The Conservative leadership election

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus about two things that impact the need to change the procedures by which the Conservative Party elects its leaders. Firstly, it is unfortunate to choose a leader that the Parliamentary Party won't follow. True. But also unfortunate to choose a leader that the membership won't follow. The ideal is someone that both revere, but no procedural change can guarantee that. The risk also exists for Labour and the Liberal Democrats. For Labour is is easy to see it has never happened: Kinnock, Smith and Blair all won in all three sections of the electoral college. More contentiously we can state that it has never happened in the Conservative Party. I have no doubt at all that the membership would have elected Hague over Clarke in 1997 and that the Parliamentary Party would have elected Duncan Smith over Clarke in 2001. Both sections wanted Clarke to lose more than they wanted any particular person to win.

The second consensus is that it is the members who can be blamed for past decisions. This is plainly untrue. Partly because it is fairly clear that the Parliamentary Party would have made the same decision in 2001, faced with the same shortlist. Furthermore, it is the Parliamentary Party which created that weak shortlist in the first place. In their determination to ensure that the obvious candidate, Michael Portillo, did not win, they elevated two other candidates to the shortlist ahead of him. (In passing, I am sure that Portillo would have beaten Clarke in a run off in Parliament or among the membership. He would, however, have lost to Duncan Smith in either constituency). As a member, I felt that the Parliamentary Party eliminate the three best of five candidates, leaving me with a choice between my fourth and fifth preference.

What is really needed is a different attitude. The Party should start voting FOR the best candidate and not merely against the person it most wants to see defeated.

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