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« No, Mr Clarke: You didn't always want the Old Lady to dance alone | Main | Taxing lessons from Germany and New Zealand »


Wat Tyler

A really encouraging aspect of this is that the six MPs cover such a broad spectrum. You mention the member of Cornerstone (who you originally reported as being fairly lukewarm about DD), but there are also two- Loughton and Syms- who supported Portillo in 2001.

God knows we need unity- Davis is showing he can bring it.

Oberon Houston

The problem we have is that we are both internally broken and, diagrammatically, out of touch with the mood of the electorate. By trying to fix the internal problem first, i.e. putting Davis in as leader, we automatically put in place a leader four times less popular with the electorate, i.e. Ken Clarke.

Catch 22, put Ken in as Leader and we cannot realise the benefits that will bring, a new found popularity with the electorate, because civil war will break out between the centrists and right wingers.

My argument is this, residing on the right will never ever solve the problem. It will lead to a Labour Lib-Dem coalition.. Up until now we have been tying to shove the cart up the hill before the horse, those on the right must come to terms with this, instead of trying to capitalise on it – those guilty of this include David Davis.

Peter Littleton

This leadership contest is increasingly being framed in narrow terms of a contest between the modernisers (led by KC) and the traditionalists (led by DD). As long as it continues like this then DD is unstoppable. Unlike the favourites from most of the recent leadership contests he is campaigning from the right - always a sur bet in the Tory Party. But also, KCs emergence as front runner has prevented those on the modernising wing from truly uniting because of Ken's attitude and approach to government (see David Willetts endorsement of DD) and because of his views on Europe (giving David Cameron reason not to fall in behind Clarke).

However, for the wider development of our Party, both now and stretching into the future, this has been unhelpful. I personally don't believe we lost the last election because of our positioning on the political spectrum. Just looking at the statistics, it was going to be virtually impossible for us to win a majority.

We could thoough, have done better if we had focussed our campaign better. By spending about 60% of his time talking about immigration, Howard came across as a cave man conservative, which I don't think he is.

The debate now should be about presenting a coherent and detailed vision for Britain. Ken doesn't appear to have one, and if he does it certainly doesn't seem to be one shared by the majority of his Party. Davis meanwhile is said to be working hard on developing one. The fact that it comes from the traditionalist wing isn't a problem as long as he truly attempts to relate with and propose solutions to problems in everyday Britain.

Davis will have a mountain to climb if, or rather when, he is elected. His recognition is way behind Ken's. However, he will be aware of this, and I will be able to deal with it, with a backround of a coherent ideology and united party to support him. Clarke would cause a mini bounce in our ratings but one that would fall back once in - fighting began and it became clear his ambitions for Britain extend little beyond regaining power!

Oberon Houston

You have, quite eloquently, described the problem. The solution however, DD as leader, remains for me a controversial one. I suspect that many floating voters distrust the right wingers in our party and therefore many are scanning around for an alternative to New Labour, especially as its inherent weaknesses begin to surface. With the Tory's 'worrying' the electorate so much, it only takes the Lib-Dems to put in place a more 'English and voter friendly leader', bin their stupid left-of-labour stance and we are in big big trouble, its only a gift that we have been allowed to fester so long unmolested.

I really don't think David Davis is the man to lead us out of this, regardless of how he looks and sounds. He thinks the electorate want to run towards the right, before they are even facing in that direction, never mind walking towards it. Ken Clarke, with all his failings at least has the electorate with him. Its not image here, it is stance - they like him, a lot. We must recognise this and give the electorate more credit for their preference than the simple issue of visibility.

James Hellyer

Oberon, if Ken Clarke has "the electorate with him", please explain this:

"Today's ICM poll shows that Lib Dem support stands at 21%, a drop of one point since last month. But when asked how they would vote in a general election involving Mr Clarke and Mr Brown, some people said they would switch to the Lib Dems. The poll shows that faced with the pair at the helm of the Conservatives and Labour, Lib Dem support would rise four points to 25%. Labour, on 40% this month, would drop two points under Mr Brown, while the Tories, currently on 31%, would fall one point under Mr Clarke. That is disappointing news for both parties, though Labour's rating is an improvement of 2 points on the party's 2005 general election performance. The Conservatives fall back three points.,9061,1573241,00.html


I would like to hear Ken Clarke set out what makes his views different from the Lib Dems, he seems to support some of the points (policies) that give me the reason not to vote for them.

Is Mr Clarke strong on law and order or does he like the Lib Dems agree with full voting rights and other more ridiculous things like pornography for any prisoner that wants it.

What do KC and DC think about local income tax for example, I always wondered what would happen to second home taxation if it was on local income tax and to those workers who are paid in dividends or outside the UK but reside in the UK.

Is the Tory party to become the Lib Dems with teeth in order to become elected? If so what teeth are acceptable or not 'worrying'?

Mark Oaten said 'Everyone likes Charles Kennedy' in a e-polix interview, but personally I find him a bit dopey and it's behopes his wife wouldn't have another child if he was the PM seeing his performance after the last one.

Wat Tyler

A couple of points:

a) when people keep on about Ken polling four times better than DD, they overlook the fact that these same polls show Ken would also lead us to a fourth serious defeat vs Brown. Frankly a couple of [percent difference in the margin of defeat is neither here nor there.

b) The whole point about DD is that he will move us forward. He believes we can best tackle Britain's social issues by embracing the new agenda of radical public services reform/localism spelled out in say "Direct Democracy" (see also Nick Herbert's piece in the latest Reform Journal - ). Ken would basically replay the- and I'm sorry to say it- failed over-centralised approach of Thatcher/Major/Brown.

The future, not the past. As even old Billy Rees Mogg has grasped (see eg,,1052-1786875,00.html ).

Come on guys- we can do this. But reaching for the Ken comfort blanket ain't the way.

Oberon Houston

BBC Reporting of poll:


Conservative leadership contender Ken Clarke is four times more popular with ordinary voters than his nearest rival, a BBC Newsnight poll suggests.
Of those questioned, 40% said Mr Clarke would make the best leader, compared with 10% for David Davis and 4% for David Cameron and Malcolm Rifkind.

The poll suggests 20% of people would be more likely to vote Tory with Mr Clarke as leader, and 8% less likely.

ICM interviewed 1,007 adults at random by telephone between 2 and 4 September.

David Davis could lose the party more votes than he could gain, the poll suggests.

Are we seriously going to ignore such results? (ps, James - how do you get your italics?)

James Hellyer

Ken's scores four times more highly than Davis (although this is largely down to recognition). I don't think anyone disputes that.

What they do dispute is that this popularity translates into votes. Polls, including today's Guardian poll, indicate that it doesn't.

Selsdon Man

Oberon, the polls that you quote are out of date. Ken benefited from a campaign launch "bounce". The Newsnight poll has been superceded by recent polls for the Independent and Guardian. They indicate that Clarke would not beat Brown.


But Davis wouldn't either so who cares?

Midnight Blue

Nobody can know what position the party will be in under any leader by the time of the next election. Opinion polls now are completely useless when it comes to predicting an election that is probably a good few years away.

James Hellyer

True, but the Clarke caucus are using opinion polls to justify his candidature ("he's popular!"). Unfortunately those same polls show that an imaginary Clarke leadership would still lose heavily against an imaginary Brown leadership. That may not actually be the case in four year's time, but it's the case *now*.


Opinion polls have shown time and time again that Clarke is the most popular choice amongst swing voters, Tory voters and the population as a whole. Having a popular, heavyweight figure at the helm will renew our self confidence and make us look less like a self interested little club. Frankly, if we continue to treat the British public with disdain, ignoring the results of elections and opinion polls then we will have only ourselves to blame if we lose for a fourth time. Personally, I am sick and tired of being stuck in opposition and even more sick and tired that some people would rather indulge their right wing intellectual purity than consider seriously how to return to Government. We cannot handle many more crushing election defeats. Or will 'no compromise with the electorate' once again be the motto of this leadership contest?

James Hellyer

"Opinion polls have shown time and time again that Clarke is the most popular choice amongst swing voters, Tory voters and the population as a whole."

They've also shown that the party does the same or worse when people are asked about their voting intentions under a hypothetical Clarke leadership.

People may know who Clarke is, sonme may even like him, but there is *no* evidence that this translates into people voting for him.


You're going after Bennite Strawmen there, Disraeli. The reason why most of us object to Clarke isn't his lack of intellectual purity as any reason why people would vote for him as a Tory over anybody Labour or Lib Dem - he's an echo, not a choice. That isn't to say we want a Right-wing maniac (even if some of us might be there), but we do want somebody who can present a Tory agenda in an attractive, coherent package. Clarke can't do that - he's not especially Tory and he's not at all intellectually coherent.


The virtues of having a charismatic individual with a positive public recognition are there for all to see. I have not yet seen any of the leadership candidates set out a vision beyond any empty platitudes. We have 3 years to set out an intelligent philosophy to prove ourseles able and deserving to be back in Government. Elections are not won by having rats of policy though. They are won by having a man at the helm who looks a credible alternative PM (which Ken does) and creating the impression that people will be better off and the economy and the public services are in safe hands. We have now had three leadersfrom the right of the Party, all of whom have been electoral disasters, all of whom promised to lead the PArty from the centre before indulging in some kind of 'core vote strategy'. More of the same really should not be an option.

As for Ken not being particularly Tory. He is certainly in the grand Tory tradition of Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan, Butler, Macleod, Oakeshott et al. The fact he is not in the same camp as such utterly un Tory individuals as Hayek and Herbert Spencer does not really concern me. For Goodness sake, he was a radical reforming Minister in the Thatcher and Major governments.

James Maskell

I think both Oberon and Peter Littleton put it right in the bullseye there. There is a big split in the party between modernisers and traditionalists. This split is undermining the Conservative party as a whole. At least with Labour, the electorate basically know exactly whats going to happen in the next few years. They know Gordon Brown will move into the Premiership. However with the Conservatives, in the eyes of the people I know, the Conservatives dont know which way they are going and thats only goiong to help the Lib Dems. After watching some of their conference yesterday I am struggling to understand how they can really be electable... The Lib Dems have done pratically nothing in recent times and yet they are still registering similar poll results.

I know the leadership want desperately to disassociate themselves with any other party, this being easiest to do by being right wing, but is it in the best interests of the party's electorability? I dont think so.

I see the modernist/traditionalist split as more dangerous than the Europe split. Its more likely to end up hurting worse because with Europe, right now its on the backburner so the dispute can die down...however the moderniser/traditionalist debate wont stop until the leadership decide to do soemthing about it. Either that or we could have a repeat of the Corn Law dispute...its extremely unlikely to happen but there have been calls in the past to split.

I say if you cant beat 'em, join 'em.

Wat Tyler

"Personally, I am sick and tired of being stuck in opposition...We cannot handle many more crushing election defeats."

Disraeli- I think we all share your frustration, but it's just that we just don't agree that Ken is the obvious solution. He's well known- popular- true. But the polls don't show that would translate into votes.

And yes, we do have "3 years to set out an intelligent philosophy to prove ourselves able and deserving to be back in Government"...but I'm afraid Ken just wouldn't do it. He's one of nature's Big Beasts, and like many Big Beasts, he already know all the answers.

Now I think you're pretty sceptical about the value of such a policy platform anyway- "Elections are not won by having rats of policy" (not sure where the rodents come in, although it's a great picture).

But I'm afraid we've just got to have those policies. I can't go for the idea that Ken could somehow blag us into power on the basis of "I'm a cuddly Beast- trust me". We'd end up at the next election with the same thin policy prospectus we've had in the last two, albeit with a LibDem flavour.

Honestly- if I thought Ken was the easy solution, the frustration we all feel might make even me swallow my misgivings about his convictions. But I don't think he is.


Wat, That should have been rafts... excuse my lamentable typing.

I think you should give Ken a little time during the campaign to set out his thinking around public services and other such matters. People are lambasting his policy platform before he has even presented it - particularly in speeches on health and education in the next few weeks.

Likewise with Mr Davis. I am a big fan of his. He has impressed me greatly with his performance over the past few years. Whenever I have come across him, I always admire his charm, intelligence, political acumen etc. If it was Davis versus any of the other candidates I would have no hesitation in backing him. He was my choice before Ken entered the race. However, I really do think that Ken has the star quality that is needed to win elections. He has a wealth of cabinet level experience which the public will respect. DD is a risk, a gamble, an unknown quantity with most of the public. I am not sure that we are in a position to be able to take a gamble like that when we know about the considerable qualities that Ken offers and the Party is in a pretty precarious position.


Disraeli: I'm far from suggesting that Ken's not being a Hayekian or a Spencerian is the problem. But he's very very far from being in the tradition of Oakeshott (if that isn't - and Oakeshott would heartly disapprove - a category mistake).

I do think that he is a little in the tradition of Churchill and Macmillan. But is that anything to be too happy about? One can marvel at Churchill's statesmanship at the right moment, but more generally he was a political disaster, and was a Liberal when that was a viable option. His time as Chancellor was marked by the most bone-headed financial policy this country was to know until Barber (Clarke was on the backbenches by then). Macmillan followed Churchill only after deciding that Mosley's fascism mightn't work. He became PM by first backing and then knifing Eden over Suez (compare and contrast with Newman's definition of Toryism). He started British economic policy down the road that brought us to the 1970s by refusing to accept a few spending cuts from Thorneycroft, massively embarassing the Government in the process, and created the National Incomes Commission (hardly an measure in keeping with Oakeshott, ahem).

Disraeli, though? I don't think so - if he was, I'd be impressed. But he's really a 1970s holdover. He wasn't, as I recall, such the radical reforming minister his supporters like to suggest - in the case of the NHS, he carried forward an agenda that was mostly agreed by the time he arrived. In Education, the same; at the Home Office, he was the last in a long line of apologists.

Oberon Houston

Be honest now (no peeking at the answers) and take the test, for each quote or press comment below, is it IDS or DD that they are talking about or is being quoted?

1. Observers view his signals as an attempt to appeal beyond his core vote.

2. Quote “The party has allowed itself to become caricatured by our opponents as a narrow sect.”

3. Quote “we must develop a broad appeal”

4. Quote “I want to unite the Conservatives with the Tory Party front bench open to all talents.”

5. Quote “The Tories need to shed the associations of past failures and broaden the party's appeal.”

6. Quote “Conservatives must preserve their principles while accepting the need for change.”

7. His vision for Britain's future may be perceived as too right wing for him to appeal to enough of the general public to take the Tories back to Downing Street.

8. Ancram Quote: “I believe him to be the candidate who can best unite our party, who can best reassert our core Conservative principles and who is best likely to deliver the changes which can create the springboard to victory at the next election.”

9. Lord Baker said that victory for either Mr Clarke or **** could split the party.”

10. The bookmakers make **** favourite.

Answers – all the above relate to the previous leadership contest, and IDS. Does there seem to be a familiar ring to what is happening this time round?

Oberon Houston

Come on, another Right Winger, how many defeats will it take before we learn. The public don't do Right Wing.

James Maskell

Tis strange indeed. I was going DD all the way there, although whether DD would actually do what he is quoted on is a different matter entirely...

Lord Baker was very wrong though about it with IDS united the party in kicking him out!

Oberon Houston

Food for thought. Would Ken really be that bad? Depends if folks on the right are willing to play the long game I suppose. Its easier for me being a centrist, however, if the public prefereed right wingers, I would be flexible.

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