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October 19, 2005

Whatever the final Tory leadership result, Liam Fox has won - says Watlington

Posted by Watlington

There is no doubt that David Cameron will top the second Conservative Party leadership ballot on Thursday. The only question is whether David Davis or Liam Fox wil come second and thus go on to face David Cameron when the Conservative Party membership votes as a whole. Watlington argues that the effectiveness of Liam Fox's campaign has certainly earnt him the right to be the one to go on to the final mass membership ballot. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

One thing clearly emerged from last night's first round ballot for the Conservative Party leadership, alongside Mr Cameron's unquestionable success. It was the emergence of Liam Fox as an authentic claimant to the Thatcher inheritance, as well as a serious proponent of compassionate conservatism.

Whilst Mr Davis has remained mired in the mud of machine politics, Mr Fox set out a vote-winning set of policies which combined healing the "broken society" with a healthy dose of Euroscepticism and economic conservatism. Mr Fox has also established a campaign team that has been extraordinarily effective. Team Fox has operated with dignity and cohesiveness and as a result has won new converts. Chris Grayling and Mark Francois, both rising parliamentary stars, have spearheaded the campaign alongside established names like Oliver Heald and Stephen O'Brien. Bill Clare, Mr Fox's Chief of Staff has expertly managed the media and Mr Fox's office.

Mr Fox has demonstrated a maturity that few thought he had. Above all he has set out his stall as a conviction politician in the new post-Blairite era. For these reasons alone, Mr Fox deserves to get through to the second round. His team are currently working furiously to win over some of Mr Davis's supporters. The response of Team Fox to yesterday's result was "against all the odds we have got over the first hurdle, now for the next one". Mr Fox has shown that he would indeed be a credible leader of the Conservative Party.

The truth is that Team Davis has not been as effective as it could have been. Mr Davis had an incredible story to tell about aspiration, merit and the Tory dream but has let machine politics get in the way. One MP described Team Davis as like a football team that is winning 5-0 and then sits back in the second half allowing the opposing team to make it 6-5, whilst getting a few of its players sent offside in the process.

Instead of bouncing back from adversity from the conference debacle, the whole post conference week agenda was about whether or not Mr Cameron had taken drugs. If Mr Davis does get through on Thursday, he will have to make some radical changes if he has any chance of beating Mr Cameron in the constituencies. There is thought to be some dissension in the Davis camp, with some of the younger and newer supporters anxious to have a role.

Meanwhile, Team Cameron has gone from strength to strength. Mr Cameron won over MPs by showing a ruthless determination to win. His organisational skills have been second to none and his campaign PR has been legendary. To those MPs worried about the influence of the Notting Hill set, Mr Cameron has promised that he will not operate by clique and will have a party "of all the talents". Most significantly, if Mr Davis has been offering himself as the Heineken candidate; Mr Cameron has presented a version of "Sunny Delight", offering almost Reaganesque optimism. He has given the Tories something which members desperately yearn for: hope. A few weeks ago, few, (including Watlington), would have thought that this would be possible. The reality is that Mr Cameron has been able to move beyond the Notting Hill Set and reach out to the country - offering Conservatives a potentially exciting (albeit unknown) future.

There is no doubt that Mr Cameron will top the ballot on Thursday, the only question is whether Mr Fox will join him at the hustings. Mr Fox certainly has earnt the right to be there.

To read more by Watlington, see Watlington.


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"Mr Fox"

Dr Fox!

Posted by: a pedant at October 19, 2005 06:15 PM
•••

Watlington on October 12: "But all is not over for Mr Davis. He still has an incredible story to tell about aspiration and merit". Watlington on October 18: "Mr Davis had an incredible story to tell about aspiration, merit and the Tory dream but has let machine politics get in the way."

Isn't it about time Mr Davis told us this incredible story? After all, he's told us a few quite incredible stories already...

Posted by: OD at October 20, 2005 12:59 PM
•••

I think that I can see why the author uses a pen-name. Fox's persistent and noisy support for Bush and Blair lying us into losing a war is demonstrably unpopular, and could be seen as politically foolish for a party lagging behind already. Some might have defined it as a principled piece of intentional unpopularity, had Fox not so disingenuouisly accused even modest critics of the war of unpatriotically undermining 'our boys in the trenches.' This is the kind of cheap shot that Kaiser Bill's Junkers used to drive their nation into the trenches of Paschendale. Fox's support for market economics was sound, and his speechifying skills are considerable, but his leadership bid is, I suspect, his first and last own goal. Good thing, too.

Posted by: s masty at October 20, 2005 06:41 PM
•••
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