Leading article: A very public contest

Share
Related Topics

This was not how Michael Howard, the outgoing Tory leader, intended it to be. When he announced his resignation in May, Mr Howard anticipated that the party would accept his proposed reform of the leadership election procedures that would put the decision making process back in the hands of MPs, rather than local members. This conference was intended to be little more than a chance for ordinary members to show their appreciation for their wise representatives in Westminster. But the party had other ideas and unceremoniously rejected Mr Howard's rule-change proposal last week.

When David Davis, Kenneth Clarke, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Liam Fox, David Cameron - and anyone else who throws their hat into the ring - make their speeches this week, they will be forced to appeal not just to the men in grey suits of the parliamentary party, but the ordinary rank and file members too. It will be a very public and hard-fought beauty contest. It is a far cry from the coronation that saw Mr Howard emerge as Tory leader last time around.

And at this stage it is also impossible to pick a clear winner - something that makes this week's gathering in Blackpool all the more vibrant. Mr Clarke's entry to the contest has stopped this becoming a two-horse race between David Davis and David Cameron. Two candidates will go forward after a poll of MPs to be voted on by the membership. But which two they will now be is too close to call.

It all makes for quite a contrast with the Labour Party conference in Brighton. The Government's own "leadership contest" was conducted behind closed doors. The question of when Tony Blair will step down was addressed only in the subtlest of codes in speeches. And this is, of course, in a party where few doubt who Mr Blair's ultimate successor will be. Gordon Brown has been regarded as the leader in waiting for almost a decade.

The Tories ought to make the most of this. This is a chance for them to present themselves as an alternative to the stage-managed and authoritarian Labour Party. They can show themselves to be a party that is comfortable with internal debate and which does not feel the need to eject from the hall anyone who does not toe the official line. Let the real battle for the Tory leadership commence.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition