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*chuckle* There are indeed rather a lot of Tories who have become the political equivalents of the Jehovah's Witnesses - but I reckon Ken fans would be deluding themselves if they thought these polls would have any chance of becoming an electoral reality. "The poll suggests 20% of people would be more likely to vote Tory with Mr Clarke as leader"...20%!? Only in the most feverish part of their imaginations...


I'm touched by your concern for the party. No, really, I am.

Many of us have a sneaking liking of Our Tone because he's quite conservative and he manages to stand above the fray in many ways; many of us dislike Clarke because he's a throwback to the 1970s - not because of any ideological impurity, but because he's in a timewarp. These polls tell us little because of the rather limited knowledge of the people they're asking (this isn't dismissing the Great British Voter - they're lucky enough to have better things to know about than Tory leadership candidates). Further, many opposition party voters view the question very abstractly as if "who's the most likely to make me vote Tory?" regardless of the fact that they never would - hence, that 20% number Shuggy rightly finds questionable.

Third Avenue

You are both right in guessing that my support for Clarke is somewhat of the tongue in the cheek variety, but still..

Of course, the 20% increase is silly, but it is a pointer. And it should be a real, real worry when compared to the woeful figures for David Davis (surely I'm not alone in having an IDS flashback?). If I were a Tory (note the 'if'), I would not dismiss so lightly the positive impact of being substantially ahead in the polls for a considerable time, which would undoubtedly be the case with Clarke (although the lead would fade, of course). The impact on morale, the negative impact on Labour morale, would give the party an enthusiasm and at least a sense that power was possible that it has not had for a decade. Can the party really afford another few years still trailing a dominant Labour?

Blair is a conservative? Quite possibly, though it's brave of you to admit it... Clarke a throwback to the 1970s? Hm. I remember Clarke well in power. Cabinet minister under Thatcher and Major, scourge of the unions, 'architect of the economic success that Labour inherited' etc, etc. 1970s? I don't quite see it.


"Scourge of the unions": precisely. Tilting at windmills stuff. "Architect of the economic success that Labour inherited": check the polls - people put Labour ahead on economic competence, although not by as much as they used to put the Tories ahead, because that war's pretty much over.

If it weren't for the Europe issue, Clarke would've been a good leader in 2001. He would've got us back into the game much more quickly, and we'd have probably ended up winning twice as many seats as we actually did (leaving Labour with say a 30 or 40 seat majority, but still in power). And then he might've gone and we could've gained the political credibility and sought the Prime Ministerial credibility I think he'd lack were he leader.

And it isn't for ideological reasons I say "if it weren't for the Europe issue" in 2001 - back then, the issue was still extremely live, and it was only really with Howard that the party finally stopped wanting to murder each other over it. If Clarke had become leader at that time, Europe would've bubbled under the surface for a year or two, before collapsing the whole party into civil war and schism.


It's obviously Europe that divorces Clarke from a large swathe of the Tory population, although I note figures like Heseltine, Patten et al don't really have many parallels on a broader level within the party nowadays, which I'm not sure is healthy (the "left" of the Tories now seems to be firmly on the right, and not especially centrist). Of course, if Hague hadn't stood in 97, had done a deal with Clarke and been Shadow Chancellor for the first Parliament, Gordon Brown wouldn't look so tough, and the Tories would be in much ruder electoral health.


True Ken, but the bloodbath that would've resulted wouldn't have done us any good - not to mention the possibility of the UK joining the Euro


Well, I think one of the difficulties of the Europe question is that it cleaved the left of the Tories from the party almost totally. There's no good reason it should have done - Europe isn't really that much of a left/right issue - but it's left the party in a pretty parlous state. Now, when Europe is so important to the Tory membership, granted, it was impossible for Clarke to lead the party. You couldn't be so much at odds with your members. Strangely, though, it may have worked electorally for the Tories. It would have stopped Blair from getting away with his fudging of Europe.


"The impact on morale, the negative impact on Labour morale, would give the party an enthusiasm and at least a sense that power was possible that it has not had for a decade." - I would agree that he could have provided this perhaps if they'd gone for him the first time. He would, for example, been surely better - or at least more fun - than the disappointimg Michael Howard? But the brutal truth is lovable Ken is too damn old and represents the past too much and that's the last thing the Tory Party needs...


Ken: ah, but as far as I'm concerned, Blair fudging Europe has worked a treat in the long-term. Drift, drift...

Shuggy: yup.

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