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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Conservative leadership watch
Follow the latest twists and turns in the Conservative leadership battle with our constantly updated guide.


Former party treasurer Lord Kalms says Ken Clarke would be "totally unacceptable" as leader because of his pro-European views. The David Davis supporter said it was "grossly misleading to pretend" that Europe was no longer central to the political agenda. "It will always remain one of the major issues of Conservatism that we are Eurosceptic," he added. Mr Clarke insists the European constitution is dead and there is no prospect of the UK adopting the euro in the next 10 years.

Contenders left to right, top to bottom: David Cameron; Kenneth Clarke; David Davis; Liam Fox; Andrew Lansley; Edward Leigh; Theresa May; Malcolm Rifkind.

Paperwatch: The Daily Mail calls the launch of the David Davis and David Cameron campaigns the "battle of the Tory Blairalikes". Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph likens the contest to one between a "Bash Street Kid" and "Little Lord Fauntleroy". Simon Hoggart in The Guardian writes: "Both candidates were articulate and clear about what kind of people they are. They were much less clear on policies." But The Independent is impressed by Cameron's speech, calling him a "real-world Tory, who despises the radicalism of easy answers". However, The Times is not happy: "Two Davids running for leader is two too many. It is confusing and indicates a lack of choice."


The front runner David Davis finally formally enters the leadership contest under the slogan of Modern Conservatives, pledging "to show that we are not in politics for ourselves. We are not here to defend privilege or accept the status quo. We have a real purpose to change Britain and improve lives". An hour later David Cameron the 38-year-old shadow education secretary launched his campaign under the slogan Change to Win saying the problem is that people "don't yet trust the Conservative Party... what we have to do is make a change in the culture and identity of the Conservative Party and explain what this means today."
Paperwatch: The Sun warns, in a leader column headlined 'Danger Man', that Ken Clarke would split the Conservative Party over Europe if made leader and even if he didn't, and became PM he would end Britain's noble history as a sovereign state". The Daily Telegraph quotes the campaign slogans Change to win, Time to Win and Modern Conservatism, before saying that "thankfully it is not a caption-writing competition". They then contrast that with Liam Fox's pledge to take the Conservatives out of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament - saying it would be a big step towards the Conservative Party "recovering its electability".


The shadow boxing is finally over and campaigning is starting in earnest. And it looks like Ken Clarke might be taking the healthy options as battle begins. Asked about including water and fruit juice instead of junk foods in school vending machines, Mr Clarke laughs: "I do drink a lot of fruit juice actually - man cannot live on alcohol alone." As the former chancellor launches his campaign to woo grass roots members, bookmakers' favourite David Davis is meeting Tory members in Wales. And Sir Malcolm Rifkind's visit to Worcestershire is taking in Morgan Cars as the contenders vie to be in the two-seater ballot put before the whole party.
New leader due to be chosen after Conservative conference in October

Paperwatch: The Daily Telegraph says the vote on the leadership rules means the party will be leaderless for another three months, but is pleased the "silliness" over the rule change is over. "Get on with it", is The Times' plea to the Tories. It warns that allowing the contest to slip into the New Year would make the party look indulgent and negligent. Its impatience is shared by the Daily Express, which says the Tories need to elect somebody quickly to hold the prime minister to account. The Daily Mail says supporters of rivals to David Davis believe the prolonged race gives the frontrunner more time to make a mistake. The Guardian is among those who believe the rules vote boosts Ken Clarke's chances. The paper's leader writers warn: "As a tea party this contest would be wilder than the Mad Hatter and as a way of doing politics it has become entirely self-destructive."


It is decision day on the rules which will be used to choose the next Conservative Party leader. MPs, Euro MPs and senior Conservative Party figures across the country have been voting on whether MPs or the wider party membership should have the final say on choosing Michael Howard's successor. The result of the vote is a blow for Mr Howard as the change of rules is rejected.


It's a relatively quiet start to the week, with the Labour Party conference starting and only a day to go before the result of the vote on the Conservative leadership election rules. This vote will decide essentially whether Tory MPs, or the wider party membership, will choose the new leader. Out-going leader Michael Howard is making a speech in which he says immigrants should embrace the British way of life: "We need to instil into all British children, whatever their religion or skin colour, a sense of pride in our institutions and our way of life."


Exchanges between the rival camps have become more direct and personal than previously during the campaign, with Ken Clarke backer John Bercow saying David Davis' right-wing agenda would be a "lethal injection" into the party. However, choosing Mr Clarke would be a form of "national suicide," according to Shadow Education Secretary David Cameron. But Mr Bercow described these remarks as "ludicrous hyperbole". Mr Cameron's combination of "Eton, hunting, shooting and lunch at Whites" made him the wrong man for the job, he added. Meanwhile, shadow foreign secretary and fellow leadership rival Liam Fox has said the tax burden on hard-working people in Britain must be reduced.

Europe was the issue blamed for Ken Clarke's defeat in the 2001 leadership election, now the debate is whether the issue still really matters. Mr Clarke has argued there is no prospect of the UK adopting the euro in the next decade and declared the constitution dead. But David Davis hit back at that view in a speech to Chatham House, saying it is plainly wrong to say Europe is not a current issue. Yet another MP, foreign affairs spokesman Keith Simpson, has been enlisted to support Mr Davis. Meanwhile, Conservative leader Michael Howard denied it would be farcical if a change to the election rules is rejected next week. He says the summer has seen his party have a good debate about its future direction for the first time in 30 years.


Michael Howard has scotched speculation he might quit next week if the party does not change its leadership election rules. Instead, the Tory leader says he will resign immediately after the party's conference - probably on 7 October. His comments essentially mean he is sticking to the timetable envisaged when he first said he would stand down after May's general election defeat. Mr Howard will stay on as caretaker leader until his successor is chosen. With voting on the leadership rules almost over, Conservative chairman Francis Maude has suggested future elections could follow the style of US primaries. That would give a say to Tory supporters, as well as party members.


We have waited months for a leadership campaign launch from David Davis and David Cameron - and now two could come along at once. Mr Cameron plans to make his official pitch for the job next Thursday. It seems Mr Davis might want to launch on the same day and his allies have apparently been trying to persuade Mr Cameron to shift dates. But a Cameron aide says: "We have long planned to launch our campaign before conference and we are not sure why David Davis has subsequently chosen to launch on the same day. At least by going head to head, people will be able to weigh up the choice in this contest and we think that is a good thing." The Financial Times suggests Mr Davis could eventually choose to postpone his launch until next Friday but his aide said no launch date had been confirmed. "Wait and see is our line," said the aide. Mr Davis has signed up another MP behind his campaign - Richard Ottaway, who backed Ken Clarke in previous leadership contests. Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm Rifkind has dismissed suggestions he was preparing to stand down in favour of Mr Clarke. The "One Nation" former foreign secretary told BBC 2's Daily Politics: "I am a candidate... I have got substantial support because I represent an important point of view within the Conservative Party." If the leadership field was not crowded enough already, brace yourself for the entry of yet another contender. Tory deputy leader Michael Ancram is rumoured to be considering entering the race. Newspaper reports suggest Mr Ancram could get backing from the Cornerstone Group of traditionalist Tory MPs, some of whom have asked Edward Leigh to stand.


Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind says Gordon Brown needs to take over the keys from Number 10 as soon as possible to rescue Britain's foreign policy. Sir Malcolm tells Tory MEPs in Brussels: "Britain's foreign policy objectives can now only be served by a new prime minister not burdened by the crass failures of the last eight years." He says Mr Blair's European policy has collapsed around him, with Britain as "semi-detached" as ever in Europe. But former Tory media chief Nick Wood tells BBC 2's Daily Politics he has heard suggestions that Sir Malcolm is preparing to pull out of the contest and back Ken Clarke. In Westminster, David Davis' campaign was bolstered by party deputy chairman Andrew Mackay declaring him "the ideal candidate" to be the next prime minister.
Paperwatch In the Daily Telegraph, columnist Alice Thomson says Ken Clarke is counting on MPs being so desperate for power they will back him. "But Tory MPs aren't obsessed by getting into Downing Street," she warns. "Many have become quite comfortable with their life in Opposition and their directorships." In The Times Martin Samuel says Tony Blair views the Tory Ken in the same way he used to see Ken Livingstone: as someone he treats with disdain but really fears.


The David Davis leadership bid gets a start-the-week boost as six Tory MPs back him in a letter sent to The Times. The six include Robert Syms, who backed Ken Clarke in 2001. The other five are Richard Bacon, Michael Fallon, Tim Loughton, Mark Simmons and Ian Liddell-Grainger.


Liam Fox told the Mail on Sunday he would favour a cut in the legal limit for abortions to just 12 weeks. The shadow foreign secretary said: "A society which aborts 180,000 unborn children every year is a society that needs to be asking a lot of questions about itself."

Rival Ken Clarke said the limit needs to be looked at again in light of medical advances but disagreed with Dr Fox's limit. On the BBC's new Sunday AM show he warned: "If the Conservative Right brings in more of the sort of certain Republican Right American politics to the politics of the Conservative Party they will be making a serious mistake."


Tory vice-chairman Charles Hendry names Ken Clarke as the best person to carry forward a modernising Tory agenda and broaden the party's appeal. Mr Hendry previously backed David Willetts, but disagreed with his decision to join David Davis' campaign.


David "Two Brains" Willetts looks poised to pull out of the leadership race and come out in favour of David Davis. But as one contender leaves the field, another one, Edward Leigh, says he is thinking about joining it to represent traditional moral values and radical ideas on issues like tax. Ken Clarke meanwhile continues his series of speeches with a withering attack on Tony Blair's "presidential" style of government. And in another speech, his former Cabinet colleague, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, calls for a return to "One Nation" Conservatism to show the party does not just harbour sectional interests.


David Davis tries to appeal to both wings of the party by saying he wants to use right-wing methods to achieve the aims long-held by moderate Conservatives. Ken Clarke says the contest is now a two-horse race between him and Mr Davis.
This is an idealism that brings together the various Tory traditions, and gives us the route map to a healthy society."
David Davis

And he tells The Times the Conservatives would be in the wilderness for years to come if they rejected him simply because of his views on Europe. But in an interview for the Daily Telegraph, Liam Fox says the former chancellor is wrong to suggest Europe is no longer an issue. He insists he is in the running, saying he launched his campaign late to gather momentum in the run-up to October's Tory conference.
Paperwatch Mr Clarke's candidacy is a high-risk enterprise, according to Peter Riddell in The Times. He needs to bury the issue of Europe and be more specific about public services, argues Riddell, who says the ex-chancellor has at least shaken up the leadership race. The Independent sees Mr Davis' latest speech as an attempt to shed his "right wing reputation". It is the rules for the contest which worry former Tory chairman Norman Fowler. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, he warns that allowing only MPs to choose the new leader will deprive many constituencies of a vote since they are not Conservative-held seats.


Shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox says Ken Clarke's stance against the Iraq war undermines the morale of British troops.

And he says the Tories would be an easy target if most of the front bench had supported the conflict and their leader opposed it.


Conservative chairman Francis Maude tells BBC Radio West Midlands the party will do its "damnedest" to get a new leader elected by Christmas - even if party members reject plans to give up the final say in the contest and let MPs decide.
Paperwatch: The Mirror says Michael Howard is set to resign as leader within weeks - probably at the party conference. It would be a final blow for the Tory leader if the proposed election rule change is voted down, an unnamed source tells the paper.The Sun says Liam Fox believes he has the "X-factor" needed to lead his party back into power - and it says the ex-GP as both youth and experience on his side as he tries to cure Tory ailments. But Dr Fox is branded a "long shot" in The Guardian and a "no hoper" in the Daily Mail, although the paper's diary column suggests he has more support than David Cameron. The Daily Telegraph suggests Ken Clarke has made Gordon Brown "jittery" by attacking the "myth" of the chancellor's economic success. The speech prompted a "savage attack" on Mr Clarke from Ed Balls, Mr Brown's former right-hand-man at the Treasury, it says. The Times says Mr Clarke took a gamble by suggesting he would be unlikely to make early cuts to income tax. And the paper muses that it could be another 100 days before the leadership contest is decided.


Liam Fox throws his hat into the ring on Thursday launching his bid to succeed Michael Howard. He says he has the support necessary to fight the campaign. Dr Fox used an article in the Daily Telegraph to explain the themes of his campaign. He wrote: "This is what my leadership would be about - sound defence; keeping more of what you earn; less government interference in people's lives; a sense of family, community and respect for the law; Britain controlling its own destiny. Ken Clarke meanwhile will use a speech at City University in London to attack Gordon Brown's economic record. That's a theme also explored by David Davis in an article in the Scotsman newspaper. Mr Davis, who has yet to formally declare his candidature, attacked the chancellor's economic "seven deadly sins". Sir Malcolm Rifkind meanwhile continues his tour of Britain during which he is hoping to woo the Conservative rank and file.


Dismissive noises from the Davis and Cameron camps as a Newsnight poll suggests Ken Clarke is by far the most popular potential leadership candidate with the public.
Of those questioned, 40% said Mr Clarke would make the best leader

Cameron supporter Michael Gove tells the BBC it is purely because Clarke is the most recognisable contender - and a 70-year-old leader, Clarke's age at the next election, will not endear it to younger voters - sentiments echoed by friends of Davis. Meanwhile, Michael Ancram, who long ago ruled out a leadership bid of his own, makes a more subtle swipe at Mr Clarke, a well known europhile despite his recent protestations, saying the Conservatives must not ignore Europe. Sir Malcolm Rifkind attempts to inject some momentum into his bid by embarking on a nationwide tour. Liam Fox announces the appointment of two former central office spin doctors to work on his campaign.
Paperwatch: Michael Brown writing in The Independent urges a Clarke-led Tory party to embrace proportional representation. "If Ken Clarke can dump the euro, could he not do the same over the electoral system?", he says. The Sun says major party donor Michael Ashcroft is among the Tory grandees "lining up to wreck plans by Michael Howard and Francis Maude to deny party members a vote in the leadership contest". Lord Ashcroft reportedly criticised the scheme at a meeting on Saturday.


He may be the favourite at the bookies, but David Davis continues to remain cryptic over whether he will actually stand. On the Today programme he refuses to declare his hand, but says: "You don't meddle with the referee just before you go on the pitch." Meanwhile, speculation continues to mount over whether grass roots members will reject plans to give MPs the final say over who will succeed Michael Howard. Mr Howard's surprise appearance at a meeting of constituency chairmen at the weekend was seen by some as evidence of growing anxiety that a full ballot of members will be required - potentially dragging out the contest until late January. Meanwhile, Ken Clarke's leadership rivals are sharpening their claws. In a pointed reference to Mr Clarke's age, Liam Fox who is expected to formally launch his leadership bid this week, tells the News of the World: "I am 43...I can provide a leadership that is relevant to all sections of the party and can reach out to our younger members and MPs." Sir Malcolm Rifkind criticises Mr Clarke's past enthusiasm for the euro. Former Conservative chairman, Lord Tebbit, not in the running for the leadership but still an influential figure in the party, calls Mr Clarke "lazy" - a charge refuted by former Cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell, who said that far from being yesterday's man, Mr Clarke was the man for tomorrow.
Paperwatch: Former Chancellor Norman Lamont, writing in the Times, backs Mr Clarke, saying he may have got some big issues wrong - "but he has got one issue completely right - Iraq".

Latest betting:David Davis 8/13, Ken Clarke 5/2, David Cameron 11/2, Liam Fox 20/1, Malcolm Rifkind 33/1 (source: politicalbetting.com)


Party chairman Francis Maude warns the Conservatives risk a repeat of the "disastrous" Iain Duncan Smith years if they deny MPs the final say on who should replace Michael Howard. The Daily Telegraph, says the comments are a sign of Mr Maude's "growing alarm" that his plans to remove the decisive vote from party members will be rejected in a ballot. The paper attacks Mr Maude in an editorial, arguing ordinary party members rather than the "jostling careerists who represent so many of them" should "in some measure" be the final arbiters. Disgraced former Tory MP Jonathan Aitken wades into the debate over the party's future, telling Michael Howard in an interview with the e-politix website the delayed contest "has had a negative impact on the fortunes of the Conservative Party".
Paperwatch: Ken Clarke's speech attacking Tony Blair's Iraq policy could shift the issue centre stage, says Peter Riddell in the The Times. Opposition to the war needs to be more than a Lib Dem issue, he argues. Writing in the The Daily Telegraph veteran journalist and former Tory MP Bill Deedes backs Ken Clarke, arguing it is high time there was an effective Opposition and Mr Clarke is the best man to lead it. "Like a good surgeon, he knows where to put the knife," argues Mr Deedes.


Known as a man ready to cross the street to join a fight, Ken Clarke shapes up for a "blistering attack" on Tony Blair over the Iraq war - something he opposed. But he does not have the limelight all to himself as David Cameron breaks his holiday to make what aides insist is a long-planned speech calling for tax relief on childcare.
A source close to Mr Clarke said his speech would be blistering

The UK Independence Party backs the pro-Europe Mr Clarke for the leadership "so the public know where the Tories stand". Paperwatch: Spectator editor Boris Johnson says the magazine will be backing David Cameron as next leader - notwithstanding political editor Peter Oborne's praise for Mr Clarke while the editor enjoyed his summer holiday. The Times says Ken's Clarke's bid is a triumph of "ambition over evidence". He might leave rivals in his wake in a contest for Tory "Prime Bloke" but to be prime minister he is too divisive and has given little indication he has imaginative ideas for the economy and public services, it says. Such criticisms are echoed in The Sun , George Pascoe-Watson, who says Mr Clarke has infuriated many MPs with his views on Iraq and the euro and by standing may split "moderate" Tories. With Mr Clarke's "blokeishness" a topic of debate in all the papers, the Financial Times says merely "being Ken" will not be enough. It says it will be listening this summer to see if he sets out a prospectus for government. The Daily Mirror says Britain is crying out for effective opposition and Mr Clarke can deliver it. But the paper's words come with a sting: "Good he may be, but Ken Clarke is still a Tory", it says, recalling his battles with ambulancemen in the 1980s. Daily Express political editor, Patrick O'Flynn predicts other candidates will drop by the wayside to leave Mr Clarke to take David Davis to the wire". But although the leadership contest may be just catching light, the paper says it seems to have been going on interminably already and the sooner it is over, the better.

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