Leading article: The Tories cannot afford to make another foolish choice

David Cameron recognises the need to woo the centre, which is essential if they are to win the next election

Share
Related Topics

This time the race has been rather more exciting, with the field now narrowed down to two. After a poor start, David Davis is running a lively campaign. He performed well in Thursday's televised debate and is justifying his reputation for being a pugnacious character. And his opponent, David Cameron, showed his inexperience in the debate. Those who were predicting a Cameron landslide after he came top of the ballot of MPs may have been too hasty.

Yet while Mr Davis's performance was assured, his policy proposals do not bear close scrutiny. Four years away from a general election, Mr Davis proposes to cut taxes for the average British family by £1,200 each year. But who knows what state the economy will be in at that point? Proposing an exact figure now is not credible. His proposal to hold two referendums on "bringing back power" from Europe is also unrealistic. Has he considered the implications of tearing up treaties with our continental neighbours? It is a Eurosceptic fantasy to imagine that this can be easily done. The trouble with virtually all of Mr Davis's policy ideas is that they give the impression of having been formulated in a previous era. His conference speech in Blackpool failed not just due to his flat delivery, but also because of the absence of convincing content.

Mr Cameron is far superior in this respect. He is optimistic about his country, not negative. He has a more grown-up attitude on race and sexuality. He is sensible on the question of drugs too - and must stick to his guns over downgrading ecstasy. Mr Cameron is also conscious of the need for his party not to divorce its aspiration for a smaller state from the imperative of creating strong public services. He is no doctrinaire tax cutter like Mr Davis.

It is also encouraging that Mr Cameron takes the issue of climate change seriously, supporting a permanent mechanism to force through cuts in emissions. His statements on foreign policy are refreshing: it is, as he says, high time that the Tory party ditched its obsession with Zimbabwe and Gibraltar. In the light of all this, it is highly unfortunate his views on Europe are almost as regressive as those of Mr Davis.

In terms of tactics, Mr Cameron's aim of de-coupling Mr Blair from the Labour party is shrewder than Mr Davis's idea of lurching yet further to the right. Mr Cameron recognises the need for the Tories to woo the centre ground if they are to win the next election. The danger for Mr Cameron is that Mr Davis will continue to gain mileage by portraying Mr Cameron as an imitator of Tony Blair. This has the potential to do him great damage among activists. Yet Mr Cameron is also justified in pointing out that Mr Davis never shuns an opportunity to grab a headline - a classic Blairite technique.

The Tory leadership election is still very much open. The activists have a clear-cut choice. For the sake of the country, which desperately needs a strong opposition party, it is to be hoped they choose more wisely than last time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US