Michael Brown: The shadow of Thatcher has been lifted

This election marks a final break with the past. A new generation is taking over

Share
Related Topics

Frankly, the elimination of Ken Clarke, the most popular and experienced of the four candidates did not come as a total shock. For all the headway he appeared to make during the late summer and at the party conference in Blackpool, Mr Clarke was unable to shed his Europhile image and suffered from the failure to appeal to the younger generation of MPs. And in the end his age also told against him. Only one of the newly elected MPs publicly endorsed Mr Clarke and, notwithstanding his barnstorming speech in Blackpool, he has obviously been over-burdened and overwhelmed by his past. As Tim Yeo said, however, Mr Clarke's elimination is a tragedy for Mr Clarke and the Conservative Party.

There will be some concern among the wider party membership that they will be unable to express their opinion on Mr Clarke's candidacy. Mr Clarke has contended all along that there would be a peasants' revolt of the membership if he were not on the final ballot. The immediate reaction of ordinary voters, beyond the Tory party, must be that the Tories have shot themselves in the foot again. Mr Clarke's popularity, however, as measured by opinion polls was probably overstated.

But the beneficiaries of Mr Clarke's elimination are the outsider, Liam Fox, and the new favourite, David Cameron, who both go into tomorrow's second ballot with a spring in their step. Dr Fox, with his 42 votes in yesterday's parliamentary ballot poses a potential, but not yet a fatal, threat to David Davis.

There has been much concern at the extent to which Mr Davis would be able to hold on to his much-advertised 66 publicly declared supporters. In the event Mr Davis has fared well enough to retain first place but, with only six votes more than Mr Cameron, he has clearly lost much of his initial momentum. There will now be an almighty tussle between both the Fox and Davis camps, and the Fox camp will no doubt approach every one of Mr Davis's 62 voters before tomorrow. As things stand, it would only take a dozen Davis switchers to put Dr Fox into the final ballot of party members. Dr Fox has a simple message to any MP unconvinced that Mr Cameron is the salvation of the Tory party. He will try to suggest that he is better placed than Mr Davis to beat Mr Cameron in the membership ballot. Certainly polls suggest that, in a run-off between Mr Cameron and Mr Davis, Mr Cameron would storm to victory.

The simple arithmetic makes it certain that David Cameron, with his 56 votes - far more than his officially published tally of supporters - is the only one of the three remaining candidates who can now guarantee, absolutely, that he will be one of the two to go to the membership after tomorrow's second ballot. Mr Cameron is the firm favourite and has clearly managed to lay to rest the doubts raised in some sections of the media about his refusal to answer questions about drug use when he was at university. To be only six votes behind Mr Davis at this stage is a remarkable achievement and there is every likelihood that he will clean up the bulk of the 38 votes garnered by Mr Clarke.

It is quite possible, however, that a few of Mr Davis's voters could have sought, tactically, to try to keep Mr Clarke in the race and might yet return to honour their original pledges.

The shape of the new Conservative Party can just be discerned. This leadership election probably marks the final break with the past. A new generation of politicians is taking over and the shadow of the Major and Thatcher years has been lifted this week. Even though Dr Fox - and even Mr Davis - will seek to remind some on the hard right of their Thatcherite roots, for vote-winning purposes tomorrow, they will both be as anxious as Mr Cameron to demonstrate a generational change.

Whoever wins the contest in the country in early December will have no one in the Shadow Cabinet who served as a member of theThatcher cabinets - unless, of course Mr Clarke finally decides that he is prepared to roll up his sleeves.

William Hague is rumoured to be contemplating a return and would be the only other potential member of the Shadow Cabinet with cabinet experience. If Mr Hague expresses a public preference for one of the candidates he - rather than Baroness Thatcher - will have a potentially decisive influence on the course of events over the next few weeks.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot