ten' of MPs stand up for voting rights of rank-and-file members | Main | Liam Fox attacks soap opera politics »


James Hellyer

That's a nice bit of defeatism of Michael Portillo's part: we have no hope of winning the next election at all, therefore pick Ken on the grounds that he's popular but won't ever get to do things we dislike in government.

Hasn't Michael Portillo ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If we don't even try to win, it would hardly be surprising if we then proceeded to lose.

Wat Tyler

Mr P has always been a defeatist flip-flopper- despite that toe curling 'who dares wins' gig. He needs somebody strong to follow: Maggie was fine, but JM et seq never quite stacked up for him.

In June he was backing DD, and now it's Ken.

You'd never want to depend on him.


I think it is borderline whether the Portillo comments even count as an endorsement of Clarke. I must say I understand in his new career Portillo may want to seek some neutral political ground and I don't begrudge him that. However, it is disappointing to see a man who could have been a Tory PM himself being so negative about the party.

Peter Lewis

It is a little known fact that Michael Howard offered the Shadow Chancellorship to David Cameron in May this year, but he turned it down. (He first offered it to William Hague, who also turned it down).

The interesting question is why was David Cameron so shy of going head-to-head with Gordon Brown? Did he fear that his leadership prospects would quickly be damaged if he had a few bruising encounters in the Commons with the Chancellor (as proved the case for third-choice George Osborne). If so, what does that say about Cameron's self-confidence in facing Brown in three or four years' time?


I think Peter is being far too harsh on Cameron. If he was scared of Gordon Brown he wouldn't want the leadership. Cameron is a smart man who wanted to position himself in a role that he felt he could do well in. And quite frankly what better than education - one of the normal Labour safe areas when it comes to elections and an area where the Conservatives need to do far better in.

Wat Tyler

I reckon you're both right. Cameron has been pressured and flattered into standing, but very sensibly recognises it's far too early for him. So he's taking the chance to shadow an area which is important and has profile, but where he can get some experience before really going over the top.

And at the end of the day, he probably wants to be say, Shadow Home Secretary under DD.

There's still time for the Davis Dash.


I think he'd rather not be shadow anything! Cameron is possibly the best candidate to lead the party, but he is definitely the best candidate to be the next Prime Minister.

Wat Tyler

Interesting way of putting it AnotherNick. Care to elaborate?


Personally I back the modernising agenda, but looking at it in terms of the way the country is likely to vote...

Cameron's approach will go down far better than that of either Clarke or Davis. In the case of David Davis we may have the natural choice of many current Conservative voters. He would keep the core right wing vote happy but come the election I personally can not see him gaining any more votes than Michael Howard. Davis is leader-like so he'll pick up a few votes, But he is really more than just a remodelled slightly younger remake of Michael Howard?
Cameron manages to sound professional and leader-like but far less combative. Critics seem to imply that he is too concerned in the way he presents himself and liken that to Blair. Maybe he is buying into the media age more than the other candidates, but Blair won the country round to vote for a party that was unelectable only shortly before and I hope (it is too soon to predict) that Cameron can do a similar job for us.

I am not suggesting that we should pick the most Blair-like candidate for that reason. But a modern media friendly less combative approach will increase the chance of the leader being elected PM.

I simply cannot see David Davis or Ken Clarke as PM, if I am right, then we have a choice between what a cynic might term New Labour or New Tory.... given the choice of a centre right PM or a centre left PM (Blair/Brown) I think the party would prefer the former.

Wat Tyler

Thanks- I now understand.

We seem to agree that Davis is much more attractive to our core vote, which includes me. And the question is whether his policies and personality would appeal to that other 10 per cent we need.

Personally, I think they would. In particular, he comes across as a normal guy, which- and I apologise for the way this sounds- I rate a considerable advance on other recent leaders (the normal voice, the everyday way of speaking, the hair, the twinkly blue eyes, etc etc). You don't have to explain why you might be voting for him.

Of course, Cameron has all this. Plus he's Blairite young.

But he's much less appealing to Tories like me because- as you recognise- he seems to offer only the slightest difference from New Labour. And that just doesn't excite me.

For just suppose the theory is correct, and we do return to government by pitching ourselves on top of New Labour. To what end? More of the same? As the Blessed Norman observed recently, the Tory Party exists for higher purposes than simply providing jobs for politicians.

So, yes, I see what you mean. DC might well make a less good party leader than he would a PM. But I can't get enthused about it. More of the same on public services, tax and spend etc, even though the PM is now wearing a blue rosette rather than a red rose (or whatever the NL stylists come up with).

No. I'm sticking with DD, in the belief that by 2010 those swing voters will have had more than enough of high tax, high debt, Blairless, clueless Labour, and will be ready for that real alternative.

Selsdon Man

Portillo is yesterday's man and will have no influence. His article shows that he has run out of ideas and has nothing new to say. Michael Brown (I think) wrote an article that said that MP was really a One Nation Tory rather than a true Thatcherite. I see him a Peterhouse Tory in the Cowling tradition - no true ideology.

Thank God that we did not elect him leader in 2001.


Blair may have been more centre right than Labour are used to but his policies (generally speaking) are still Labour based. As such a centre ground Conservative would pursue policies that were Conservative based. Cameron has already supported marriage and strengthing national security.

I don't think waiting for the country to change is going to win us the election. We need to evolve but retain our core principles. We also need to be able to constructively and non-combatively present clear policies to the electorate. I think Cameron is the best bet for that and the most promising Tory PM.


I was impressed with Liam Fox on BBC 1 this morning. I am sorry that he does not seem to have more support at the moment. He has a calm yet combative style in inerviews, charm and youthful appearance, and more experience than Cameron. Also he is a strong traditional Tory with the sort of policies that will appeal to our core support.


My major issues with Cameron are:

i) He is completely untested. Any comparisons with Blair are frankly nonsense. By the time Blair had become leader of Labour, he had been in the Commons for three Parliaments; had impressed in a number of Shadow Cabinet portfolios and, as Shadow Home Secretary had almost singlehandedly helped to dismantle our reputation as the party of law and order. Cameron has done nothing of the kind. He has failed to impress in the Commons and has alienated as many MPs as he has impressed. Being young and relatively telegenic is not sufficient qualification to be Party Leader. Given the diabolical waste of the past 8 years of opposition, I am very much of the opinion that we cannot play a high stakes gamble on an untested leader again.

ii) His background. We have a major image problem at present. Still, a number of people refuse to accept the magnitude of this problem This image is partly that we are the party of the 'few', the privileged and that we are out of touch with modern Britain. How exactly would electing an Old etonian, who looks and acts like an Old Etonian and has a coterie of advisers and supporters almost exclusively drawn from the top public schools address this image problem? CAmeron is clearly not the man to re-connect with the lost voters anywhere outside of the Home Counties.

We need to elect the Leader who will perform best in a General Election. Clarke and Davis are both impressive candidates. We now have to decide which of them is best placed to recapture the lost voters and defeat Gordon Brown. Is the Tory Party now mature enough to make decisions based upon electoral necessity rather than dogma? We will soon find out.

Oberon Houston

So we are all agreed then. Well no, I thought that the Portillo article was very good. I can understand that it may be irritating to read such depressing stuff, but that is no reason to reject it out of hand.

Bracing myself for a torrent of abuse here, but here goes. I, like Michael Portillo, do not see us winning the next election. Its just not going to happen. There is not the slightest whiff of the sea change coming that will get us on track. I keep saying this, our policy and principles are good, its our attitude towards the voters that really stinks – and don’t they know it. I’ve already droned on at length about this under the “Tiger Tiger” blog, so I won’t again here, but people don’t like us because they believe we don’t like them. The indignant language we use towards people, how they live their lives and the institutions the hold dear is sometimes awful.

To end on a lighter note, long ago, when Gordon Brown was Shadow Chancellor, he was droning on at Ken Clarke in a Commons debate, I liked Kens reply…

“Well I’ve got to say the only things if found interesting about what the Rt. Hon. Gentleman has said, was when he was quoting me.”

Selsdon Man

Has anyone noticed that the Centre for Policy Studies appears to be pro-Clarke. Both Ruth Lea and her predecessor Tessa Keswick (a former Special Adviser to Clarke) have made very favourable comments in the press.

This is surprising for the think tank founded by Joesph, Thatcher et al. Does the CPS know something that we don't?

Oberon Houston

Well well. Things are beginning to get interesting though. I agree that there has been a bit of a phoney war up until now, but the people with power and influence begin to bring their guns to bear.

I am tempted to make an exceedingly bold statement here, one that will see the Davis camp losing momentum. Well, before going that far, lets make some bold assumptions. Firstly, lets assume that secretly most senior Tories are doubtful of our chosen route in the past and the prospect of it changing through a David Davis.

We’ve tried right wing leaders, young, old and experienced and nothing works. Okay then, lets give Ken an opportunity. There is little doubt that he is the most popular Tory outwith the core of the party, and he makes it an enjoyable pastime giving New Labour a trouncing on their own turf, public services. So lets take a step back, and reverse the problem and concentrate on serving as an effective opposition party, and increase our support that way. To be honest, that prospect is far more appealing to me than four years of (another) indignant right winger being laughed at by Tony and Gordon.

Selsdon Man

It has just occurred to me that Portillo does not even consider Liam Fox's considerable merits - well put by Derek. Liam could appeal to potential supporters of both Davis and Cameron.

Is there some sort of conspiracy to keep Liam out of the media debate? He is ignored too often for comfort.


This politics game has become far too much about one person if you ask me. Do past leaders usually promote their supporters to their front bench? if so we should pay far more attention to the main team.

I don't understand this right wing, left wing business either. I'd have thought David Davies 'centre' and Liam Fox and David Cameron for that matter and shouldn't a great leader be the centre balance of any group of strong minded individuals?

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