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« 'Blairite' Cameron targeted by his rivals | Main | The Mail and Sun keep their options open »



Tom, it is exciting. At last it's underway and with the prospect of a Cameron victory, I'm raring to get back on the streets of Durham City again to persuade people to vote Conservative. And this time like I really mean it!

Wat Tyler

This really IS turning into Big Brother.

Remember guys...whoever wins has to do the actual job afterwards.

Justin Hinchcliffe

Ed. to back Fox.


I too think the editor will back Fox but I'm also very interested to see who Selsdon Man is going to back,I'm genuinely flummoxed about his intentions.


Question isn't just why would an MP vote for Davis but why would anyone outside of the core vote do so? General public are attracted by more by personality than policy (as long as policy doesn't seem threatening) - Cameron & Fox are young and will still be attractive to voters in 4 years - especially against grumpy Gordon - Clarke will be even more overweight and out of touch. We've tried hard young man (Hague), right wing (IDS) and experienced (Howard) - but none of them were attractive to wider voting party. Cameron & Fox could be - its worth the gamble.

Jonathan Sheppard

I keep hearing that personality is more important that policy - and whilst image is important I agree, doesn't issue such as Iraq highlight that perhaps issues are important.

It doesn't matter what the personality is like unless they have answers to climate change, the nuclear issue, etc etc.

Justin Hinchcliffe

Davis and Fox think they can win the next election by banging on about Europe and other 'core' issues. Global poverty, climate change and a libertarian social and economic agenda will win the day, but only Cameron and Clarke are willing to address such issues and following them through.

Justin Hinchcliffe

Davis and Fox think they can win the next election by banging on about Europe and other 'core' issues. Global poverty, climate change and a libertarian social and economic agenda will win the day, but only Cameron and Clarke are willing to address such issues and following them through.

Davis and Fox think they can win the next election by banging on about Europe and other 'core' issues.

Unlike Cameron banging on about the EPP and repatriating powers, eh?


I don't see much difference in broad policies across the four - smaller state, more efficient public services etc. (except perhaps in Europe) - big differences are between parties. But there are big differences in the public personas of the four - in likeability. Labour still won last time despite Iraq, health, education, law - most voters still liked Blair more than Howard. The Tories don't have unattractive policies they have unattractive salesmen for those policies.

Jonathan Sheppard

Ted - I have to say in the constituency I fought no one really cared who the Tory leader was.

I can't beleive it was all the leaders fault that we did not win power and my seat didnt see a swing to us. Surely policies have a role.

The believe that you change the salesman and not the product and your sales will shoot up isnt always true.


Jonathan, you say quite correctly that policies have to have a role as well as the leader in winning over the electorate.

However, opinion polls as highlighted by Maude's conference speech (I am hesitant to mention his name in support of any argument...) show that Conservative policies were popular until they were found out to belong to us. I think that shows, to use your analogy, that a change in salesman and sales pitch could have a dramatic effect upon sales.

Selsdon Man

I have been waiting to see if a candidate will address my key concern - how to transform the grassroots party into a dynamic campaigning force.

That is the real modernisation that is needed. I have been disappointed that it has not been addressed to date.

So far, each candidate has taken the line that it depends on electing him and adopting his policies. That, to me, is not enough to win the next election.

We need new members and activists to rebuild the party in Scotland, Wales and the major cities. That is the way to recruit ethnic minority candidates who can make a real difference in their communities. Imposing "representative" candidates from the centre will be recognised as mere tokenism.

Only when we address these issues can we can be a force in local and national elections. I hope the final two candidates will address them and that will determine who I cast my vote for.


Jonathan - if we'd had a leader attractive to a wide public - able to sell the time for a change message - how many stay at home voters might have turned out and how many lib dem voters might have voted tory? 40% of the public weren't interested enough to vote - if a couple of per cent of them had turned out we might have had a hung parliament. Research shows people like the policies till they hear they are ours.

Selsdon Man

"Only when we address these issues can we can be a force in local and national elections" - again in Scotland, Wales and major cities other than London.

Those answers will probably not satisfy Malcolm.

Jonathan Sheppard

Mack I think in a way we are both right. I work for a high street retailer in Government Relations. In retail you learn that you cannot make people like a product just because you think its the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Successful retailers are those that give people what they want when they want it, where they want it and at a price they will pay.

Now those who are far more intelligent than me will tear my analogy apart. BUT....

In politics I think that your brand is important. Companies spend millions promoting and protecting it. It is easy for it to get tainted - and it doesn't matter who is in charge once its tainted - it will take a long time to recover (Gerald Ratner springs to mind). We need to spend time building trust back into the Conservative brand.

In my estimation we have had is it four leaders facing Blair and not won. We can be like the football team - swap our manager and expect better results - but we need to look at other things. (Sorry another bad analogy).

Our party has failed to grasp the agenda on a huge number of issues - such as Charities, Corporate Social Responsibility, and we need to re-engage with people on issues that they are saying are important. If people can say – the Conservatives are coming up with some novel ways of building in environmental protection – then people will see that we care (and we do) and we can be trusted (and we can).

There are various opinion polls - some highlight that there would be no difference in an election if we had either Cameron or Davis standing against Brown. It would still be a Labour victory.

I get worried if as a party we are going to go down a route of selecting a leader because we think they can make a difference and sell the "same product" with a different sales pitch.

Selsdon - you are absolutely right. We have to rebuild from the bottom up. Associations need to modernise, and we need to adopt modern campaigning methods and so on. Agre 100% on that one.

James Hellyer

Research shows people like the policies till they hear they are ours.

This mantra is really quite tiresome. People liked the sound of our policies like the one on immigration, but did go off them when they were associated with our party. The reason for that is that we gave undue prominence to issues like that which ranked low on the public's list of priorities, and focussed on narrow grievances. The agenda and its emphasis made us look petty and irrelevant. The solution is to change the agenda.

Selsdon Man

Thank you Jonathan.

My experience, confirmed by PPCs, is that many associations (especially those who lost their MP in 1997 and have not won the seat back) do not know how to campaign. Some agents I have seen are administrators rather than campaigners. That is not necessarily their fault. Major investment in training activists and agents is absolutely vital.

Call centres and voter vault is a good start. The party needs to invest in a web based alternative to Blue Chip to enable canvassers to send in their returns online. Association need an interactive websites that engage local voters, recruits new members and motivates activists.

To deliver that change we need to be sure that the new leader can deliver it rather than just talk about it.

John Hustings

Politics is a messy business. I've been trying to figure out which is the best result for me

Now, I have long been in the ABC (Anyone but Clarke) category, but as time has gone by, that has changed to ABCC --anyone but Clarke OR Cameron.

I like both Davis and Fox. Fox would probably be my first choice (ideally). But since I am primarily an ABCC I'm looking to get the most electable one through to the final two. I am still not convinced that Davis is unelectable (despite polls putting him last). For this reason, I expect right-wing MPs to share this view and to stick with Davis for now. Thus I expect him to retain his 66 backers or do better).

So, wanting a 'right-wing' candidate in the final round, Davis still looks like the man. (If Fox made the final round, it inevitably means facing Cameron, which means death, because Cameron is a shoo-in amongst members.) The worst possible result for me would be a Cameron-Clarke run-off.

So this means I reluctantly come to the view that I want Fox knocked out first round.

If Fox gets knocked out first round, then all the right-wing vote will switch to Davis and won't be split. This will give Davis spare MPs then to knock out whichever opponent he fears most. At the moment, this is Cameron. Although he is vulnerable against both.

This means voting for Clarke might (perversely) be a good idea for right-wingers at this stage. Similarly, voting for Clarke in the second round may see him through to the final two. Despite Ken's popularity, I still expect Davis to beat him, as the Ken-haters would outnumber the Ken-lovers in the membership, even if their liking for Davis might be slim.

However, this is very risky. The LAST thing we want is a Clarke leadership. That might well kill the party. But it also might be the only way to avoid a Cameron leadership.

Is there another option?

Well the other option is the hope that Fox might fare better against Cameron in the final two, and voting for him on principle. But I somehow doubt this. Cameron is the media darling and is runaway favourite with members.

Thus I come to the conclusion that all Fox supporters should throw their weight behind Davis now, as it is the only way of avoiding a Cameron leadership, which, in my opinion, could be almost as disastrous a Clarke leadership.

So today I am peversely rooting for Clarke to beat Fox (something I never expected).

Selsdon Man

Jonathan, you are right about charities too. They are the key to outreach and recruitment. Our members work hard for local charities and are not the nasty, nationalist, racist and sexist people that the left wing media and some in our party claim. They should be encouraged to recruit neighbours, friends and relatives rather than dismissed as out of touch.


I totally agree we need to address people's real concerns, look at climate change, social deprivation, civil liberties, the third world (where DR Fox sounded really good) - we need a changed agenda within core values BUT we also need someone who has the skills and personality to sell that agenda. I personally can't see DD being able to do either a changed agenda or attract voters - he looks and feels like Major re-visited - KC is too old uninterested in change and, unfortunately, fat - could see a Michael Foot moment at the Cenotaph. Dr Fox might - but he could be pushed into the right wing corner as Hague was by the press. DC is an unkown - attractive but will he be able to manage the parliamentary party? Do we gamble to win ? or is it to be a managed decline under DD or KC?

Selsdon Man


We must back whoever wins. There is no point attacking candidates who we disagree with. Retaining the unity we had before the election is vital. That is why I have attacked the personal abuse in postings that I have seen on this site. The editor, rightly, has taken action to deal with it. Fairness, enthusiasm and discipline should be the hallmarks and legacy of this campaign.

Selsdon Man

To return to Mr Davis, his declared backers should back him or publicly declare that they have changed their minds. Sneaky defections and tactical voting will undermine the contest and damage the reputation of the Parliamentary party.

James Hellyer

Sneaky defections and tactical voting will undermine the contest and damage the reputation of the Parliamentary party.

But it's traditional!

John Hustings

Selsdon Man,

One of the main reasons I fear both Cameron and Clarke is that they could be divisive and result in the in-fighting that has so badly damaged the party in the past. A little foresight to try and avoid this is not necessarily a bad thing.

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