Friday, September 16, 2005

The Guts Factor

From his new station alongside DD, David Willetts swoops down on yesterday's piece by Ali Campbell castigating us for not having a real policy debate:

'What has Campbell been up to for the past few months if he hasn’t detected there is at last a real and lively debate going on?...I think of David Cameron on quality of life issues, Ken Clarke demolishing Labour’s economic record and Liam Fox passionate on human rights across the world. [Modesty clearly forbade any mention of his own excellent contributions].

Above all, on the very same day that Campbell’s article appeared, David Davis spoke to Labour’s leading think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, on the disaster of declining social mobility and how we can once more spread opportunity more widely.

[Campbell] makes another mistake too. He has wrongly assumed that our problem is exactly the same as the one that Blair and Gordon Brown faced. Their problem was that Labour hadn’t come to terms with the failure of the socialist project. Ironically, the Conservative problem is the opposite, that we haven’t come to terms with the success of our project.'

Spot on, David.

But he ends on guts:

'Campbell said of what Blair and Brown did: “It sounds easy. It wasn’t.” He is right that it is not just a matter of formulating a grand strategy, it is having the guts and determination to stick with it through the day-to-day decisions of politics. Over the past eight years the Conservative Party has had all too many strategies; some of them were even quite good. But what we have not managed to do is to stick with them and resist those powerful gravitational forces pulling you back to do the things that don’t take the party or the country in the right direction.

So we need someone who both understands what we have to do and has the authority and determination to see it through. David Davis is that man.'

This is interesting, because there are those who say that a DD leadership would follow the sad pattern set by the Hague,IDS, and Howard leaderships. He'll start out standing, proud to proclaim a radical platform encompassing the very best Conservative thinking from right across the party. But after a couple of years facing the machine guns, he'll lose his nerve and scuttle back to some sawn-off "core vote" sloganising, like "Save The Pound", or "Control Immigration", or "Lock 'Em Up".

Willetts has been in those bunkers and bears the scars. He sees in DD someone with the broken-nosed guts to withstand that pressure. Someone who will stand up at some future Conference and say "You turn if you want to..." Or have we heard that one before?
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