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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Who should lead the Tories?
Michael Portillo has missed out in the Tory leadership battle, leaving a two-way race between Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith.
Clarke and Duncan Smith topped the final ballot of 166 Tory MPs with 59 and 54 votes respectively, leaving Portillo in the wilderness with 53.
Both surviving candidates claim they can unite the Conservative party and lead it to victory at the next election.
But neither received an overwhelming endorsement from MPs. They will both be hoping for a resounding mandate in the ballot of party members to come.
Which of the two candidates should lead the Conservatives? Can either of them revive Tory fortunes? Has the drawn-out election process produced the best contenders? And is it the end of the road for Portillo?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
At last those of us to the left of centre will have a party to vote for - providing it's Ken that's voted leader.
Stephen, London, UK
The opportunist Portillo is out, Duncan Smith represents the right wing Old England Hague saw as the bulk of his electorate. Only Kenneth Clarke has the experience and the pragmatism which can help the Tories recapture the centre ground lost to Labour and Lib-Dem. Only he can start regaining ground in Scotland and Wales. Only he is known and appreciated by all sections of the British society (as well as abroad).
It doesn't surprise me that Portillo is out. I suspect to the Tory Party, he seemed like a Martian (when in reality he had only been into the real world.) The Tories should elect Clarke and hope for the best after all, it's better to go with a bang than a whimper.
Chris Pataky, England
The Tories have missed the whole point - again. They are arguing about being pro or anti Europe, and tearing the party apart - but it's clear from the whitewash at the general election that the public aren't over worried about this - otherwise Hague's "save the pound" campaign would have worked. I get the feeling from Clarke that what you see is what you get - blunt and to the point, with no regard for "spin". The general feeling is that Clarke is someone you can trust - and given we all seem to accept the inevitability of the Euro, one day, then Clarke must be the man for the job.
Raj Patel, UK
If the Tories were to choose Iain Duncan-Smith, they would be keeping faith with their current beliefs and that's a good thing. But their current beliefs seem out of touch with most people at the moment and, as they are also great believers in individual choice, it looks like they're going to suffer for that principle as well.
The Tories have to play the long game - the next five years to bang some heads together and reduce Blair's majority. Then another five years to get elected. By that time Clarke would be 70-ish. So, give him the job of sorting things out now with the prime brief of grooming a decent successor in 5/6 years' time.
Hirak Chakravarty, England
The departure of Michael Portillo from the Tory leadership race is a disaster for the party. He was the only leader who could make the party change. However, instead of facing the future, the Tory party has chosen to bury itself in the past.
The Conservative party has had a falling membership for years particularly among the young. Unless they adapt to the modern world and its standards and values then the party can never get re-elected. The average age of a Conservative party member is 63. What does that tell you about their mass appeal?
As a Republican in the US I want the Tories to succeed in Britain. Unfortunately the MPs have decided to stick with a game plan that has given them two straight resounding defeats. Portillo was the only candidate who realised that the Tories needed to change. Ken Clarke would destroy the party altogether, so there is no choice but to pick Smith and hope another Portillo will come around in a few years.
Gavin Egan, UK
Who is Ian Duncan Smith?
The sad fact is that whoever wins, from day one they will be undermined and criticised by half the party.
The Tory party has spent over 10 years in continual internecine warfare.
If they ever want to get back to power they must unite behind whoever is elected
and rediscover the
virtue of loyalty
to their leader for which they were once renowned.
Michael Portillo, with only 53 votes you are the weakest link. Goodbye.
David K, England
Someone else suggested that the Liberal Party is now best placed to become the next opposition. This is true if they can capitalise on the Tories' troubles. I am a Liberal supporter so would prefer Iain Duncan Smith, as he is a liability and would complete the work of making the Tory Party a party of rural England alone. Perhaps an ideal election in 2005/6 would be Liberals with 180-90 seats, Tories on 70-100 and the rest Labour. Then the Liberals could really prepare for government.
Luke, Rugby, UK
Having read all the comments so far, I tend to agree that this result will have the Tories languishing in opposition for a few years yet. While Clark would have the better chance of bringing the Tories some more welcome seats, not to mention giving Blair some uncomfortable moments at the dispatch box, I do feel that Portillo would have been the best candidate to give Labour a run for their money. He has the ability to appeal to the public at large (ie beyond grassroots party members. Don't know when they're going to figure out they need someone that otherwise non-Tories can vote for and who is a good speaker with plenty of personality. I did want Labour to win in 97 and indeed this year too, but unopposed government is not healthy in any country that wishes to call itself a democracy.
But times are changing and so does the Tory Party. Minority support and above all support from young people will be needed if they are to win the next election, and frankly I don't think Duncan Smith has either the wit, experience or appeal to achieve this and his appointment to leader would be a disaster for the party. So to conclude, Clarke's the man for the job.
I think Ken Clarke will give the Tories a chance to be electable - at this stage I think that is the best they can hope for. If Labour do not deliver the public sector improvements, then the Tories will get their chance. It's all very well having ideas but the electorate chose Labour because they are perceived as the party that will try and deliver improvements to public services - the Tories are seen as the party who will cut them. That is why they are unelectable at present.
And, like it or not, Clarke is right on Europe - people do not want to know so, if electing Clarke brings in a leader that can address public worries, then we might get a resurgent Tory Party. The shame of it is that I think Portillo might have been the best man to 'do a Kinnock' on the party and make it electorally presentable ..
Robert McKay, UK
In order to have a decent Opposition in parliament, and therefore for the sake of the country over the next 5 or 10 years, I hope the Tories pick the more experienced, balanced politician in Ken Clarke. This would have the added advantage of creating more progressive, Europe-friendly politics.
Martin P Hayes, UK
I agree with earlier comments that neither are suitable. The most feared candidate for the Labour Party would certainly have been Michael Portillo. The fact that the Conservatives have decided to exclude him from the race is indicative of how remote they are from the electorate. Incredible as it may have seemed 4 years ago, it is now not too difficult to imagine the Liberal Democrats as the future main opposition party in the country with the Conservatives sitting on the fringe.
Michael Portillo would have made a great Tory leader. Due to certain press coverage he is no longer in the running. If Iain Duncan Smith wins, the Tories will lose the next election. It has to be Clarke, even with his views on Europe, as he will appeal to a wider range of the public and beat Blair at the election.
Mark H, UK
Now they have to choose who will lead them into the wilderness. Neither candidate will ever win an election.
Peter , Australia
The Tory MPs could have put forward as a candidate for the leadership an articulate and intelligent man who recognised that the party had to evolve if it was to make serious inroads into the Labour majority at the next election. Instead, they chose to put forward William Hague's older brother plus a man who thinks it's alright to market cigarettes to the third world and who will be an old age pensioner by the time of the next election. I can only assume that 113 constituencies are represented by MPs who like being on the losing side.
Hopefully Mr Clarke will have the vision to force through radical change in the party. Only through centre-right modernisation can the Conservatives truly claim to represent twenty-first century Britain.
Carlos Sandoval, Colombia
Conservative MPs seem seized by some collective death wish. Within weeks of the electorate demonstrating resoundingly that a bald, right wing non-entity has not the proverbial snowball's chance of becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom, droves of them are rushing to vote for yet another bald, right wing non-entity. As a Conservative Party member, I am profoundly depressed at the prospect of another decade of Blairite sanctimonious, self-righteous rhetoric, but that is exactly what we can expect unless MPs, and party members, awaken from this trance in time to elect a leader whom the country at large will elect.
I am a member of the Labour party but would like to see Kenneth Clarke win the ballot. With as small a majority in the Commons as the Conservatives currently have, the Tories need more than ever an effective and combative leader to 'attempt' to be an effective leader of the opposition. It would be wrong for me to get involved in debating who will (or not) be an effective leader of the Conservative Party, but I feel for the benefit of British democracy, that of the two candidates, it is Kenneth Clarke that has the skills, experience and personality to tackle Blair and his massive Commons majority.
For the sake of the health of British politics, and for that reason only, I wish Mr Clarke all the best. If the Tories return Duncan Smith, democracy and the accountability of the government will suffer and that is something we should all fear!
Ian Wallace, England
There's only one man who can lead the Tories, and that's the Prime Minister. Blair has all the right socio-economic qualifications, has no contact with the real world, treats voters with utter contempt, never keeps electoral promises, and is clearly following a Thatcherite plan. Perfect.
The Tory party is the most consistent of all political parties and its MPs have shown once again that the only thing they love more than themselves is the chance to stab someone more talented in the back. It is good to see an instinctive and honest politician like Ken Clarke win the battle, though I suspect he will lose the war. It is sad nonetheless to see someone who seemed to offer a more inclusive approach humiliated by the deadbeats and timeservers who are unwilling to face reality. However, I applaud the vindictiveness of the homophobic Little Englanders who voted today as this should effectively guarantee that their party never holds office again.
Peter Scott, Canada
Duncan Smith is the best candidate. He's the one most likely to convince the electorate of the need for Britain to introduce further privatisation and market incentives into its government services, particularly the NHS. I suspect Kenneth Clarke, like Labour, shudders at the mention of the word "privatisation".
After this leadership election, the Conservative Party has become the Marks and Spencer of politics.
It really is catch 22 for the Conservative Party rank and file. Ken Clarke is clearly the most "electable" in that he is a moderate Europhile with a huge amount of experience. However, his policies are largely despised by the rank and file and his election could truly split the party in two. IDS meanwhile is clearly in tune with both the Party Grandees, 1992 committee, and the rank and file, but is an unknown quantity who may well lack the inspirational qualities needed for victory. Catch 22 - vote in the most likely to succeed but also the most likely to destruct, or vote in the one most likely to fail but at least to keep the Party together in one piece.
Let's hope that Iain Duncan Smith is already drafting his resignation speech for 2005.
If I had any Tory sympathies whatsoever I would go for Ken Clarke - the only candidate with any chance of leading the Tories to victory. As a firm Labour supporter however I am delighted by the result as both candidates will ensure that the Tory party will be pulled apart.
I remember Tony Blair preaching, education, education, education....Tony Blair moved the Labour party towards the right. Ken Clarke will move the Tories towards the left. This is required if they are to have any real chance to win another General Election.
It seems to me that the Lib Dems are now well placed to be the opposition to the next Labour Government as the Tories will tear themselves apart over Europe.
I could not have imagined Portillo being knocked out. It appears that Clarke is the only one who can lead the Tories out of the current mess, but will he appeal to the right wing of the party?
As a young Conservative, tired of Labour routs, I will urge my constituency Conservatives to do what the majority have been doing for years anyway. Abstain.
Some of your readers (and correspondents) deceive themselves into thinking that the Tory party will split if Ken Clarke is elected. This is a hallucination, the product of wishful thinking. MPs brought to Westminster by a voting mechanism that inevitably produces a two-party system are unlikely to voluntarily sacrifice their unique position of electoral advantage. The Tory party has many faults, but it's rank and file is not a colony of lemmings. For that reason, they will choose Clarke as the only candidate with the slightest chance of returning them to power.
Ken Clarke is the only man who can lead the Tories back to the Middle Ground. Europe is not the only issue in this country, as shown at the last election. Ken is popular with people young and old up and down the country because he is a lad and does not give in to the spin doctors.
I think the Tories should start again. The election process should elect leaders with mass appeal. I cant see that either of the remaining two have any appeal.
Gone are the days when being able is enough. Now politicians should have rapport. Michael Portillo had rapport with some people - the other two don't have any. .
From Labour's perspective it doesn't make a difference who wins. Smith is obviously unelectable amongst the general British public, but his policies are appealing to grass roots Tories. Clarke is very electable and has a positive image, but his leadership would cause major splits amongst the Tories. So both candidates would be great for Labour.
The Tories should have headhunted Tony Blair. He has the same policies after all.
As a life long Labour support, I urge all Conservatives to support Iain Duncan Smith.
Stuart Kelly, Scotland
Although I believe the best leader would have been Michael Portillo, I would not vote for him because I do not believe he inspires the people like Ken Clarke. He won't be the next prime minister but he will shore up support for a flagging party. Ken Clarke don't worry about Europe.
The obvious choice to lead the Tories is someone with vision - Ken Clark
Andy Dunford, UK
The Pied Piper.
It's simple. British elections are won from the middle ground. Duncan-Smith is not of the middle ground. The choice for the party is therefore obvious. Whether the country will actually elect this gruesome bunch ever again is a separate question.
Knocking Portillo out of the Tory leadership race just reinforces the utterly divided nature of this hopeless party. They have excluded the middle and the two wings of the party must now battle it out. We'll hear all sorts about their serious mature debate and that they're all friends. But they are not. Make no mistake, the Tory party is set fair to split in two, and become a minority force in British politics.
James W, UK
As an expatriate lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, I am delighted with the result of the leadership election. Michael Portillo was in my opinion the only person capable of leading the Conservatives to an election win, and they have thrown away that opportunity. I am very pleased with the decision.
The answer I think is down to the question. Who is capable of making the Tories electable? Simple - Kenneth Clarke.
Rob Davey, UK
The Tory party now has a straightforward choice. Pick Clarke, who appeals to the electorate, or Duncan Smith, who is more in tune with the "party faithful".
It seems more important to the party to pick someone with the "correct" Euro-sceptic views, than to try to win elections. Therefore, it's my guess that they'll pick Duncan Smith, and head off for 10 more years in the political wilderness...
Were they trying to vote in the best Conservative or someone who could win them an election?
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