November 09, 2005

If David Davis comes a close second, this will strengthen the Conservative Party and make David Cameron a better leader - argues Watlington

Posted by Watlington

The most likely winner of the Conservative Party leadership election remains David Cameron. However a strong second place vote for David Davis would strengthen the Conservative Party and make David Cameron a stronger leader, argues Watlington. That is why so many leading Conservatives are now privately urging those members who have not yet sent out their ballot papers to vote for Mr Davis. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

As Tory members receive their ballots in the post, current wisdom is still that David Cameron is ahead. However, as a member of the Cameron campaign team acknowledged this week, Mr Cameron has had a "wobbly" few days following the Question Time debate.

In recent days, David Davis's campaign has been streets ahead of Mr Cameron. Whilst Mr Cameron has been stuck on the treadmill of his successful party conference speech, Mr Davis has at last broken away from his conference disaster and begun to re-emerge as a real leader once again. In a series of speeches, and announcements - on tax, saving the green belt, grammar schools and opposition to tuition fees - Mr Davis has outclassed his opponent. Mr Davis has also set out the social justice agenda with vigour and it is understood that Mr Davis has been doing all he can to rebuild links with the Iain Duncan Smith camp.

Mr Davis's campaign has been re-invigorated by the change in his campaign team and the reassertion of control by the highly capable Iain Dale and Nick Herbert witness Mr Herbert's effective response in The Times to the attack made by Danny Finkelstein on the Davis tax proposals. Meanwhile the grassroots campaign has been boosted by David Canzini and Stephen Gilbert (Lord Ashcroft's Special Adviser) who is understood to be giving the Davis campaign some important strategic advice.

Although Mr Cameron made a serious, thoughtful and intellectual speech to the Centre for Policy Studies yesterday, he gave weak responses to questions from the audience and left many feeling disappointed. The feeling of many is that whilst Mr Cameron can cut the mustard in terms of PR and speech making, what happens if he is pulverised by Paxman, let alone Tony Blair or Gordon Brown? It is noticeable that Mr Cameron is thought to be reluctant to appear on Newsnight against Mr Paxman during this contest.

Nevertheless, despite all this, the expectation is still that Mr Cameron will win (although The Times poll today does indicate a different story beginning to emerge). Many members still see Mr Cameron as the change and compassion candidate and providing all the glitz and glamour that is needed for modern politics. Mr Cameron has also continued to attract MPs from the Liam Fox camp and even more interestingly from the Cornerstone group the right wing John Hayes being a most notable scalp.

If this is the case, then it is all the more important for Conservative members - if they want to strengthen their party and hope to win the next general election - to vote for Mr Davis. A modest victory for Mr Cameron would not only ensure that Mr Davis (deservedly) continues to have a very senior position within the party, but it would also provide a brake on Mr Cameron's fluffier tendencies.

The party would have its modernisation, but ensure that it maintained its Conservative roots and does not just become a softer imitation of Blairism. If Mr Davis comes a very close second, Mr Cameron will come to realise that whilst the "cult of celebrity" is essential in this day and age, the public also want real substance and experience.

If David Cameron does not win by a landslide and Mr Davis comes a close second, this will strengthen the Conservative Party and, ironically, also strengthen Mr Cameron's prospects as leader. That is why so many leading Conservatives are now privately urging those members who have not yet sent out their ballot papers to vote for Mr Davis.

To read more by Watlington, see Watlington.

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What a lot of complete rubbish.The only way the Conservative Party will win the next election is by electing David Cameron as there leader and the only way that will happen is if members vote for Mr Cameron.
The stronger Mr Cameron's mandate the stonger his position will be and the better the party's chances will be of winning next time.

Posted by: Jack Stone at November 9, 2005 06:44 PM

I'd have thought that tactically voting for Mr. Davis when one wants Mr. Cameron would be pure folly, particularly considering the way the betting has been moving. What if too many others do the same?

Posted by: Tom Ainsworth at November 10, 2005 09:01 AM

Tosh. Absolute tosh.

Based on the premise that Cameron lacks policy substance. Detail is dangerous - Davis has boxed himself in to 38 billion of tax cuts. A stupid prediction made a decade ahead of promised delivery.

People want to know what is the direction of policy, not the minutae, events will alter the detail anyway.

The facts are that the Tories have the best chance of winning with Cameron, not Davis. That should concentrate the minds of members.

Posted by: Guido fawkes at November 10, 2005 09:24 AM

However Cameron wins the Cameroons will not be long in explaining away any deficiencies in the victory and then plough on down the road.
An interesting bit of speculation - just how strong is the support for the Cameron camp from MPs who previously supported Fox and Clarke? If Cameron cocks up as Leader - and I for one think he will - just how long will it be before the fragile majority of support Cameron has amongst MPs breaks down?
The fact remains that in many ways Cameron is intellectually lightweight and has precious little experience. This 'spraytan' campaign of his may have superficial attaction, but if it becomes clear he is no match for Gordon Brown and his agenda remains a shallow and inwardly looking as it was at the Party conference then he will rapidly lose credibility, respect and command of his party, if ot his office.

Posted by: Old Hack at November 10, 2005 10:22 AM

Sure, a man who takes a first at Oxford in PPE, and then worked directly for, respectively, the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Home Secretary, before a 7-year stint in the senior management of one of Britain's largest companies, is "shallow", "an intellectual light-weight" and "superficial" and, of course, "inexperienced".

Please. David Cameron is a man, almost 40 years of age, who is in the very highest ranks of intelligence by any reasonable standard, with extensive experience in politics --both in government and in opposition-- and in the business world. That he has only spent 4 years and a bit in the House of Commons can only be a good thing.

Posted by: Goldie at November 11, 2005 09:35 PM

It is nice to see a Generation X as a leader of the Tories. Under his leadership the Tories will win the next election.

Posted by: Mabon Dane at March 16, 2006 05:53 PM
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