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James Hellyer

Oh dear. This one's doomed for an early exit. Not only is unlikely to reach outside the Cornerstone bloc, but it's actually badly reasoned on political terms. Their policies do not stack up. Their flat tax will leave a gaping hole in public spending.

All this will achieve is the marginalisation of their views and aid candidates who are least sympathetic to their goals. "Turkeys voting for an early Christmas" is the phrase that leaps to mind.


Could potentially be useful for the party, though - the 'extreme' candidate (I say this in terms of public perceptions, not that they are extreme) gets nowhere, which will improve perceptions of the party's moderation.

Selsdon Man

Or turkeys voting for another turkey! Several Cornerstone MPs have publicly backed Fox or Davis so Mr Leigh could not even rely on all the Group voting for him. Leigh's candidacy would be gesture politics and personal vanity rolled into an unattractive package.

Julia McIntyre

While I cannot imagine an Edward Leigh leadership bid troubling the membership at large, I worry that the story that will be created is not the defeat of the Tory Taliban but the defeat by the loony fringe of Malcolm Rifkind. Perhaps Malky should recognise that he is the likely first round loser and bow out gracefully, partly to save his own embarrasment and partly to ensure that we do lose the nutters at the first hurdle.

John G

Depends to some extent on how it's introduced, James. I know Romania have a major deficit problem as a result of embracing the flat tax. However, a gradual introduction could relieve the worst of the problems.

That said, I'd be surprised if a flat tax is sellable, or even desirable in this country. For a start, doesn't a pure flat tax reduce a government's ability to use tax breaks or hikes to discourage/encourage certain behaviour? If all markets cleared then that might not be such a problem, but they don't. At the very least, if you find a way around this problem (eg some kind of minimum/maximum pricing system), you're just shifting complexity from the tax system to elsewhere...


Flat taxes normally only cover income and corporation tax so most of Gordon's favoured rises would still be possible.

Cornerstone symbolises a lot of what is wrong with the Conservative party and I hope Edward Leigh standing might draw their attention away from Davis who would be able to take a more left wing line should he win (which seems certain though not desirable).


"This has been a dull campaign."

But don't worry here comes Edward Leigh to brighten it all up, to spark the enthusiasm, to rally the troops.... to give us something to be sarcastic about :-)

James Maskell

Edward Leigh shouldnt bother standing. He wouldnt win at all. I dislike his flat tax idea, which hasnt been fully explored and explained to the people in a way that would persuade the people that such an idea is good. People think of Poll Tax when they see the idea of flat tax. I know its not quite the same but the papers wont notice the distinction.

James Hellyer

Well, we appear to almost have a consensus that Edward Leigh shouldn't stand. The dissenting element is AnotherNick, who would welcom the chance to mock Mr Leigh's stripey blazer. Apparently.

Flat taxes normally only cover income and corporation tax so most of Gordon's favoured rises would still be possible

Although, as I understand it, one of the underlying rationales for a flat tax is to make sure every item is taxed once, and only once, at the flat rate. Which means that, for example, it would be difficult to fit in added tobacco taxes without breaking the plan. Now it's probable (although given that this is Cornerstone, who knows?!) that these people are arguing for a relatively flat tax but I haven't read that bit in depth yet.

most of Gordon's favoured rises would still be possible.

Although, of course, he would never introduce a flat tax anyway.

Simon C

Wasn't it Tony Marlowe who had the stripy blazer?

James Hellyer

Blast! You're right Simon, it was.


i don't think he's standing too win - to say so is to miss the point. If he can get a sizeable no of MPs in the first round then it will be too large a group for the other candidates to blithely ignore, and some are bound to subtly change their message to try and woo them. And then they've had an influence.

James Hellyer

The danger there, Greg, is that by standing Leigh could hobble other candidates who are more credible, and sympathetic to some of his aims, forcing them to drop out while he heads to certain defeat.

Richard Allen

I have a lot of time for Edward Leigh and many others in Cornerstone but this is almost certainly a mistake.

The only good point, as others have said, is that it will make Davis and Fox look more moderate.


To be fair (I wasn't very fair earlier) Cornerstone have a role within the party, but not as leadership contenders.

James Maskell

You're right there AnotherNick. They should be a pressure group of sorts within the party, an in-house think tank, coming up with ideas which the party might want to use. That would be the best use of the talent available.

Daniel Vince-Archer

Edward Silleigh will be wasting his time and everybody else's time if he does carry out this ludicrous threat.


Edward Leigh makes several good points and can only stimulate the centre left debate. I'm sure the media will hang him for being a 'radical right-winger'. I hope he can convince them that he isn't nasty, he simply believes the strengthing of a caring society can be achieved through an increased role of charity and more jobs created with lower taxes. Its time the Cornerstone group presented their nice side.


I agree with what people are saying about the undesirable nature of a Cornerstone candidacy but the idea of Edward Leigh standing is attracting extra attention to the Cornerstone Group's ideas. We all know how the media works. Cornerstone IS interesting because it might run a candidate or might decide which candidate makes it to the run-off. I don't agree with all of Cornerstone's ideas - not least Mr Leigh's support for a flat tax - which simply looks too difficult in a British context. But Cornerstone does have many good ideas. John Hayes' essay on housing stands out as do Philippa Stroud's chapter on the family and Anthony Uskglass's environment offering. All three of those essays - DougR - portray a soundly-based "nice side".

Patrick Leahy

It's unfortunate they're not going to back Fox. I like the fact that Leigh is being brave and stating his policies up front but I just don't think he's a candidate most would vote for.


Today's Independent reheats the speculation that Michael Ancram will be Cornerstone's candidate (should they run one).

James Hellyer

Reading the news articles (especially the Telegraph's), it seems clear that the intention is not to field a candidate but to put pressure on the existing candidates.

Ronald Collinson

I'm all in favour of stand by Leigh, Ancram, or even both of them. Somebody should be there to represent all parts of the party, even if they are rather extreme. At worst, a Cornerstone candidate will only delay a leader by a few days. It has to be said that Cornerstone is rather scary (the Tories that actually do want to privatise the NHS), but objection by more moderate candidates it will improve the public perception of them.

My only problem is that it would work better if the voting rules were reversed (so that the party chooses the final two, probably by single transferable vote, and MPs give support to the final candidate), but that's hardly Leigh's fault.

James Hellyer

At worst a Cornerstone candidate could mean that another candidate, who could acceptable to them, fails to progress through the rounds. As Leigh himself would be unlikely to get more than the Cornerstone vote, this could mean that no candidate they approve of reaches the final two. Delivering a Clarke leadership would be something of a home goal.

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