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« Has David Davis driven the final nail into the coffin of Michael Howard's reforms? | Main | Lord Hodgson's case for democracy »


Daniel Vince-Archer

To my eternal shame, I also voted UKIP at the Europeans but I defend that by saying that those elections are when Europe is the major issue and not merely a relatively minor issue in a much broader spectrum, as is the case in local and national elections.

If Ken hadn't toned down his pro-European rhetoric (yes I have fallen for it) then I would probably be against him becoming leader too - however, now that Ken has acted to effectively neutralise the issue, people really ought to start looking at the bigger picture and considering which candidate as the best chance of reconnecting the party with the British public instead of constantly harping on about Ken's views on such a relatively minor issue.

Oberon Houston

I think there is a little bit of denial going on here. All the evidence consistently points to Ken Clarke being the most popular candidate with the public at large. Not because he has had more air time, was in Majors Govt, smiles nicely or can pop buttons off his shirt by leaning back. People like him because they will trust a Conservative Government more if it is led by him. We must be careful to separate reality from wishful thinking.

I can appreciate that blogging is a good mechanism for airing all kinds of views (and very interesting they are too), but let’s try to separate the following out:

(1) What YOU would like, and,
(2) What the POPULAR ELECTORATE would like

The Popular Electorate are afraid of Radical Tories, and that is why we have done so badly against New Labour, and why they like Ken. It is natural for people to be concerned about change, to preserve the status-quo and prefer limited change so they have stability and plan for the future. I would argue that this is also one of the founding principles of the Conservative Party. Currently we SAY there will be limited change (which people like) – but they don’t trust us to stick with a limited agenda. What they are really concerned about is a Tory Government exceeding their mandate and pushing through a radical agenda. I would prefer to be in power with a limited mandate, than spend my days treating politics as a free for all spectator sport whilst Gordon Brown runs the Country.

Daniel Vince-Archer

Selsdon - at the moment it seems that Cameron and Rifkind are slugging it out to be the 'stop Ken stopping Davis' candidate.

Ultimately, I believe Ken will become the 'stop Davis' candidate of the left, Davis will become the 'stop Ken' candidate of the right and Fox will emerge as the 'stop the in-fighting' unity candidate coming through the middle...


I came from a family who always voted Tory and I voted Tory back in 1992 when I was 20. But the last 4 leaders including Major have been dull, incompetent and visionless. I have since switched to the Liberal Democrats and yet I find it a shame that the Tories are so weak and so unwilling to modernise. Surely picking an experienced and popular leader will help. As for splitting the party - I'm sure that was used against maverick figures like Churchill and Thatcher before they became Tory leaders and PMs.
Picking David Cameron or David Davis will simply be picking someone who is too young and inexperienced at this stage (remember William Hague)or someone too dull and right-wing (remember IDS?). Still at least you will keep what's left of the party together and continue as an ineffective opposition.

James Hellyer

"James, I really think you need to let this one go - the result of the poll is as clear as the area between George Bush's ears."

Yes, it is clear. It tells us that Ken was most popular at the time the poll was taken. That is about all it does tell us. It doesn't say which candidate would make the best leader, or which would actually win people over. The "swing" figures, beyond being influenced by factors already mentioned, are hypothetical - none of the candidates have laid out their platforms, so nobody knows whether they are things they would be persuaded to vote for.

What you dismiss as "spin" is an attempt to analyse what Clarke's support is, where it's from and how strong it actually is. In paying attention to the headline figures, you ignore that. For example, it should be pointed out that Clarke is up 12 points from the last Populus poll. It's obvious the massive publicity that coincided with his launch gave him a boost, but everyone here seems keen to ignore these details!

James Hellyer

"What makes you think Mr Clarke isn't simply telling people what they want to hear."

Because his track record shows that he believes it?

Daniel Vince-Archer

James, I agreed with you that recognition factor played a part in the poll result and I agree that Ken has been boosted by the blaze of publicity, however I refuse to accept that these factors and the other factors you identified are wholly {sic?} responsible for the outcome of the poll.

James Hellyer

They aren't wholly responsible, but they are a huge amount of it (the media launch alone accounts for a third increase in Clarke's support between Populus polls).

I think the three key factors are recognition, greater appeal to the left, and being a bloke. The greatest of these is recognition, because the others depend on it.

The comparisons between the candidates really aren't very sound at the moment, because this is effectively a beauty contest where only one beauty has stepped on stage yet. That advantage should go when other candidates declare themselves.

Colonel Blimp's son

Kenneth Clarke is a typical example of political oppurtunism.
"I've been a Europhile all my life, but now I'll repent so that you can vote for me"

Sounds very much like Tony Blair, who was a CND member, but now sings a different tune about the virtues of nucleur detterence.

Selsdon Man

Ken's polling is remarkable, particularly amongst young voters, because he has not had much media exposure in the last 8 years. His great strength, like Ronald Reagan ironically, is to be able to engage the public with his personality. The other candidates are simply not registering with the public. The only other Conservative who could compete with Ken in the popularity stakes is the "new" William Hague.

James Hellyer

Ken's polling with "the young" might owe something to his stance on Iraq (which was extensively publicised while the poll the conducted).

Oberon Houston

Every reason except political outlook has been ventured so far.

James Hellyer

"Every reason except political outlook"

... because Ken Clarke has not laid out a policy platform. I therefore fail to see how anyone can actually *know* his political outlook and what it means for them.


We need far,far more 'young' in our party James.At 43 I'm one of the younger members of our association.

James Hellyer

"We need far,far more 'young' in our party James"

Then I'd better not be driven out ;=)

Oberon Houston

James, I get the feeling that we are dancing around the issue here. So let me spell it out. A Conservative Party with a (1) centrist manifesto and (2) gains the trust of the electorate will win the next election. Without both of these things it will lose. Ken can deliver both.

Now its in the nature of politics to be able to debate these things until everyone is blue in the face, but, to me, and the votes on legs out there on the street, its obvious.

James Hellyer

"A Conservative Party with a (1) centrist manifesto and (2) gains the trust of the electorate will win the next election."

(1) is an assertion

(2) is obvious

Neither leads to the inevitable conclusion that Ken is the one.


You won't be going anywhere James,where else is there?

Oberon Houston

1) An overwhelming percentage of the electorate voted for just this in May.

2) The Newsnight poll says Ken is by far the most popular with the puplic at large. That was the point of the poll. This is because he is the only candidate with a proven track record in (1) above.

Right wingers say that the reason we did so badly in May was because we were not giving the public a proper alternative to Labour. I say its because of them undermining trust with the electorate that we lost. We can only attract votes from the centre, so why are a faction within the Party so determined to drive them away year after year after year, election after election after election?

James Hellyer

1) What alternative was given?
2) No it doesn't show that. See above posts.

"Right wingers say that the reason we did so badly in May was because we were not giving the public a proper alternative to Labour. I say its because of them undermining trust with the electorate that we lost."

The two are not mutually exclusive, so that is a false dichotomy.

Studies of the polling data from the elction showed that our policies were often preferred to Labour's, but we weren't deemed competent or trustworthy enough to carry them out. Our tax pledges are an example of this.

"We can only attract votes from the centre"

The centre is the midpoint between two positions. Moving towards it just moves it closer to the other side's position.

"so why are a faction within the Party so determined to drive them away year after year after year, election after election after election"

Why oh why do you have so little faith in Conservative policies and values?


Quite right Oberon. It is like the left wing of the Labour Party arguing in the early '80s that they could only win by becoming more Socialist, in complete defiance of all available evidence. The left in the 1980s and the right of the Tory Party today are almost angry with the electorate for failing to endorse their programmes. Elections in the UK are won on the centre ground. It is no use expecting the British people to have an epiphany moment and come round to a curious brand of neo-liberalism. We need to heed the lessons of the past two elections that the British people did not like what they saw in us otherwise we have no divine right to remain a popular party of Government or even the major party of opposition.


Excellent point... someway up the page by Disraeli (shame he isn't available to stand by the way :-)). If David Davis & Liam Fox aren't known after years on the front bench then clearly they have been doing something wrong if their ambition is to be PM. Cameron gets the slight get out in so much as it is understandable he is less well known.... but that doesn't help him win the leadership.

To EU Serf - there is a heck of a lot more to Conservatism than the European argument. Do you want a PM who is centre right, or a PM who is centre left and a Tory leader who can't win an election (when the other party have just entered a vastly unpopular war).

James Hellyer

"Elections in the UK are won on the centre ground."

I'm sure that well known centrist Margaret Thatcher will agree...


"I'm sure that well known centrist Margaret Thatcher will agree"

Against a far left Labour Party in 1983 and a very left wing Labour Party in 1987, Thatcher's Tories was viewed as the more moderate and centrist of the two major parties.

James Hellyer

No, the centre ground moved and Labour later moved with it. You propose moving towards Labour (i.e. the left) and fighting them on their ground, so they set the terms of debate, and can argue them with more conviction because they actually believe in big government. That sounds like the 70s where we lost elections.

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