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« Good for me and good for my neighbour | Main | George Osborne hits all the right notes in first major economics article »


Cllr Graham Smith

I think you are being a little unfair on Michael Howard who, I would suggest, saw fragmentation of the Parliamentary Party as his biggest challenge. And he rose magnificently to that challenge, "upping the game" on the floor of the House and bringing new strength and discipline that has led to the Party becoming very professional in the way it has fought recent elections.

This approach might have brought terrific results in the 1992-1997 Parliament. However, Michael Howard's abject failure to connect with the British people in a media-led age, coupled with the way he failed to seek a mandate from the voluntary party having seized power from its elected leader, should have been forseen and tackled by senior staffers in both Michael's private office and Central Office itself. What has happened to all the experienced agents and campaigners? Sudden and unexpected changes in tactics and priorities during Michael Howard's leadership make it seem like Central office is largely staffed by interns and failed Parliamentary candidates running around like headless chickens. And surely that cannot be true?


Graham, MH had many qualities. I just don't think that strategic sense was one of them.


While I think you are being a bit harsh,your analysis is sadly correct about the 'scatter gun' approach.
We can be very grateful to Michael Howard for reintroducing discipline into the parliamentary party and I hope that whoever suceeds him will maintain this.
But I hope we have learned the lesson that concentating on the individual failures of Labour ministers is never going to be enough to persuade large numbers of the electorate to vote for us.We have to offer an alternative and campaign for those alternatives wholeheartedly.
I felt that we didn't really believe in abolishing University fees or delivering tax cuts ourselves so how on earth were the public supposed to believe it?
Also if the leader feels he/she has made a mistake as I assume MH felt he had on Iraq then it would be better if they admitted it.The verbal contortions we had to watch during the election were extremely depressing and one of the reasons I think we were so heavily beaten.
On a more positive note,thanks Editor for creating this blog, I expect to see some interesting debates in the coming months.

Derek Buxton

What discipline? Sacking Flight for talking of tax reductions, which, God knows, are a requisite for a healthy economy while listening to Clarke prate on about the "virtues?" of the EU. He also shamefully neglected large parts of the UK in the run up to the election
By the way, he assured me in an e-mail that he would be tough on the EU, then ignored it.

Cllr John Ireland

I must be one of the very few who told MH that I disliked him intensely prior to the election.

That I followed him surprised even me but I must admit that he did a very reasonable job prior to the election in bringing the party together. We failed to win because of points already made above and they are too numerous to mention further but suffice to say that we did give it a damn good go.

MH resigning the way he did has however placed us back into the doldrums, and of course the Westminster children are all circling waiting to come in for the kill so we are back to the self seeking, back stabbing that we have become famous for since we stabbed Maggie in the back.

We need to go back to the right of the political spectrum and stick to it.


Agree with everything you say Cllr Ireland, post election when will we ever learn?
MH was right to fire Flight,Mr Buxton, because he wanted to be less than honest.We will NEVER deserve to win anything by being dishonest with the British people.We have to try and bring a bit of honour to British politics otherwise we are no better than Blair.
Re your comments about Clarke,I don't understand them,he played a minimal part in the election campaign and Europe was hardly an issue.

Sean Fear

Flight's comments could be interpreted in more than one way. They certainly didn't merit withdrawal of the party whip, which should be reserved for conduct which is either unethical or grossly disloyal.


I'm sorry Tim but your pal Duncan Smith was an absolute disaster and did almost nothing to improve the party, and was not even able to keep the parliamentary party on his side.

What Michael Howard suceeded in doing is reversing the 22 year long decline and make parliamentary gains.

Had Duncan Smith continued in the leadership the possibility of the Conservatives disappearing as a political force would be a very real one.

Howard did about the best he could in such a short period with so little to work with. He did not have the time to establish a coherent strategy, the Duncan Smith Easterhouse strategy you so admire made almost zero impact, in fact i doubt if anyone outside the politicos can even remember what Easterhouse conservatives stand for.


This wasn't about trying to defend IDS, Edward... although I'm happy to!

The pertinent comparison is with MH and William Hague.

MH was leader at a time when voters were much unhappier with Labour but he hardly increased the Tory share of the vote.


ok fair enough i just feel 18 months is far too short to make big changes in the share of the vote, what MH did was make the party professional, turning votes into seats in a way WH did not.

Alexander Drake

I find it fascinating that parliamentary party leadership changes seem to paralyse the internal party culture so badly! At the end of the day, surely what unites party members is greater than whatever divides them? Why is it beyond the parliamentary party to manage leadership transitions without all this angst?

Part of that, I think, is that the party membership feels it lacks a tangible stake in their (our) party. Why not elect the party chairman (and take it out of both the parliamentary party and the shadow cabinet) popularly instead?

The party membership will feel it owns its organisation, come what may with the leadership of the parliamentary party (and in turn they can get on with their task at hand fighting elections).

James Hellyer

"What Michael Howard suceeded in doing is reversing the 22 year long decline and make parliamentary gains."

No, the parliamentary gains were the result of effective local campaigns and heavily targetted resources.

Nationally, the election results were disastrous for us. The electorate were disillusioned with Labour and we failed to offer them a desirable alternative.

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