Ken Clarke is not one to be hurt by rejection. Is it third time lucky for the cigar-toting ex-chancellor? His problem is that he is, perhaps mysteriously, genuinely popular in the country, except for in one small corner of it: the Tory party.
There are several obstacles facing Clarke. One, that I think should be dismissed, is that he is too old. Gladstone, Churchill and all that. Age, especially in our anti-discrimination age, should not really be an issue.
Many media outlets are describing him as 'left-wing' - clearly to make him beyond the pale for most Tories. I am bemused by this description of Clarke. His actions in government were hardly those of a union-loving, beer-and-sandwiches, bleeding-heart pinko. Just ask the health workers.
My colleague Blimpish lists another one of his negative qualities: his 'Euromania'. Again, this supposed flaw makes him unpalatable to Conservatives. But, as Ann Widdecome, no less, pointed out on the Today programme this morning, he is a man who voted against the Treaty of Amsterdam and who has said that there is no chance of the UK joining the Euro over the next ten years.
And if one judges a party by its actions rather than its rhetoric (surely the best way of judging a party), then the gold star for Euromania over the last forty years goes hands down to the Tories, with Labour a very pale and distant second. Once the Tories cooled their enthusiasm towards Europe sometime post-Thatcher, their electoral success, until then unquestioned, went rapidly down the pan. Labour filled the vacuum as born-again Europhiles, and hey presto, the door to Downing Street swung open. (Okay, I'm not claiming a simple cause-and-effect, but just ask yourself when a stridently Eurosceptic party did well in a general election).
Clarke's biggest and almost certainly insurmountable obstacle is not that the country would not accept him as Prime Minister (it quite likely would), but that his party will never stomach him as leader. Unless, that is, it regains its famed thirst for power that makes it take a more pragmatic approach to its own principles.