BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 13 July, 2001, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Dark horse bows out of race
David Davis
Mr Davis is liked on both sides of the Commons
David Davis, the self-proclaimed dark horse of the Conservative leadership contest, has decided to pull out of the running having failed to secure enough support to see him through the next round.

The re-run of the first round saw Mr Davis getting 18 votes from Tory colleagues narrowly beating rival Michael Ancram, who was forced out of the contest having won just 17 backers.

After Thursday's re-run Mr Davis said grassroots Conservatives had bombarded his office with supportive phone calls and he intended to fight on.

However, having talked to colleagues it became clear to the right-winger that he could not even secure third place.

He always had a fight on his hands to win this battle.

But as a former weekend soldier and extreme sports enthusiast the former Europe minister was never one to shy away from a scrap.


To someone who enjoyed cartwheeling out of aircraft into parachute jumps, the risk of running for the Tory leadership must have seemed comparatively free of fear.

Since the Conservatives lost in 1997, Mr Davis achieved a little prominence through his work as head of the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

As chairman, he presided over numerous inquiries into government spending and succeeded in being a thorn in Labour's side during the last parliament.

The Davis CV
Elected MP for Boothferry 1987
PPS to Francis Maude 1989-90
Government whip 1990-93
Junior minister for public service 1993-94
Minister for Europe 1994-97
Elected MP for the new seat of Haltemprice and Howden May 1997
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee 1997 - present
His work has also had the unusual effect in that it has boosted his reputation and stature on both sides of the Commons.

It has also served to keep the MP out of the quagmire of Conservative front bench politics, which means that in comparison to some of the other candidates in the leadership race, he had a relatively clean slate.

He also had the benefit of being able to distance himself from many of the policies adopted by the party under William Hague and propose a fresh start.

Low profile

However, Mr Davis has a record that has resulted in a relatively low public profile and a limited public awareness of him - an issue that may have held sway when colleagues decided not to back him.

At least, not on this occasion.

Committee inquisitor

The PAC, under Mr Davis's leadership has secured many worthy headlines, not least its success in securing access for the National Audit Office to scrutinise the accounts of the Royal household and Camelot, the national lottery operator.

It exposed the theft of taxpayers' money by a British embassy employee, highlighted the cost of Labour plans to eliminate the poverty trap, criticised decisions made by the Child Support Agency and warned that taxpayers would have to pay to clean up the British nuclear industry.

Ministerial career

Elected in 1987, Mr Davis was quick to scale the ministerial ladder - although he never made it into John Major's cabinet.

He was a whip from 1990 to 1993 when he was made junior minister for public service.

In 1994, he was appointed Minister for Europe at the Foreign Office, a post he held until the election.

With strong multi-ethnic origins, Mr Davis has spoken out in the past against "the extremes of xenophobia".

The adopted son of a Polish Jewish print workers, his grandfather was a committed communist.

His family lines link him to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Mr Davis has been strongly against Labour's devolution policies.

Married with three children, he also a reputation for enjoying extreme sports.

As a young man, he climbed mountains, flew light aircraft and is said to have enjoyed parachuting out of planes doing cartwheels as well as developing a highly successful career in business.

As a the son of a one-parent family, raised on a south London council estate and educated at state school, Mr Davis is also something of a black sheep in a Tory party still dominated by former public schoolboys.

The party did not pick him this time round but with a higher profile in the wake of this leadership election he may still be seen as a very real contender in any future contest.

Recent stories

The final two


Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories