Leading article: The challenge for Mr Cameron

Share
Related Topics

For the third time, the party has rejected its most obviously eligible candidate. This is a personal rebuff for Kenneth Clarke and a political rebuff for what he stood for. The former chancellor of the exchequer, the man who more than anyone was responsible for the strong economy bequeathed to New Labour, has good reason for disappointment.

He fought a strong campaign, especially in the early stages. He gave the best and easily the most substantial speech at the party conference. He was someone who could have taken on Tony Blair at the dispatch box without need for further training. By yesterday, though, it was clear that two things were against him.

The first was his record on Europe. His much-publicised reversal was too little and too late to convince doubting MPs, while alienating those who might have supported him as a man of principle. It is a pity that the party's most prominent pro-European was not prepared to defend his position to the last. It is high time that Euroscepticism ceased to be seen as the hallmark of a sound Conservative.

Mr Clarke's other liability was age. Had David Cameron not performed so strongly at the party conference and had he not remained in the media spotlight for quite other reasons, Mr Clarke might have come across as the candidate of responsible maturity. The more confidently Mr Cameron handled his predicament, however, the less Mr Clarke looked like the party's next leader. We hope nonetheless to see him back on the front bench. He has much still to contribute to the party.

Mr Cameron's close second to David Davis confirmed him as the centrist candidate for the party's future. It looks unlikely, but not impossible, that Liam Fox will survive into the run-off. The constituency party's enthusiasm for youth over age at the conference, and for Mr Cameron's brand of youth in particular, suggests he will be the next leader. Which is where his problems could begin.

The drugs diversion, while a test of Mr Cameron's mettle, also freed him from a closer examination of his policies. He has time to add substance to what could, at best, become compassionate conservatism for real. But he cannot afford to leave it too long. He may prevail in the constituencies, but he will inherit a parliamentary party with a substantial rump of right-wingers. They could form an internal opposition that would be every bit as troublesome as Mr Blair and his Government. To be effective, he will need to show firmness and political subtlety beyond his years.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent