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« Ken Clarke and Liam Fox get a web-start | Main | Francis "Maud" encourages preparations for rejection of leadership election rules »


James Hellyer

I think all three of those rumours are bunkum.

Rumour one would ensure Howard's leadership ended on a sour note. If he has any eye on posterity, it's hard to see he'd act like that. It's easier to believe that his myrmidons would rumour it to try and bounce activists into backing the reforms.

Rumour two is barely credible. I have a great admiration for Michael Ancram, but hold no illusions that he could command the respect of enough MPs to get through to the final two or that the grassroots would support him (although he is tremendously popular with them). Like the vaunted Leigh candidacy, such a bid would be doomed and would ensure the views of the fragmented Cornerstone bloc carried less weight than ever before.

Rumour three... well, Dr Fox would have to REALLY hate David Davis before he sided with a europhile who's unsound on the Iraq question.

As for the Hague endorsement, Hague won't endorse another candidate while Fox is still in the race, in my opinion.

James Maskell

I dont know enough about the main people in the Conservative Party to comment on the second and third rumours but the 1st one will not happen. If you change the name Michael Howard for Francis Maude or Monbiot we might be getting somewhere but not Howard. Why throw away a reasonably good General Election performance with a childish tantrum like that?

If he did that he wouldnt be known as the man who made a huge comeback from backstage wellknown politician to being Leader of the Opposition. He'd be known as the man who couldnt control his party and abandoned it instead of co-operating with the conflicting elements. He is too confrontational to be a diplomatic style leader.

Wat Tyler

Talk about the Devil making work for idle hands...

One thing's certain- whoever wins has to remind us pretty sharply that we need to get into line and focus our combined efforts on returning to power.

The brittleness of proceedings at Blackpool this week underlines the opportunity for us. We're not just a motley band of romantic protesters. Most of us actually share some gut philosophy. And at long last we can see the outline of how once again that philosophy is relevant to modern Britain. Particularly in the vital field we so long abandoned- social policy.

Oberon Houston

A very good comment Wat regarding how poorly the Lib-Dems current position is, however they remain a significant threat should they ditch the left-leaning policies and get a leader than know's how to woo the electorate better than Kennedy. The vultures are circling for him - he's just not party leader calibre. I'm hopeful that our conference will be a much better event than the Lib-Dems weel-long wake.

On the Michael Howard rumour, is it not too late to make threats now, or are the Convention still mulling over their choice? When is the result due, is it the 29th.


No it's due on the 27th.Do you still want MPs to have control Oberon? I am beginning to think that the only way Clarke will win is if its in the hands of the members.

Michael Fishwick

Oberon, I share your views on the Lib Dems as well as real frustration that such a third rate Party led by a third rate leader continue to attract significant support. Although I would like to see David Cameron as our next leader, I can't help enjoying the thought of A Brown led Labour Party and Clarke led Conservative Party obliterating Lib Dem support - a General election under such circumstances would see them in meltdown. Imagine Kennedy following a Brown v Clarke exchange at PMQs!


You are right Michael that would be a real heavyweight clash and would have our party taking seriously again. If we were to follow the little known right winger route again I imagine the Liberals would be licking their lips at the opposrtunities provided.

James Hellyer

Sadly thes Clarke-ite fantasties are not supported by the very polls you use to champion his candidacy using the superficial argument about "popularity".


Is popularity superficial James?God help us!

James Hellyer

The argument is superficial, Malcolm. You know, the one that goes "Ken is poular, polls say so, therefore he should be leader".

Michael Fishwick

James, as no one outside the Conservative Party is giving the slightest thought to the Tory leadership, I don't think the polls can tell us very much. The reality of Brown and Clarke as leaders would surely be to make the Lib Dems irrelevant?


Michael: "... as no one outside the Conservative Party is giving the slightest thought to the Tory leadership, I don't think the polls can tell us very much." I think that was James's point?

As for Brown and Clarke making the Lib Dems irrelevant: hardly. It could have the opposite effect. We're only now getting past the negatives associated with 1992-1997; Clarke has the potential to dig them all up again. All of the disaffection with Labour might go to the Lib Dems as the only party not involved in refighting the 1997 general election.

Michael Fishwick

Yes, I agree with James on Clarke and polls. They don't tell us anything: just because they dislike one candidate a little less than another is irrelevant because they aren't planning to vote Conservative anyway (as things currently stand). I'm not supporting Clarke but I can imagine Charles Kennedy waking up in a cold sweat at the thought of him attempting to compete against two liberal conviction politicians.

James Hellyer

"I think that was James's point?"

Your subtlety must be catching!


The Conservative Party should be led by the person who best represents the whole party. We are not the Focus-group Party and never should be. Blimpish is right about the danger of choosing another leader who was intimately connected with the disastrous Major years. What we need is a fresh start with the best available leader who has support from a large number of MPs, and the majority of members. It is looking at the moment as though David Davis is going to be that man, though Liam Fox is another very good candidate.

John G

I don't completely agree with you Derek. Many people have said on here that Conservative policies are liked until people hear their provenance. That means two things: (1) the Tories have a bad image (wow, stop the press); and (2) people don't know what the Tories are putting forwards.

We would be on our way (no more than that, I accept) to solving these problems by electing a leader who can communicate popularly with the electorate - which also means that the electorate must want to listen to him/her.

These polls saying different things are bandied around, but I think many people (although perhaps not on this site!) would argue that Ken Clarke fulfills these criteria.

On the other hand, Davis reminds me very much of Merkel. At the end of the day, she failed because the single interesting/inspiring thing about her was that she was a woman, and people saw through that over a campaign. I am yet to meet any "normal" people who think that Davis engenders any inspiration/interest other than through his personal narrative. I think, in the long term, this will be a problem.

Fox is articulate and sensible, and might be able to build a bridge to the electorate if given more time than some of our last leaders. I remain optimistic about his prospects.

Wat Tyler

Johnrepeats the oft heard statement that "Many people have said on here that Conservative policies are liked until people hear their provenance"

I want to take a proper look at the evidence for this- does anyone have any net references?

James Hellyer

Try this story, Wat:

Lord Ashcroft's report "Wake up and Smell the Coffee" also contained similar material (but you have to pay for it):


Of course popularity matters. It is a kick in the teeth (if not lower) that Fox & Davis haven't got it despite being high-profile front benchers.

A couple of elected Conservatives I've heard from are backing Ken. I get the impression that they view Ken as the leader who can win us the election, but that a balanced (shadow) cabinet can keep the party a tight unit.

Lets not forget that Ken will not be a lone figure, Davis, Fox, Rifkind, Cameron, Osbourne, Letwin would still be senior and influential.

..... but I still prefer Cameron :-)

James Hellyer

It's a condemnation of the Clarke camp's arguments that they rely on alleged popularity. The ICM and YouGov polls prove this popularity is just recognition. Clarke's popularity does not equal votes.

As for this tired claim that opposition politicans have failied if they aren;t recognised, that's just bunkum. People simply don't know who most politicians are.

Shifting public attitudes, such as the steady erosion of the Conservative deficit in trust on health under Fox, however, does prove their success.


Populus did ask voting intentions under Clarke and Davis. The figures were as follows:

With Clarke as Conservative leader people would vote CON 37%, LAB 39%, LD 19%

With Davis as Conservative leader people would vote CON 33%, LAB 43%, LD 18%

Enough said!


If this popularity is just about recognition James, why is Ken also leading amongst Tory activists (Telegraph) and Tory constituency chairmen by 2 to 1 (Times)? Surely they all recognise Davis, Fox and the rest of them as well?

Sally Rideout Baker

Howard giving “a reasonably good General Election performance”? Someone was watching a different show.

I would like to point out that Iain is still the grass roots elected leader. If Ken Clarke comes through to win and we were once more asked to choose between Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith the prospect would be another Duncan Smith victory!

It seems to forgotten on these pages thaat IDS had a 3 to 4 percent lead over Labour, a figure that Howard never even approached.

It was an extremely foolish act to go against the wishes of the members and the flight of Conservative voters to the Liberal Democrats is the responsibility of both Howard and fellow traveller David Davis.

Davis may have the coerced support of many MP’s but I doubt if the members will support him.

Conservative voters are looking to defeat Labour and at this moment the Liberal Democrats look the better option.


"People simply don't know who most politicians are"

Since there are over 640 MPs, I'd accept that people probably don't know who *most* politicians are.

But if we are considering what what we might refer to as senior politicans, then there is evidence to suggest that a greater public awareness exists than has otherwise been suggested.

This poll from 2000 makes moderately interesting reading:

It shows that a very high percentage of respondants had "heard of" some of the most senior politicans in the country.

Obviously, saying you have heard of a politican when prompted with a name is a different proposition from being asked to name senior politicans without a prompt, but I think the comment "People simply don't know who most politicians are" is too sweeping a statement to offer, unless there's something to back it up.

James Hellyer

"If this popularity is just about recognition James, why is Ken also leading amongst Tory activists (Telegraph) and Tory constituency chairmen by 2 to 1 (Times)? Surely they all recognise Davis, Fox and the rest of them as well?"

Because they are being bounced by the media brouhaha following the Clarke campaign launch and the succession of polls showing his "popularity".

If you tell people things often enough, they believe them.

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