October 2, 2005


Tories struggle to find a leader who has some real staying power (James Cusick, 10/02/05, Sunday Herald)

In an interview for the Daily Telegraph, he said he believed only an economic slump could return his party to power. “I don’t want the economy to go down the pan … but in terms of party politics you have to face that it is difficult, though maybe not impossible, for an Opposition to win an election when most people feel relatively comfortable.”

Today, on GMTV’s Sunday Programme, he will drop further hints that the party now needs to take a long-term view about who can lead them back to power. “I don’t think that we can sit back and wait for the pendulum to swing in our direction,” he warned. He said the party “has to get it straight” and begin to understand the concerns of people and offer answers to those concerns.

If the parliamentary party – which under Tory leadership election rules decides the two contenders to go forward to a final ballot of all 300,000 grassroots members – does decide on a long-term strategy, that could rule out both Ken Clarke, the former Chancellor, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary.

In 2013, Clarke will be 75. Given a four-year premiership, he would be 79 if he were to conclude a full term as PM. Rifkind faces a similar age barrier, being only six years younger.

One Tory adviser said: “Age will be a necessary qualification. If it is dismissed as irrelevant it will show we have not moved out of the mindset of being in opposition.”

Despite his age, Clarke still remains one of the favourites to succeed Howard. His One Nation Conservatism and pro-Europe views, combined with his “big beast” reputation, may convince MPs that his appeal can thrive outside Tory walls.

Bad enough to have been leap-frogged by Labour on reform of the welfare state, but how do you let them get to your Right on Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2005 7:03 PM
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