Clarke candidacy highlights Tory dilemma…

Leading on from where Gonzo left off. Clarke is 65, and this is his third bid for the leadership. Precedent suggests he’s not well matched to an aging party suspicious of his pro-European views (though he’s getting distance between himself and the Euro), and his anti war stance (only five other Tories followed him into the no lobby). But the serial failure of his previous rivals hardly recommends a hard man of the right either.The Times doubts he has the numbers to win. As the Toryleadership blog notes, he’s more popular with Labour insiders than Tories.

Being attractive to your main opponents can be a political millstone. But it could also be a singular advantage to a party that has failed to make any substantive electoral appeal beyond its own core support for well over a decade.

Jackie Ashley (hardly a prospective Tory voter), believes he has the capacity to charm and communicate in a similar manner to the late Mo Mowlam. Presumably he can dispense with the services of whoever coached IDS to that appalling performance in his “quiet man is turning up the volume” speech.

Currently the party is split between the modernisers (for whom questions of style are important) and those who believe policy should be the core of their offering. In reality, it’s unlikely that the party can have one without the other if it is determined to return to status as Britain’s natural party of government.

If the Tories were to put Clarke in the hot seat, they might have a a solution to the problem of style. But he will also need a big idea or two to 1, allow him to unify party, and 2, hit Gordon Brown with something that voters will take note of?

Those ideas will have to come recognisably from the right (the Nixon and China motif) if he’s to achieve the former. And they’ll have to have something of the post-Blairite about them to do the latter.

See Excerpts from the Mail interview.