British Conservatives to pick new leader.
I have not previously blogged on this subject, but I have followed it more than almost any other story in the past few months.
After Britain's recent parliamentary election, Conservative Party leader Michael Howard announced his resignation. (For my American readers, the job of "party leader" entails leading the Conservative Party in Parliament AND standing as the party's candidate for Prime Minister when an election is held). On Tuesday, Conservative Members of Parliament will begin the process of choosing a new leader from a field of four candidates: David Davis (Shadow Home Secretary), David Cameron (Shadow Education Secretary), Ken Clarke (MP, Former Chancellor of the Exchequer), and Dr. Liam Fox (Shadow Foreign Secretary). After Tuesdays vote, the candidate with the fewest votes will be officially kicked out of the race. The Conservative MPs will then vote on the remaining three candidates on Thursday, and again the one with the fewest votes is out. The remaining two candidates will be submitted to a vote of the entire membership of the Conservative Party sometime in the near future.
THIS ELECTION IS VERY IMPORTANT, BECAUSE IT WILL DETERMINE THE PATH OF BRITISH CONSERVATISM FOR YEARS IF NOT DECADES TO COME. I say this because the party is deeply divided between a "modernizing" (read: drastic shift to the left) faction, represented by Cameron and Clarke; and what I would call a "true conservative" faction, represented by Davis and Fox. The modernizers say that the party must go their way if it ever wants to be in government again, thinking that Britons are no longer open to traditional conservatism. On the other hand the "true conservatives" stress that staying true to the party's core values is paramount.
My take is this: If holding to your core values means that you will be a perpetual opposition party, then so be it; that's better than selling your soul just to get elected. I doubt that very many votes will be won by electing David Cameron or Ken Clarke. Why? Because I think that the British people will recognize that by electing one of these men, the Conservative Party will do anything, including abandoning it's core social values, in order to get into power. I would venture to say that Britain wants to be governed by a party grounded in it's values, not one which changes it's platform whenever public opinion turns against it. If a party is that wishy-washy and weak in the opposition, then why would I want to put them into government?!
Based on the the arguments which you just read, CONSERVAGLOBE ENDORSES DAVID DAVIS FOR THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF BRITAIN. Davis is the candidate most committed to conservative values on both the economic and social fronts, and I trust him not to be wishy washy.
My second choice is Liam Fox. Fox is also a conservative, but he lacks the support in Parliament to be a legitimate contender. I also place him behind Davis because, from my reading, Fox does not seem to have quite the reputation as a rock-solid conservative that Davis has.
If you must elect a "modernizer", I would prefer David Cameron. Cameron is not as solid as Davis or Fox, but he does have a few things going for him. First, he is only 38, meaning he could bring stability with a long term as party leader. Second, he has charisma, which is exactly what got Blair into office. From my point of view, these factors make him more electable than Ken Clarke. So, if the name of the game is getting into government at any cost, David Cameron is your man.
Which brings me to Ken Clarke. While I must say that I was impressed by Clarke's recent speech to the party's annual conference at Blackpool, in which he did a fine job of outlining the benefits of a conservative free-market economy, I still think that his election as party leader would be a disaster. First off, Ken Clarke is not in line with the party membership on the vast majority of issues. He like the E.U, the membership is slightly Euroskeptic. He wanted to join the Euro, the membership wanted to save the Pound. He is thinks the Iraq conflict is a disaster, his party supports the war. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. Second, Clarke is 65, meaning that he could be in his 70s by the next general election. Thirdly, Clarke has an ego problem. He has been a horrible sport after losing two previous bids for party leadership, refusing to accept a seat in the shadow cabinet under the last three party leaders. Instead, he waits for the men who bested him to resign and then launches yet another leadership campaign telling the party that he could do so much better. The Labor party have a much younger and more effective candidate, Chancellor Gordon Brown, ready to take over from Blair at a moment's notice. And if anyone thinks that and aging, self-centered Ken Clarke is the man to beat him, then they are sorely mistaken.
My prediction: Davis will win the first ballot with nearly all of the right-wing MPs on his side, ousting fellow rightist Liam Fox. Davis will also win the second ballot, leaving Cameron and Clarke to duel for second place. I think that Cameron will edge Clarke by a razor thin margin. In the final duel between Davis and Cameron, party members will remain true to their core values and chose the good conservative over the charismatic centrist. DAVID DAVIS WILL BE THE NEXT LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY.
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