Miles Kington: Why the Tories should seek divine guidance

The system Buddhists use to choose the Dalai Lama. Find the reincarnation of Winston Churchill
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The Independent Online

I have had some odd cold calls on my office telephone in my time, but I wasn't prepared for the one I got on Friday.

I have had some odd cold calls on my office telephone in my time, but I wasn't prepared for the one I got on Friday.

"Good morning, sir," said the cheery but unknown male voice. "May I ask you a question?"

"Go ahead," I said.

"How would you like to be the next leader of the Conservative Party?"

I thought about it. On the one hand, I had recently been toying with the idea of a complete career change. On the other hand, it didn't really make sense to move into a dead end job.

"It's very kind of you," I said, "but I don't think so."

"I am not actually offering you the job," said the voice, slightly impatiently. "I am just doing a phone survey on how interested various people would be in doing it."

"Why me?" I said. "Anyway, I am not even a Member of Parliament."

"That's one of the things we are considering changing," he said. "Up to now it has always been considered vital that the leader of a parliamentary party should be a parliamentarian, but we now recognise that this limits the choice terribly. After all, if business and industry always chose leaders from within the firm, and there was no head-hunting of any kind, they would be in a lot of trouble."

"Like the Conservative Party," I said. "Yes, I get your drift."

"So we are considering every possible option this time round. Up to now, every time the system has been changed it has chosen the wrong leader. We could have got good men like Portillo and Clarke and Heseltine, but instead we ..."

"I'm with you," I said. "Incidentally, whatever happened to Duncan-Smith?"

"Who?" said the voice, as if puzzled. "Oh, him. Now, do you have any views on which the best system would be to choose a leader?"

"Have you considered divine guidance?" I said.

"I'm sorry?"

"The system that Tibetan Buddhists used to choose the Dalai Lama," I said. "No voting or head-hunting involved at all. Find the reincarnation of Winston Churchill. Let God do it all."

"The Buddhists don't believe in God," he said.

He'd got me there.

"Well," I said, "you're obviously going to have to make the offer very tempting, because the next Tory leader will be on a hiding to nothing ..."

"You're very wrong there," he said. "It would be an ideal career move. Joining an organisation when it is peaking, like the Labour Party, may look tempting, but you would actually be joining something that was about to go down. Very few people can see Labour winning a fourth election. Now is the ideal time to get into the Tory party and be there when it shoots up again!"

"Are you saying that it would be a bad career move to be in charge of the Labour Party in the next few years?"

"Certainly. It will be increasingly unpopular, it will be running into huge financial difficulties, it will be losing vital European referendums ..."

"So Gordon Brown ..."

"Gordon Brown will be taking on a poisoned chalice," said the voice, sounding quite pleased at the thought. "He is walking into an open grave."

"Whereas Tony Blair will walk away unscathed?"

"Yes."

"Well, have you thought about him?"

"Pardon?"

"It occurs to me that Tony Blair may be the answer to all your problems. He has never lost an election. He has a record for turning round and reviving a tired, unhappy party. His principles, if he can be said to have any, are indistinguishable from Tory principles. And in a year or two he is going to be free and available, and looking around for a fresh challenge. Having handed over to Gordon Brown, I think he would leap at the chance to cross swords with him again - but this time as Tory leader!"

There was a silence.

"What you say is ludicrous," said the voice. "There is nevertheless also a lot of sense in what you say. I will call you again soon, if I may."

Any time, sir.

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