Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Week Is A Long Time...

Back from a week in blogless Devon- excellent weather, picturebook scenery, and clotted cream that can block an artery at fifty paces...strongly recommended. And once again, a big vote of thanks to the Serf for stepping into the breach here.

Scrolling through the week's news and blogs, it's clear I've missed a lot of action, with much too much to digest in one post. But some points jump out.

The first is that Ken has obviously had a very good week. Buoyed by a series of favourable polls, his odds have shortened further, standing this morning at a new low of 5/2.

One consequence- as shown in Mike Smithson's latest chart- is that Ken's implied probability of winning has moved decisively ahead of David Cameron's. He's effectively KO'd Cameron before reaching the ring, and as Peter Oborne comments, DC's 'time may come, but now is a moment for reality'. More than ever, DC must be weighing up exactly when to jump.

The second point is that DD has been biding his time while Ken puts in his mid-race surge. As others are pointing out, such a strategy is not without risks, even though this race is a marathon not a sprint. But we all know that leadership contests are tricky beasts, and momentum must be carefully managed to be effective. Judgement and a steady nerve are needed, and if we count 2003, DD has just as much experience of this as Ken. Watch this space.

Third, while Ken's popularity ratings are naturally very appealing to our bruised and battered party, his policy utterances should send a Heathite chill through our bones. We already know about Europe, which- whatever he claims- has not gone away (as Boris argued so amusingly in last week's Spectator). And his economic speech last week confirmed his "fixed pie" approach to fiscal policy.

And those poll results...as always Anthony Wells puts his finger on it:

'I always view figures like this with some scepticism - how many of those people saying they are more likely to vote Tory vote Tory anyway? How many of those people saying they would be more likely to vote Tory would actually vote Tory, or are they just using the question to express a preference for Ken? Either way, it does suggest that the idea of a Ken Clarke leadership would win more votes than the idea of a David Davis leadership. The reality of a Clarke or Davis leadership would not necessarily have the same effect.'

Indeed.

Now, I don't know about you, but I joined the Tory party because I actually hold certain truths to be self-evident- such as our pressing need to get Westminster politicians out of our public services and local government. And I am excited by the fact that we do now have a coherent policy agenda for achieving just that.

So as the Serf observed during my absence, the proposition that we should appoint as leader a cuddly Baldwinesque steady-as-she-goes throw-back is just too dismal for words.

Further posts to follow.
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