Monday, October 03, 2005

Bald men fighting over a haircut


The Tory leadership election yawns into action today, as the five candidates get to strut their stuff at the party's conference. So, who's going to have the pleasure of leading the Tories into a hung parliament (as predicted by Yours Truly some time ago)? Is it going to be the The Fat One, The Posh One, The Nasty One, The Boring One, or The Other Boring One? (The Other Other Boring One, David Willetts, has pulled out to back his near namesake, David Davis.) Here's Oscar's handy cut-out-and-throw-away guide to those Tory hopefuls, for those of you who still have the energy to care.

Kenneth Clarke
Pros: The most recognised of all the candidates. Charismatic, with his yawning delivery and brown shoes. Experienced in government. Seen as approachable and jovial. Effective Commons performer.
Cons: Seen by many as arrogant. Those with long memories will recall how he managed to upset, in turn, teachers, doctors and the police (sadly not enough to get himself arrested) while in government. His long-held pro-Europe views will alienate him from the rank-and-file, and probably cost him the job the last couple of times (his recent attempts to distance himself from Europhilia may not convince the party electorate). Strong links with British American Tobacco, which makes him morally bankrupt to some, and is already causing him trouble. Not many friends in the Commons - he may win the support of the public only to find his colleagues stabbing him in the back all the time. One more thing: he's older (slightly) than Michael Howard, who resigned because he would be too old to lead the party at the next election.

David Cameron
Pros: Young, likely to appeal to a broader electorate (but see below). Intelligent and quick-witted. Has set out his stall as a moderniser, trying to drag the party into the 21st century. An ICM poll has marked him down as (just) the most popular candidate. Most likely to do the 'Compassionate Conservatism' thing without looking stupid.
Cons: May be seen as too young (although this didn't stop the same voters picking Hague as leader). Eton-educated, which may cancel out the appeal of his youth. Has hardly got his seat on the green benches warm. Barely known outside the political world. May have lost his impetus with Clarke joining the race.

Liam Fox
Pros: Solidly right-wing, which may appeal to the membership.
Cons: Seriously lacks charisma - not boring, but hardly a man you'd want to share a tent with.

David Davis
Pros: Seen as the front-runner. Good credentials - brought up on a council estate, went to a state school, time in the army. Backed by representatives of both the right and the left.
Cons: His early surge means he has everything to lose. Seen as somewhat uncharismatic. May also be too old (he will be sixty at the next election). His position as front-runner may win him enemies as well as friends. People may struggle to place him on either wing of the party, making him suffer a sort of 'LibDem' effect.

Malcom Rifkind
Pros: Erm... look, someone's got to make up the numbers.
Cons: Practically everything. Seems a nice enough chap, but can you see anyone taking his bid seriously? (He'll go and win it, now I've said that...) His biggest impact may come when he decides whom to support after giving up the contest.

Oscar's opinion (don't worry, I'm not always going to refer to myself in the third person): none of the candidates looks ideal - all right, it doesn't take a genius to work that out. Labour might fear Clarke the most because of his popularity in the country in general (I've heard non-Tory voters express an interest in the party if he wins). However, Clarke is well known as a divisive figure, and he could cause the party to self-destruct even further. Davis looks like the safe choice, but he may end up looking like the boring choice as well - and the last thing British politics needs is even more boring people. Rifkind doesn't stands a chance, Fox looks like he's in a perpetual fit of pique, and Cameron looks like all the bad bits of Blair put together without any of the saving graces (I'm sure Blair must have some saving graces - I just can't bring myself to look hard enough for them).

There isn't a right choice among them. Which would be great news for Labour, if the economy weren't on the point of nose-diving, Blair wasn't so universally despised and the whole New Labour bunch hadn't so obviously run out of ideas about six years ago. The LibDems lack credibility in their leadership (Kennedy's only delaying the inevitable), and no other party is close to power. If the Tories get it wrong yet again, however, it may be the end of their pole position in British politics, and we might even expect to see Labour officially fragment into Government Labour and Opposition Labour. But that's looking rather far ahead. History teaches us that the most likely thing is another swing of the pendulum and a Tory Prime Minister looking smugly over his natural domain.

[FOOTNOTE: Worth reading Blimpish's take on the leadership contest.]

[UPDATE: Ho, what fun. The contenders are now comparing themselves to brands of soft drink. An apt analogy, I would say - fizzy, very bad for you, forgotten as soon as you've finished with them. Good God, Big Brother has more integrity than this...]


Blogger Brownie said...

speaking of Politicians, (and bear in mind please, that I am far far away) I have just read online of the continuing David Blunkett surveillance and welcome opinions from anybody closer than I am: 1.the poor man is single for goodness sake, therefore it hardly matters what he does at night, so why is there so much interest in it?
Are blind people not allowed to have sex? 2. why does he not have a Minder to fend of those who might take advantage of him?

12:30 am  

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