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« What big injustice should Tories tackle? | Main | The Conservative road to social justice »


James Hellyer

You are right that the Party should be grateful to Michael Howard. Although his leadership cannot be hailed as an unqualified success, he did succeed in imposing unity on the party and making us look professional again.

Perhaps more importantly, on a personal level. Michael Howard endured the wearisome slog of opposition while all to many of his former cabinet colleagues deserted the party in its hour of need to hawk themselves to the media or take city directorships (and typically while remaining as a parliamentary bedblocker).

To repay him with a knife in the back (while simultaneously talking up some of those bedblockers as a replacment) is simply insulting.

Just as the parliamentary party's refusal to trust the party membership in leaadership elections speaks volumes, so would another round of regicide. Neither would say anything good.


I think to ditch Howard now would suggest that Tory MPs have learnt nothing from his leadership. Which was the first time the party had been well managed since 1992.

Whenever things start to go well we always have to screw it up somehow.


Like everyone MH has made mistakes and I think his resignation,the protracted leadership battle and taking away the members votes are the greatest.
However he has as far as I'm aware always acted in what he thought would be in the best interests of the party and to knife him now would be both dishonourable and stupid.
If we find that supporters of one of the leadership candidates are behind it then I for one will do everything in my power (admittedly negligible) to prevent that person acceding to the leadership.
It's been said that supporters of IDS may be engineering this but why?
IDS may be bitter about what happened to him but he seems to me to be a perfectly honourable person who could still have a senior job in a future Conservative administration.Stabbing Howard in the back is not going to do him any favours.
The events of the past few weeks make me want to weep!


In my lifetime Heath, Thatcher and Major were chosen as leaders via a leadership contest. All three became PMs after winning the general election. Hague won the leadership via a contest, but never won a general. Michael Howard was the one uncontested leader to stand for a general election, and he lost. This historical record is hardly evidence that the Tories should shy away from leadership contests.

We'd all like a consensus leader to emerge, but how likely is this ever to happen? Given that a contest is usually inevitable, we should embrace contests and try only to keep the rhetoric within bounds.


The longer the leadership contest lasts the less time is spent in doing the job of being an affective opposition. Howard was wrong to say he was going to resign but not now, only when he has changed the method of selecting his replacement, only when the party has decided what it wants to be for or against, if the party has to ask that question then it is not longer conservative.

Peter Hitchens says;
“The Tory party does not know what it is supposed to be opposing. In fact, in general, it has either supported or failed to oppose all the most important actions of New Labour. These are constitutional, moral and cultural, and they are the real issue.”

“You cannot properly defend, say, constitutional monarchy if you have no idea why you believe in it and do not understand why your opponents hate it. You cannot effectively oppose the introduction of identity cards unless your every instinct revolts at the imposition of these oppressive breathing licences on a free people. I cannot imagine how a British patriot could have a moment’s doubt about this, yet serious Tories of my acquaintance have blown around in the wind of fashion, this month against, last month for, and who knows what next week? They cannot even understand patriotism properly.”

The bottom line is the Tory party is not going to win over the people unless it comes up with convincing policies based on the unarguable truths that lie behind true conservative principals. Whilst the party is spending this time deciding its own future, Tony Blair is working toward making sure that conservatism has no future in Great Britain.

Where is the conservative voice on the announcement that no one with out permission will be allowed to demonstrate within half a mile of Parliament, on the reintroduction of ID cards, or on the removal of the right to trial by jury. The issue of the EU encompasses every major area of political choice, where then is the Conservative voice on the recent problems with the ratification process and the scraping of the promised referendum on the constitution by Blair so that he can then bring in many of its most important proposals without putting them to the people.

Kevin Davis

I see no problem with the 'timetable for Change' (sic). The fact is the party needs some space to think through what it stands for but also to understand a bit better who might be the leader.

When the party selected IDS it is my view that the rank and file thought they were getting a right wing arch europhile who had taken over from Norman Tebbitt in Chingford.

What has emerged, through the work he started as leader and continues today, is a man committed to the cause of social justice. This is a good thing but it highlights the difficulty of choosing a Leader based on their perceived reputations or past deeds. I say caution is needed. The term 'One Nation' is being flung around by all the potential candidates but it is useless to us unless they have a vision for the country that can deliver it. I think we need to keep them under the spotlight for a little longer to see what they are really made of.

As for being the opposition? Well at this stage in the Parliament I do not think the press are bothered what we say. Theresa May could ride naked on horseback up the Mall protesting about the exclusion zone and I doubt she would get many column inches, although she would of course get arrested for protesting. Incidentally does this now mean that MP's are not allowed to demontrate their dissaproval of pieces of legislation?

Paul Marks

There is no question of "stabbing Mr Howard in the back". Although (of course) that is exactly what Mr Howard did to Howard Flight-first accepting Mr Flight resignation (which Mr Flight should never have offered) from his deputy chairman position because of media spin on some rather mild comments at a meeting, and then (some time later) getting a henchman to telephone Mr Flight back and inform him that he would not be allowed to stand for Parliament (as a Conservative) again. This was a violation of the position reached in the first conversation (between Mr Howard and Mr Flight).

As the House of Commons was sitting at the time, Mr Howard was also in contempt of the House (because of his action against a member of that House - Mr Flight), still let us leave aside this matter, and all the other incidents of so called "unity" which involved acting against Conservative candidates without the consent of their Constituency Associations.

Mr Howard has formally stated that he is to resign - he is going, he is out.

A man can not be "stabbed in the back" when he has already eliminated himself (well I supposed he can, but it is a bit of waste of time to stab a dead body).

Mr Howard's support among Conservative members of the House of Commons fell to 4 (including himself) at a recent vote upon his "suggestions" for changing the party rules. No leader of any political party has had such a low level of support, in a vote, in British history.

Does Mr Howard really wish to cling to the title of "Leader of the Conservative Party" for several more months? For what purpose?

Paul Marks

On the matter of policy I agree with what people have already said here.

The Conservative party can not be an echochamber for New Labour supporting (or half supporting) I.D. cards, the end of trial by jury in "complex cases", laws against speech judged to be capable of inciting hatred against people of a certain religion (oh yes, there is already talk the vital need for us not to be seen as to "hard line" and "out of touch" on this one)and so on.

On government spending: "Spending more than Labour promised to spend" (John Major) and matching Labour's spending pledges on virtually everything has not worked very well at the last three general elections.

The people who like all this spending vote Labour or Liberal Democrat, and many of the people who do not approve of all the extra spending stay at home because "the Conservatives are no better" (remember the opinion polls before the last election that showed that most people thought we would put taxes UP).

On the E.U. - either we are in favour of the nation or we are not (one of the few quotes I like from Dizzy is "the Conservative party is a National party or it is nothing"). Sovereignty is not a dirty word and the E.E.C. - E.C. - E.U. has proved a very different thing from E.F.T.A. or N.A.T.O. (although it seems keen on claiming N.A.T.O.s achievement of peace in western Europe over the last fifty years).

Also, either we in favour of deregulation or we are not.

If we are in favour of deregulation we must be in favour of taking powers back from the E.U. - that is where Mr Howard is quite correct.

But of course this should be done whether our "partners" agree or not. As they sell us far more than we sell them, they are in no position to make threats of trade sanctions.

Alexander Drake

Sorry, Paul, I can't agree they were 'mild comments'. Regardless of what the policy issue that Flight was discussing was, the fact that as a shadow cabinet member he went off-message at a public gathering at a an absolutely crucial time when the alternative government was under the media microscope.

Because of what he did, regardless of whether you agree with what he said or not, he let the team down. He had to go. I can't believe that people think going off-message in the leadup to a general election is acceptale behaviour! Where is the hunger for staying focused and WINNING among these people?????


Paul,MH is staying in post because he believes it is in the interests of the party to do so. There is obviously absolutely nothing in it for him personally only pain.
I find your description of Flights comments as 'mild' extremely disappointing.I take it you approve of lying to the electorate when it's over a policy you like.
If that Mandelsonian way of behaving catches on in the Conservative party then I'm off,we are honourable or we are nothing.

Malcolm Shykles

The problem with the leadership debate on this website is that it is Conservatives talking about the Conservative leader that they would like.

No thought is given as to the leader the Country would like.

As the contenders fight among themselves to get top of the pile one comes to the conclusion that there is not anything of any great significance to separate one from the rest.

Any leader of Napoleonic ilk would never have the patience to sit on all the necessary committees to get to the top of any political party.

It is the Ken Living-stones of this world who get to the top.

I therefore suggest Frederick Forsyth for leader!

He would get popular support and with the right deputy we could have a really strong chance of winning a General Election, which may not be as far away as most seem to suppose.

You're a complete moron Malcolm

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