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Frederick Forsyth doesn't know what he is talking about.

There are many ways to power, and many ways to then using that power for good ends.

Thatcher was *very* timid, or perhaps you should really say 'prudent', in her elections promises in 1979. The radicalism didn't come out till later. That was smart. She had to get elected first.

John Major and Iain Duncan-Smith had very colorful backgrounds. Major, the son of a trapeze artist, was a ruthless operator who dropped out of school at the age of 16, had affairs with fellow ministers as he clawed his way up to Downing Street. IDS killed people in Northern Ireland and Rhodesia. Neither proved to be an electoral asset.

Leadership can come from the strangest quarters. Even from pampered boys like Cameron.

And even if you accept Forsyth's psychology, he completes overlooks the birth of Cameron's handicapped son. His real ambition seems to have been born only then.

In Mr. Cameron's character I do see fire, ambition, arrogance and a streak of ruthlessness. E.g. the very decision to run for the leadership when there was little evidence of gaining traction. I do not believe he is 'nice' or a push-over in any way. Mr. Osborne, his right-hand man, seems even tougher. You can tell a man by the kind of friends he picks.

Mr. Davis on the other hand, although he shares Mr. Forsyth's humble background and adventurism (although only as a young man: Davis then went for a safe middle-management career and Tory politics during Mrs T heyday, neither particularly risky courses of action), A) does not inspire loyalty among his colleagues, B) is a bumbling, uninspiring, poor speaker and even worse TV-operator, C) and gives no evidence why he might attract new voters to the Conservative Party.

Mr. Forsyth should realize that, in today's Britain and as a Conservative, it's better to be an iron fist in a velvet glove, than the other way around.

Mr. Forsyth forgets that we fought with hard-right manifestos in 2001 and fared appalingly. Then chose an even harder-right Action Man to replace Hague and fared even worse in the polls. Then chose a tough solicitor who has the hanging Home Secretary to fight the election based mainly on immigration. We lost again. Has Mr. Forsyth taken note of this?

PS: If you think that being sent off to boarding school at the age of 7 is the definition of the 'easiest...most struggle-free' upbrining England can provide, you're not entirely with it.

Michael Smith

Thanks for the kind remarks, Barbara - I've never been accused by anyone before of being a Ken Clarke supporter, but I can't say it's a wholly unpleasant sensation.

I just wanted to pick up on one point from your post, which is simply this: we obviously differ in our experience of Davis's Parliamentary colleagues and the 'rank and file' members who encountered him during his tenure as party chairman. I have met many of both who actually very much wanted to like him and to find something compelling in him, but who instead simply found a bit of bluster, a lot of arrogance, and in short not much to admire, respect or wish to follow.

Compared with all sorts of people - not excepting my newly friend Ken Clarke! - lots of leadership candidates enjoy a coterie of very devoted, commited Parliamentary colleagues and friends. I don't think that is true of Davis, although of course I may be wrong.

In all seriousness, I wish it were otherwise. I'm no Cameron supporter! It's hard, though, to argue that Davis did very well as party chairman - and if you can't run the party at that level, can you run it as leader? And I also regret that 'Modern Conservative' rhetoric, which had more than a whiff of pathetic 'me too-ism' about it.

Sorry to sound so negative. I do think that Davis was the better of the two choices on offer - I only wish the choices had been better, for all our sakes.

Michael Smith

IDS killed people in Northern Ireland and Rhodesia.

I would love to hear your evidence for this. Certainly, in Rhodesia, he was an ADC. Unless badly brewed tea kills, I doubt he did.

John Hustings

"Mr. Osborne, his right-hand man, seems even tougher."


malcolm thomas

OK Barbara I give in. It was.

Barbara Villiers


You gotta be kidding. Must be real tough - all that privilege. Guess I'm not with it.


My experience of him is very different I guess. He is much maligned and there is more than a bit of snobbery I'm afraid.

I think the chairman phase was not a happy one (didn't know him then)but members who meet him really tend to like him.

Well, we shall see how it all goes - I don't think the Coronation of the Prince is a done deal by any means but you can never tell with the electorate can you?


DD ignored me when I met him


Goldie you must be very young. IDS was 10 years old when Ian Smith declared UDI in Rhodesia and even a 10 year old fighting Zanu and Zapu would have been prosecuted under the terms of British Sanctions against a Rebel Colony.

Even as an Army Officer in later years he could not be there until Margaret Thatcher and Peter Carrington arranged to hand over Rhodesia to Robert Mugabe after the Lancaster House Conference, so don't overinflate his importance as a red-tabbed staff officer.

As for your fellow fantasist Jack Stone - to want the leader of the party to act like a cross between John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and lead the party over the next four years like its taking part in some sort of horrific World War One battle.

Why he is so fascinated by John Wayne I know not, but John Wayne would have had no time for Cameron or Stone politically, and Clint Eastwood did get elected as Mayor of Carmel and thus has more experience of running something than David Cameron, and as a film director has more budget experience too.

Cheer up Jack Stone you may well get your dream in a couple of weeks time and get to experience the long lingering death of the Conservative Party under the Trust Fund Boys.

malcolm thomas

Goldie. IDS was an elctoral asset. Conservatives went from 20% behing labour to 5% ahead, when he was assassinated. Under IDS Conservatives retook the lead in local council elections.

It was only the modernising wing backed by Murdoch and the media who eliminated him. The attacks from the media on his integrity (all false) undermined him just as he was hitting the high spots.

He was surprisingly popular. The revisionism current in nearly all media that ignore his undoubted appeal is wrong.

Barbara Villiers

It must have been that 'Cameron For Me' badge that did it!


Davis then went for a safe middle-management career

Funny I thought he spent 17 years at Tate & Lyle rising to Main Board Director...........and it was Tate & Lyle that funded the Tory Party throughout the 1950s - wasn't it through Aims For Industry ?

Somehow I think it was more substantial than PR at the producers of Coronation Street


There is a German TV Channel on satellite which broadcasts the News from 25 years ago - ie yesterday had the News Bulletin of 21 Nov 1980 with Iraq and Iran fighting

Well try this one

One Margaret Thatcher resigned this day in 1990 on the 27th anniversary of JFK's assassination


@Rick, if by 'very young' you mean I am of the same age as the Shadow Chancellor, well you would be right.

If Mr. Duncan-Smith in fact didn't kill anyone in action, my apologies. I distinctly seem to remember him saying so, however, but at my age you do start to forget things. The main point, of course, was that IDS has just the kind of background Mr. Forsyth looks for in a leader. It didn't do the Conservative Party any good. We should have gone for Clarke, Portillo, or dare I say it, Davis in 2001.

I didn't mean to disparage Mr. Davis's business career. I think it's an entirely respectable and in many ways successful one. (He didn't make it up all the way to the Board. As far as I know he only became a non-executive director of the Board when he became an MP in 1987. His position prior to that was 'Strategic planning director'.) My point was, in any case, that a business career like his: i.e. joining one of Britain's respectable large companies and then working there for 13 years isn't particularly "cruncy" or "daring", but is in fact very respectable and conventional. As was becoming a Tory MP in 1987.

As for those still defending IDS: well, I can see why you would want to vote for Davis then. I say this in all respect: IDS is a good man, I happen to know him personally, but he just wasn't cut out to be leader of the Conservatives. He should never have run in 2001.

@ 'Barbara': I must confess that I dislike debating with you, you have a very negative personality in my view. But in any case, Mr. Forsyth was talking about character, and how it's formed. He was saying you couldn't be any more coddled than Mr. Cameron. I disagree. It's the envy of socialism that makes people think 'privilege' equals 'comfortable'. It is, of course, not true. Being sent off to boarding school at the age of 7 is tough. Period.

Wat Tyler

If we ever get our own version of Fox News, I'd like to think there'll be a regular slot for Freddie. His Saturday morning Today polemics were the best thing on- until the BBC all too predictably banned him.

You can't argue with his basic point though. As that weekend Cameron dossier story shows, the machine guns have already been loaded.


What an utterley spurious argument from Freddie. I'm particuatly disappointed that so called Conservatives may have fallen for this one. (I was really looking forward to agreeing with Vince-Archer, Hellyer, and my new friend Barbara, this time.)

Is Freddie by any chance advocating exactly the same sort of social engineering that Conservative ought to fight as a duty, when it is frequently used by the loony left to justify unmeritocratic university selections: If its wrong that state school/less-priveledged pupils with worse grades (in this case, fewer beneficial leadership qualities)should as a rule, be given preferential treatment over those with better grades, and descriminate against those applicant from more private schooling. I though it was Cameron that was the "unprincipled" one.

I'm also the first to accept that Cameron isn't perfect, but surely any leader we elect must display the best of a variety of leadership qualities. Freddie's argument, that Davis's street-fighting nature and tough upbringing (which I consider a positive, but much of the public actually consider a turn-off), should make him everyone's automatic choice, is just insulting.

I like his writing style though...

Michael Smith

IDS is a good man, I happen to know him personally, but he just wasn't cut out to be leader of the Conservatives. He should never have run in 2001.

Au contraire - IDS should certainly have run, both to show the world for once and for all that Clarke's position on Europe was untenable for the majority of Conservative Party members (which he did, to a large extent), and to advance the platform on which he stood.

Had IDS remembered how he came to be elected, he might have lasted longer. As it is, he was responsible for his own demise, if only in his decision to elevate 'modernisers' like Mark MacGregor who had initially supported Portillo, and who had neither IDS's best interests, nor his own instinctive policies, at heart. That was what led to the leaks, the smears, and the detumescence of support in the country. And no, in doing that, the modernisers didn't really do the Party much good, did they?

Guido Fawkes

Some of the comments on this thread have been truly surreal. Marvellous.

Barbara Villiers

Oh, Goldie

You consider anyone who disagrees with you negative.

So you think going to boarding school at 7 made him a man did you? I have heard fatuous arguments in my time but that takes the cake. Believe me I don't envy his privilege - what kind of parents would pack off a small child to boarding school if they didn't have to? But let's call a spade a spade here, outside of the dreadful situaton with his child he doesn't have a clue about real life. If he did, he would have never supported tuition fees - imagine just ordinary working people with 2 children at university at the same time? Because of course it is not just the fees but the living expenses which parents have to fund. The alternative is starting working life with a huge amount of debt. All of which might be tolerable if the fees went to improving education but it would take £10,000 a year to do that. Because he has had things so relatively easy he has never had to struggle for what he wanted so his judgements are formed from his experience. But you know what, it's a tough world out there and easy charm doesn't always get you what you need. You only have to look at the petulant look on his face when he thinks he's being bested in debates or interviews.

I am not saying that he should never be leader - I just don't think he has the 'chops'right now. I also think that the touchy feeling Conservatism he espouses is so over. So, Goldie if you feel that's negative it's all in the perception. You're pretty nasty about David Davis yourself.


Tuition fees are an excellent idea, but they should be set by universities themselves, not by the state. Conservatives who are in favor of taxpayer funded higher education are really socialists.

Barbara Villiers

Mmm, you would say that.

From the way you spoke about boarding school I take it was personal experience. And how nice for you that your parents could afford it. What about all the other poor sods whose parents can't? Stuff 'em, right? So much for Compassionate Conservatism eh?


No, actually I did not go to boarding school. But it doesn't take much imagination, reading, or indeed talking to people who did you go to boarding school, that it tends to have a certain effect on character. Easy it is not, and so Mr. Forsyth's criticism is facile, and moreover, mean spirited because it seems to be born from a certain class-consciousness that we would do well to finally rids ourselves of.

PS: As for tuition fees, I don't just talk the talk. I got an advanced degree at an Ivy League university and I am still paying it back. It was worth every penny. That Oxford was essentially free for me, was ridiculous. I reaped great benefits from it, and middle class people whose children did NOT go to Oxford were paying for it.

Ed R

Daft article. Hague is our biggest and best Labour-smashing operative, and as much as I admire him, he utterly failed to make Labour even break a sweat. He was talking to people about issues the party wanted to talk about; Blair was talking about issues the people at large wanted to talk about. You can catch more bears with honey than vinegar.

Barbara Villiers

Bully for you Goldie and you had no help from mater and pater did you?

Oh, well, since my children (and thousands like them)were silly enough to be born to feckless parents who don't earn huge salaries they should end up on the scrap heap. Thanks for that, mate. Compassionate Conservatism at its very best.
P.S. Methinks you have been reading too much Dickens.


"Barbara", responses like your last one demonstrate to me that you are not here bona fide. You aren't interested in serious debate, but go for ad hominem, irrelevant attacks. I think you must be a Labour agitator or something. I shall no longer amuse you by responding.


Guido is right, this is surreal - I thought it was the Labour Party that dealt in the politics of envy.

Freddie went to Tonbridge School, RAF, local then national newspapers, a glorious stint for BBC in Biafra, where I thought he was a great reporter (he was fired accused of "making up" stories but more likely for annoying HMG) then author. So not a life without privilege. But his views were formed as a boy born just before the second world war, a man who spent his twenties in the RAF - they are closer to my father's than to mine. I don't think you only become a man of value through struggle & testing, either enforced or self imposed

David Davis is a self made man and deserves respect. Whether he deserves the leadership of the party is a different matter - character, experience are important guides, the ability to inspire, to build a team, set a clear strategy are among many others.

Some of us think he is suitable - more seem to think he isn't. I wouldn't be surprised if leadership election is closer than many think.

Barbara - sorry but I did go to boarding school ( not privilege but paid by Dad's employers due to lack of local schols in central Africa) . Believe me boarding school life is more like the works of William Golding than those of JK Rowling - early teen boys are not a good advert for communal life. Public school does prepare you if you are unlucky enough to spend some time at HM's pleasure :-)

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