The Conservative Leadership

It seems we finally know both the method for electing the new Conservative leader (same as last time) and we have a fair idea of the candidates.

In order of their odds of winning, they are:

1. David Davis
2. David Cameron
3. Malcolm Rifkind
4. Kenneth Clarke
5. Liam Fox

Others, including Michael Ancram, may yet enter the frame. David Willetts and Alan Duncan have both pulled out.

Many people might be surprised at my putting Rifkind ahead of Clarke. It seems likely to me that the final round will be Davis against one other, and MPs who oppose Davis therefore have the job of finding someone who can beat him. I don't think that is Kenneth Clarke. If he reaches the final round, Clarke will lose, again. If Rifkind reaches the final round, which is less likely, he would have a reasonable chance. He still has the opportunity to rebrand himself, Portillo style, as someone who has grown and changed following his years out of Parliament.

Of course, Conservative leadership elections never go to plan. Labour always chooses the obvious front-runner, whereas the Conservatives have yet to do so. (1990 is an arguable exception. I would agree that by the time the election was held, Major was the front-runner).

This means that the notion that Davis will fight one other, probably Cameron or Clarke, is far from certain. Last time Portillo was the obvious front-runner, expected to face either Clarke of Duncan-Smith. As it turns out, they fought each other.

So, who to support. If Clarke gets to the final round, it is easy. Kenneth Clarke simply has the wrong analysis as to why the Conservatives have lost three general elections. He thinks it is because he was not leader. He is looking only to the past, and the electorate see only the past when he talks to them.

The brightest and best of the Shadow Cabinet are divided, with David Willetts supporting Davis and Oliver Letwin supporting Cameron. I am pretty sure they have both made thoughtful judgements about this and I suspect either of these two would make a fine leader.

At the moment, I am leaning towards Davis. I have only met him once, at the Institute of Economic Affairs - and the fact that he was there means a lot. I understand that John Blundell of the IEA thinks highly of him (though I did learn this from the Guardian, and not from John), which also means a lot. He is opposed to ID cards, which may mean he is not the old-fashioned traditional conservative the media seem to think.

Let's see.

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