Saturday, July 09, 2005

At Last- A Real Choice

We've posted before about how Michael Howard's six month leadership hiatus is actually turning out to be rather helpful.

Because as the contest shapes up, we can see that in Davis and Cameron we are being offered genuine alternatives. For the first time in thirty years.

Yes, Ken vs IDS was a choice of sorts, as was Ken vs Hague. But Ken's provocatively Europhile views meant that he was out of the question for large parts of the party. Whatever his personal merits, or his views on broader issues such as public services, he was stymied by a single (albeit vital) issue.

This time it's different. We're all euro-sceptics now, and neither of the Davids hold showstopping views on any other single issue. Instead, we are being given a real choice between two broad visions of Conservatism in the modern age.

On policy, Cameron is offering a widely touted version of modernism, aimed at getting us onto the centre ground currently in sole occupation by New Labour. It's a latterday re-run of 1950s Butskellism, and it means pretty well accepting Labour's spend and tax approach to public services, in the hope that we can manage it better. This approach is supported by wide sections of the media, including the BBC and Polly Toynbee.

Davis offers us a more radical vision, based on the Conservative tradition of consumer choice and competition. It will produce lower taxes and a smaller state, but its main attraction is its promise to reshape and improve those public services. It is the choice of the Torygraph, not to mention most of the Tory blogosphere.

We know which we prefer, but we recognise that free market radicalism and statist consensus have both brought us electoral success at various times in the past.

We're also being offered a real choice of leader. Depending on your preference, this is either Council House Boy vs the Toff, or grey Mr Basher vs gorgeous Mr Telegenic.

More fundamentally, we're being offered the choice between a modernised Tory patrician, and an archetypal self-made man. Again, we've had some success with both types in the past (although with the possible exception of John Major, it's difficult to think of any who have travelled quite as far as DD).

For us, there is no doubt. The best interests of both the Party and the Country lie with the radical platform articulated and led by council house, single-parent Davis- the man who is the very embodiment of the opportunity society we all want to promote.

But we do accept that this is a real choice. Thanks to Howard's extended contest, each of us has the chance to make a considered judgement on the issues as well as the candidates. And when we do set off again, our direction will be the one we have chosen together. Not the result of another grubby leadership fight where victory is secured only because the winner isn't somebody else.
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