Monday, October 17, 2005


As Conservative MPs vote tomorrow in the first ballot for a new Conservative leader, I commend to them some thoughts by Mark Shields, an American journalist, on the pattern followed by parties which lose elections. He was thinking of the American Democrats (who he usually supports) after George W Bush's re-election, but the comment is every bit as applicable to British Conservatives

His suggestion is that parties which lose elections go through four phases:

1) We woz robbed

2) Blame the communications

3) Blame the leader/candidate

4) Find a Winner

I've had a bellyful of phases one, two and three. Whether there is any justice in them or not, they don't work.

It's bad enough that we have already had eight years of Blair and Brown and face another four or five. The country cannot afford another five years after that of lies, spin, broken promises, wrecked pensions, excessive bureaucracy, bulldozing the North and concreting over the South, no dentists, stealth taxes, and threats to freedom in the name of security. We need someone who can persuade the sort of people who used to vote Conservative, but don't now, that he can be a good Prime Minister.

There is more than one candidate in this election who may be able to do that. The important thing is not that the person who emerges has to be my first choice (who would be Ken Clarke) but it is vital for the health of British Democracy that we have a strong opposition, and that means that the two names put to party members have to be people who can appeal to the whole of Britain.


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