Bill's Archived Comments

Monday, 16th July 2001

Conservative Leadership Contest

The third round of voting by the Parliamentary Conservative Party took place on Tuesday 17th July for the leadership of the Party. The results were:

Candidates in the Third Round of Voting

1st Vote
2nd Vote
3rd Vote
Kenneth Clarke
Iain Duncan Smith
Michael Portillo

As a result, Michael Portillo is excluded from the next round of voting, which allows each member of the Party in the country to choose between the final two candidates remaining, Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith.

I have mostly been a supporter in recent times of Ken Clarke as he seems to share many of my views on how this country should be approaching its relationships, existing and developing, with the European Union and the other and potential member states. However, I strongly believe that to concentrate so much on this one issue, as we have done for at least the past four years, has been to the long-term detriment of the Party both in terms of its internal cohesion and its electoral prospects. This important issue will ultimately be decided by, hopefully rational, analysis of the long-term economic and political interests of this country, not by unyielding dogma on one side of the argument or the other. I have my views on what such a rational analysis will eventually provide as a guide to this country's best future course of action, but I consider there are more immediate issues at stake for the Conservative Party.

Prior to the most recent round of voting, I had come to the conclusion, though,  that Michael Portillo was the only candidate for the Leadership of the Party who stood a moderately good chance of developing policies with which a renewed Conservative Party could hope to win a national election in the relatively near future, say the next 8-10 years. Of course, much may happen in the interim to dent the Government's popularity and, eventually, its electoral success.

However, as Michael Portillo will not be one of the two candidates in the round of voting to come, in which all Party members will be eligible to vote, the hope must now be that Kenneth Clarke will succeed, both to put in place his policies, but equally importantly to ensure that Iain Duncan Smith does not become the Leader.

Whilst I share much of Ken Clarke's views on Europe, and much else besides, I do worry he will be unwilling to take the radical steps to modernise certain of the Party's policies which have resulted in it becoming so out of touch with too large a segment of the voting population. Having said this, he is MUCH preferable to the other candidate, Iain Duncan Smith.

Although on balance I think Ken Clarke would prove a good and reasonably successful leader, if elected, but not as successful as Michael Portillo would likely have been, it will be an absolute disaster if Iain Duncan Smith, who seems to have particularly reactionary views about many subjects, is elected - whilst I have not absolutely made up my mind, it is highly likely I shall resign from the Party if he becomes its Leader. The Conservative Party has been written-off many times before, but I fear this really could be 'crunch time' unless the Party membership wakes up out of the dream world it seems to inhabit.

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