Friday, October 07, 2005

# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

WANT TO FIND OUT WHO WILL BE THE NEXT TORY LEADER? GO ASK A DUBLIN BOOKMAKER! Paddy Power gives David Cameron 5-6 odds, David Davis 13-8, Ken Clarke 9-2, Liam Fox 12-1, and noble Malcolm Rifkind, god love him, 80-1. After watching the speeches, I'll use my Irish Single Transferable Vote to jump on to the David Cameron bandwagon, for my second choice after Ken Clarke.

Why? Mark me down alongside the fetching Camilla Cavendish,
By the time I got to Blackpool on Monday I was wondering how difficult it would be to start a new party. That weekend a Populus poll had found that 49 per cent of voters agreed with the statement “British politics would be better off if the Conservative Party was replaced by a new right-of-centre party” — a palpable level of frustration that is the very reverse of apathy.

Then on Tuesday, I watched David Cameron. And I started to think that maybe the Tories could skip a generation and get away with it. Cameron was, frankly, inspirational. He did not drone on about Labour failures, nor did he exaggerate them. He filled the room with hope: with a picture of Britain as a compassionate place that does not have to put up with failing schools, ever-higher taxes, rampant crime and fraying social cohesion. He spoke about education with a fury and a determination that we have not heard since the early days of new Labour. For only by freeing and improving education can we recreate opportunity. And Labour’s passion has ebbed away.

For too long the Conservatives were carried away by an obsession with individualism that implied that there was only one remedy for all problems: the free market in larger and larger doses. That made them sound lunatic on health, for example, and completely unable to address subjects like social cohesion or climate change. It left them looking like half a party, and meant that even humane and intelligent free-market ideas were derided as cheapskate capitalism. The Conservatives talked a lot about aspiration, but seemed unable to grasp that people do not just aspire to material wealth. The new generation understands instinctively that many of us also aspire to leave a better world behind us. As the mood shifts away from consumerism and individualism, Mr Cameron is offering ways to strengthen society and reverse dwindling social mobility and social cohesion. And he is doing it with conviction.
Hear, hear. Mercifully the right flank's banner-bearer David Davis self-destructed after giving delegates a sense of what they could have watched during PMQs for five years. Another parliamentary bumbler far to the right of the nation would have given Labour too easy a ride, and politics would have (continued to have) been the poorer. Cameron's take on One Nationism leaves one hoping he might offer Britain what it hasn't had for ages - a credible Opposition for Her Majesty which promises for the UK what in 1998 a candidate Schröder long past had once portended for Germany, a new debating partner and a new middle.
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