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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Who should be Tory leader?
Former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke has joined the contest to be the new leader of the Conservative Party. But which of the five contenders would you choose?
Mr Clarke is up against Michael Portillo, Michael Ancram, who quit as Tory chairman on Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis.
Mr Portillo was first to throw his hat in the ring, but now it's an intriguing five horse race.
Who do you think would best serve the party as it bids to shake off two withering election defeats?
This Talking Point is now closed. Your comments are posted below.
Ken Clarke is the only person who has run all the departments which are of most interest to voters. Not only that, he is the architect of the improved economy that Gordon Brown has been claiming responsibility for.
Rupert G.F. Toms, South Africa
Once again a Tory Leadership race seems to be turning into a farcical sham. Even as an ardent euro-sceptic I am bidding for Clarke. This is not the only issue that matters - we need a good old-fashioned Tory politician with values, guts and a sense of belief in himself rather than the shambolic spin and win government we have at present.
The answer is 'none of the above' I'm afraid. None of them has any new ideas or anything new to say. How can they revitalise the Tory Party when they are all still tainted by the days of Thatcherism? To be electable, the Labour Party had to rebuild itself from the grass roots up and distance itself from the militant tendency. This is the task that now faces the Conservatives. If they are to have a hope of power within the next ten years, NOW is the time to exorcise the ghosts of the past that haunt them.
My choice for the
leader would have to
be Kenneth Clarke.
He has much more
experience than all
of the other candidates, and would be a good strong leader
of the party. With
the dreadful results of the last
two elections, they
need someone with a
This has to be Kenneth Clarke. Time
for Tony Blair to have a tough leader of the opposition.
Good luck to Kenneth
Clarke in the forth-coming contest for the leadership.
Just having Portillo as leader will make sure the Tories lose the next election. His past record speaks for itself. Clarke would hand over control of Britain to Brussels so quickly it would shock even Tony Blair. As for the other three, I have heard next to nothing about any of them and do not know what they stand for, like the vast majority of the population. Let's face it, there isn't one Tory MP who you could imagine as leader of the country.
The Parliamentary Conservative Party must realise that there will be more than 166 voters at the next general election. Tory MPs, members of the Tory party, and core Tory supporters will always vote Tory. Others will always vote Labour. Duncan Smith and Portillo may be popular with the 166 MPs, but only Clarke will compete with Blair for the votes of the centre: the votes that the Tory Party needs to win back.
Zachary Mann, England
Ken Clarke would be great if he wasn't so pro European. We need an opposition which isn't very enthusiastic about Europe. Portillo is just another Blair. Out of the lot, Iain Duncan Smith would get my vote.
If the Tories really want to get back into power at Westminster they must elect Ken Clarke as their leader, but knowing the Tories they will elect another right wing English nationalist and stay out of power for a generation or more. From a Scottish viewpoint the only way the electorate will ever vote for the Conservatives again will be if they accept and campaign for independence for Scotland.
David Price, UK
Unlike most of the other writers on this page, I actually have a vote (being a member of the Conservative Party - and no, I'm not some 65 year old Sir Arnold Tufton-Bufton, but a 22 year old teacher). I am naturally a Portillo supporter (being socially liberal, economically Thatcherite and eurosceptic) and believe that he has the star qualities to be a good leader. However, I believe that Ken Clarke has the star qualities to be an excellent PM. Will his views on Europe (very much different from mine) exclude me from voting for him? Well, if he disagreed with the Tory policy on education, pensions or transport would I exclude him? Probably not, so why should Europe be any different? As long as he sticks to his word about giving members of our party freedom of speech, I'll be voting for Ken Clarke.
The real issue with the Conservative Party is that the backbench MPs are out of touch and dated, consequently they are likely to elect that is equally out of touch and the decline of the Tory species will continue. It is a good example of Darwinian behaviour.
Carys Moseley, UK
We already have a Tony Blair. What would we gain by having an older, fatter, failed Blair supporter as leader of the Conservatives?
Tony Haigh, England
The Conservative party have become a single issue party, and the constant harping on about Europe is something that people are BORED with. They will never be elected again until they resolve their difficulties over Europe and start to take a more responsible attitude to the EU as a whole. After all it was a Conservative government which held the referendum on membership.
Although "none of the above" fill me with any enthusiasm, I would strongly advise any Tories out there NOT to vote for Portillo - as far as I can see he is saying very little that is different to the current leader and their stead-fast stance on Europe is a sure fire way to lose by a similar margin in the next election. At least Mr Clarke is willing to change the party into a more viable political force as opposed to a mish-mash group on the fringes of mainstream politics.
I'm afraid it doesn't matter who the Tories choose as their next leader. Until the nation makes the decision whether to go further into Europe or not the Tories will be far too divided to be electable. The first step the Tories need to make along the road to being a serious and worthwhile opposition party is to pressure Labour into putting the referendum to the nation. Once we have an answer the Tory party will have a firm foundation upon which to re-build.
At the moment the Tories are unelectable. They need to reform themselves and come into the 21st century. Only Clarke or Portillo have the experience and charisma that will help the Tories help themselves.
By choosing Ken Clarke, the Tories
would win the next election. I
therefore predict that the Tories will
choose Portillo, and slump to yet another
humiliating defeat next time, with most
of the country voting Labour just to watch
Portillo in agony as in the '97 election!
Pro-Euro parties did very well in the last two elections, anti-Euro ones did very badly. Ken Clarke's views on Europe should not be seen as a handicap to leading a UK political party.
To stand any chance of turning the polls round in one term, the Tories need a strong candidate. A 'real' charismatic individual with whom a wide spectrum of the electorate can identify and respect - a leader not 'stained' by the fiasco that has been the party since Lady Thatcher. I don't know of one and sadly none seems likely to emerge in this contest...
Struan, A Scot in Germany
Brilliant! The only man who could realistically provide an alternative to, and maybe even beat, Blair is Ken Clarke and the loonies in the Tory party will never elect him, thus depriving them of power for even longer, perhaps for ever. Brilliant!
Ken Clarke should have been the leader of the Conservative Party a long time ago!
Ken Clarke is my preferred choice as he might bring the Tories more into the centre instead of being far right and unelectable. However I see Ken Clarke as a stop gap until someone new and passionate comes into the frame (a la Blair) which will increase the Conservatives' chances of winning the election of 2011 not 2006.
Yousaf Sani (Brit), UK
If anyone other than Ken Clarke becomes leader, the Conservative Party will lose the next election and probably the one after that.
As a lifelong Labour supporter I would prefer one of the unknowns to win the leadership of the Tory Party, but I am of a strong belief that a healthy government needs a strong party in opposition. Only Ken Clarke has the credentials to fulfil this role, and as a previous chancellor, he understands the need for integration into the European currency as a safeguard to the British position in Europe. Anyway, it will make Prime Minister's question time extremely interesting, as discussion between Ken Clarke and Tony Blair across the ballot box can only result in excellent dialogue and argument.
Jim Waite, UK
Although he is one of those figures that you either love or hate, it's quite clear that Michael Portillo is the only candidate who has a genuine chance of making the Tories electable again. Of the others, they are either too right-wing or, frankly, too old. Don't forget that it's liable to be getting on for another 10 years before the Conservatives may form a government.
Rob N, England
Remarks about "Right wing lunacy" show how wide of the mark people can be when assessing why the Tories lost the last two elections. Both defeats were assured not by policies but by the almost complete lack of charisma of the party's presidential candidates - which is what our system has become, like it or not. For those on the Left, Blair is "right wing" and yet people still voted for him - largely because of his carefully and expensively contrived image. To fight image with image, the Tories will be tempted to choose either Portillo or Clarke -and the scores on your poll show how easily people are being suckered into this miserable game. That both would be equally disastrous (albeit for different reasons) is beside the point. People want stars. Government by media-driven image - wonderful.
I suspect that Labour will be most worried by Ken Clarke (intelligent, amusing and sharp), but my personal preference is for Michael Portillo; a slightly risky choice (not as risky as Duncan Smith), but someone whose approach and ideas I agree with.
If the Conservatives in Britain have any sense, they will NOT follow the example of electing a far-right, socially-conservative leader as right-wingers have done here in Canada. By choosing Alliance Leader Stockwell Day as their standard-bearer, the right has already handed the next election to the Liberals. Mr. Day, elected on the backs of pro-life, hard-right instant members of the Alliance party, is now unable to lead even his own caucus, never mind appeal to the rest of the nation. If the Conservatives want to have a hope of winning, they should elect someone like Ken Clarke to bring the party back to the sensible centre.
By the looks of the poll on the BBC Web site Kenneth Clarke is a clear favourite with "the people". However, given his views on Europe it would seem impossible for him to gain majority support from the Conservative elite. The logical conclusion is for the Tory party to split with Portillo leading the right wing and Clarke the centre-left. From that position Kenneth Clarke could mop up Liberal votes and pose a serious threat to Labour.
The Tories clearly don't see themselves as other see them. None of the contenders for the leadership would be electable as PM. They currently lack men/women of stature and statesmanship
It seems to me that the ideal approach is still the first one hinted at when the race started - that Portillo and Clarke team up together. Not only would this send a clear message to the party that unity and team work are the critical elements but it also sends a clear message to the public that the Conservative Party is about working together. This is an opportunity that they should grasp eagerly. How much of Labour politics is about "I did this" and "I did that"? What happened to partnerships and teamwork?
Both Portillo and Clarke pose serious opposition potential and it's just a shame to see that weakened by the two people who should be steering the party working against each other. All that is going to happen is a public display of disagreements that will ultimately turn to the Euro and weaken the party further. It's time to learn from mistakes.
I'm now split between Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo. They are the only two with enough political muscle for the job and also the right ideas. Iain Duncan Smith completely misses the point when saying the party (and its leader) shouldn't try to "out-Blair Tony Blair" - right wing lunacy has led the Tories only to a defeat of the same size as 1997. It's time to wake up and take note of the real world - and in particular to realise that Lady Thatcher has been out of power for eleven years now (and her policies were out of date several years before her fall from power).
David, New York, USA (Ex pat)
They're all slightly ridiculous. In a country where most people consider the government's policies to be too far right, they're arguing for going further right still. Having said that, my favourite would be Iain Duncan Smith. He's such an anachronism that he would quickly lead this bunch of red-necked dinosaurs into the obscurity they deserve.
It seems that the Conservative Party is in an impossible situation: it must learn the lessons of the recent Labour landslide (ie that the right-of-centre politics of the past four years does not strike a chord sufficiently with a centre-minded electorate). But at the same time the election of a centre-left party leader will result in a Conservative leader who has the opinion of the party on issues such as Europe and social welfare (as well as key economic policy) stacked against him. The damage done by the last administration and its right wing policy has been seen not only in a crushing election defeat but also, more worryingly, in the sabotage of any chance of success in the near future for a non-right wing leader.
Rod Johnston, Scotland
Michael Portillo should be a good bet to keep the Tories out of power for a while!
It is ironic that the men who could be elected leader of the Tory Party would never be leaders of the country and the men who could be elected Prime Minister could never lead their party. The Tory Party should make the right choice and go for Clarke or maybe Portillo, but the blue-rinse brigade will settle on one of the candidates less appealing to the rest of the country.
Ed Green, UK
It must be Michael Portillo, he is clearly head and shoulders above the rest and the only one to lead the Conservatives forward. He has presence, charm and charisma and that is what is needed in a leader, someone who stands out from the rest. Please, no matter what experience he has, NOT Kenneth Clarke.
I still want Ann Widdecombe - she'd guarantee they remained unelectable.
Ken Clarke clearly has the most experience in government and clearly has the best policies. There is no hiding behind spin or advisors for him. He has freely spoken his exact intentions on Euro issues and I am looking forward to finally having somebody to vote for...
Ann Widdecombe strikes me as the only conservative figure in your country with the sense and dedication to be a leader.
They need someone with a strong personality and views if they wish to take the party forward - Portillo isn't a good idea, Ken Clarke neither. The trouble with the Conservative party is ignorance and are still living with past glories and suffering a MAJOR hangover still from when they lost power to the Labour party...
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