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Elbows Stick Out In The Race To Be Next Tory Leader

Last Updated: Friday, June 14th, 2013

The Prime Minister still looks secure in his position – but that is not to say that the jostling to be his successor has gone away.

This week alone we have seen notable noises either from or about three of the leading contenders: Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Theresa May.

Of the three, the Education Secretary is the more talked-about than talking. He secured the prized spot on the front cover of the Spectator, in which free schools enthusiast Toby Young gave fulsome praise for Gove’s revolutionary zeal, and declared him “the best leader Labour never had”. The obvious implication is that the Conservatives should give him the job their opponents would, were their situations reversed.

It is perhaps no coincidence that on the day the Spectator came out, Theresa May addressed the Reform think tank with a notable speech. She advised on the character of Conservative spending cuts, the form public services across the board should take and even on the presentation and communication of Conservative policies.

This is not the first time the Home Secretary has publicly reached out beyond her own brief to mull the future direction of Conservative thinking, but it is one of her most comprehensive efforts at doing so.

There were messages for party loyalists about the party’s record since 2010. There was warm praise for colleagues such as Francis Maude, “the Government’s star reformer”.  Tellingly, there was an emphasis on the achievements of “David Cameron’s Government”, a note of reassurance that would not have been felt necessary in a less ambitious speech.

But May also made admonitions. Ministers should have the courage of their convictions, she urged, and resist any temptation to wobble. Importantly from the woman who coined the term “the nasty party”, she also called on all Conservatives to redouble efforts to reassure the public of their motivations and values. It was a speech shot-through with a message of experience, pragmatism and wide-ranging ambition.

The Mayor of London is perhaps most often associated with ambition, if not always with pragmatism, but he completes the set politely jostling each others’ elbows behind the PM.

The launch of his 2020 Vision for London on Tuesday saw Boris presenting himself in a new light. The quirky anecdotes and memorable flourishes of phrase were all there, as ever, but they were marshalled in order to present a new, practical BoJo.

The plan for London’s future was, he said, published later than planned because he had written it all himself – and in the absence of anyone else able to write in his unique style we have no reason to doubt him.

In which case, this is a clear Johnson attempt to answer the looming question about his leadership ambitions: can he do the serious stuff as well as make us laugh? Here was detail on how London’s education system, transport network, infrastructure and economy should work in future, and how the city should interact with the rest of the UK.

No candidate has the title of next leader of the Conservative Party in the bag as yet. Troublingly for Boris, yesterday Theresa May overtook him as the Ladbroke’s favourite.

As open as the race may be, that it is happening at all points to one fact: numerous senior Conservatives still believe a vacancy will come up after the 2015 General Election.

By Mark Wallace

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Paul Goodman: The Euphrates is running through David Cameron’s drawing room “The Times reports that the American Government is now prepared to send small arms to Syria.  The apparent reason is the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government, but that these have been deployed has been known for some time. The real reason is doubtless that the Obama administration is spooked by the prospect of Assad winning the war.  His forces have taken Qusair.  They are poised to take Aleppo.  Britain and France have been pushing to arm the rebels. The question now is whether the Cabinet and Parliament will and should agree to Britain doing so.” http://is.gd/U05iB5

Jesse Norman MP: It’s time for the Co-op to ballot its members about its relationship with Labour “There’s one other fact about the Co-op which is less often mentioned—one “say it ain’t so” fact which undermines this whole great picture, and indeed raises issues of serious public concern. For the Co-op is not just a retailer; it is a major political player in its own right.  Over the past ten years it has given £6,187,788 to a British political party, the Co-operative Party, and a further £355,857 to the Labour Party.  There are currently 32 Co-operative Party MPs in the House of Commons, 17 Co-operative Party Members of the House of Lords.  It has five MSPs, nine AMs, and hundreds of councillors around the country.” http://is.gd/Qw8Q20

Lewis Sidnick: First, fewer Special Advisers. Now, a record number. But where’s much of the growth? Step forward, Nick Clegg… “While there has been growth in the number of advisers, the new intake haven’t added to the old crowd. The turnover rate is extraordinary, even for political sector jobs. Of the 20 advisers in Cameron’s office in June 2010, just five remain today, a 75 per cent turnover rate that would send alarm bells ringing in the Human Resources Department of any private organisation. Of the four advisers who started in Clegg’s office, just one remains today.” http://is.gd/8n4yrI

Mark Wallace: Should we object so much to the “postcode lottery”? “We should embrace variation by postcode, or even more locally than that. We should encourage the state to recognise and act in response to our individuality rather than have it dish out what it believes the average family, street or town needs. It is a happy fact of the human condition that the average person does not exist – why should government set out to serve a statistical freak rather than treat the people as we really are? Instead, we should acknowledge that if the “postcode” element of the popular gripe is actually desirable, then it is the “lottery” that we should object to.” http://is.gd/W75ND2

Andrew Gimson profiles Samantha Cameron: A model professional in Number 10 “The more one examines her performance, the more one sees the professionalism which underpins it. Mrs Cameron’s upper-class background in no way debars her from being organised. A woman who knows her well says: “If you ask her, ‘Have you got a Phillips screwdriver?’ she not only knows exactly where it is, but she asks you, ‘What size would you like?’” Mr Cameron agrees with this. As he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2008: ‘Samantha could organise the invasion of Russia: if she had, they’d have made it to Vladivostock.’” http://is.gd/pw3XjP

Syed Kamall MEP: How to get the banking system we want “The response of politicians to the financial crisis has been like a fight breaking out in a bar. Legislators have preferred to hit those they have always wanted to hit (hedge funds and private equity) rather than those who started it (the banks and regulators that failed). Their actions over the past four years have done little to restore confidence and little to kick-start growth.” http://is.gd/D4facR

Paul Goodman: Select Committee Chairmen should be barred from having outside interests “The Yeo row is a reminder that Select Committee Chairman are now paid by the taxpayer and, in most cases, elected by their fellow MPs.  They thus have a legitimacy they didn’t have previously, and are receiving taxpayers’ money to help fund their role: all in all, they are now doing a job.  The case for banning conflicting outside interests has now become overwhelming.” http://is.gd/wUZk2m

By Mark Wallace

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