Tories still need Ken Clarke
David Davis and David Cameron both launch their leadership bids today. I watched a bit of their speeches, and an interview with their chosen representative, on the Daily Politics, and a major fact hit me. They are both, Davis is particular, so bland.
Cameron less so. From what little I saw of his speech, he seemed pretty switched on and engaging. David Davis on the other hand, was a different matter. He is the frontrunner in the race, with, it is reckoned, twice the support of Ken Clarke amongst the parliamentary party. However, watching him on the podium, settign out his stall for the campaign ahead, he came across as grey, uninspired and uninspiring. In fact, he reminded me greatly of John Major, and that is never a good comparison.
If the tories are going to fight New Labour on the centre ground, which they must to win votes, then they must be prepared to fight over very little ground. And when the margin is so small, the result depends ever more on charisma, on charm, on that hideous phrase, the 'x factor'. David Davis lacks this. Ken Clarke on the other hand has charisma in spades, which is why he is easily the most recognised face in the leadership election (I'm afraid I can't remember the exact poll figures, but he was around 10% ahead of the next candidate).
Critics of Ken Clarke point out his popularity with the electorate almost as a weakness. How misguided are the tories becoming? Or is it simply that they've become so used to losing elections, their little 'c' conservative instincts tell them not to upset the status quo.
Ken Clarke provides exactly what the tory party needs - a charismatic, recognised face to lead the party. His age does count against him, but he should be able to get the tories up to speed again by the next election, and after that, David Cameron should be ready to take over.