Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Not So Quiet On The Tory Front

As a decent, honourable person I have tried over the last few weeks to ignore the endless speculation over the Conservative Party leadership. Alas, my determination to focus the efforts of the centre-right on the real issues of the day, like the European Constitution, like taxation and all the rest of it, have been met with failure.

So, in the time-honoured tradition of lone voices like myself, I say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

David Davis remains in front at this stage, gaining some kudos in my mind for encouraging the party to tone down the rhetoric on the future leadership. The real movement is occuring amongst the 'anyone but Davis' camp, as that is what the likes of David Cameron and Malcolm Rifkind amount to. The latest news, which is growing in the public consciousness since the good people at conservativehome.com broke it, is that some kind of Cameron-Rifkind-Clarke axis is being engineered. There is little doubt that this kind of triumverate would be overwhelmingly backed in the parliamentary party, but again there is the niggling problem for the Westminster elitists that the grassroots wouldn't fall for such a scheme.

Then there is the reforms to the Party's constitution, which would see power centralised even more to Central Office (if that's what we call Party HQ nowadays). We really do not want to follow the Blair model of central control in our political campaigns. I firmly believe that we should do the exact opposite, and bring power back to constituencies. Part of the disillusionment of people from politics today is that so much of it is conducted in Westminster corridors and party headquarters, a long way away from Main Street or suburbia. If local parties were given greater powers over who they wanted as their candidates and how they distributed their resources, then future Conservative MPs might be more likely to become thorns in the side of the leadership, but they'll be damn good constituency representatives!

But perhaps the leadership is a different matter. After all, Conservatives in Glasgow or Newcastle might want someone different to Conservatives in Berkshire or the South Downs, because their political priorities are so different. My mind is still open to changes in the way we elect a leader. Yes, constituencies should have a say, but maybe not the final and decisive say. I don't like all this talk that the grassroots were responsible for Iain Duncan Smith. Back then, it was a choice between him, a careful and measured Eurosceptic who had risen to the top by an extraordinary combination of luck and others' failure, or Kenneth Clarke, a Europhile who would have been completely inappropriate. If the liberal wing of the party had a problem with Duncan Smith's election, then maybe they should have been a bit more sensible in how they approached the 2001 leadership contest, and maybe they should have dealt with Michael Portillo slightly better and embraced him as part of a Clarke-Portillo union. Instead, they spent the next two years moaning and groaning.

The Conservative predicament is that we have a tonnage of talent. We have so many famous faces on our benches, so many bright stars, so many intelligent thinkers, so many popular men and women that it is nigh on impossible to find a true leader with all of the qualities needed and whom all sections of the party can embrace. We have potentially a myriad of centre-right policy ideas at our disposal, on education, on healthcare, on taxation, that our problem may become summoning the kind of confidence we need to present these ideas to the British people.

If a leader emerges with talent and ideas, as well as a vision which he or she believes in and has the confidence to propose to the party and the nation, then the Conservative Party will be cruising into government in four or five years' time, and its leader shall not only become Prime Minister, but shall be remembered as one of the greatest reforming leaders our society has ever had.

The opportunity is there. Let us grasp it!

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