Will standing aside for Howard assure him the succession?
Could the latest Conservative turmoil over the proposed changes in procedures for choosing the leader be just what David Davis needs to ensure that it is he who takes over from Michael Howard later in the year?
For his supporters, no doubt, will remind colleagues how their manâ€™s forbearance in October and November 2003 spared the party a divisive battle that could have left big scars in the run up to the General Election. For it was his decision not to contest the leadership on the night of the confidence vote on Ian Duncan Smith that led to Michael Howardâ€™s smooth transition.
[This move, incidentally was first revealed on the Betfair betting screens when with an hour to go before the voting closed David Davisâ€™s price on succeeding IDS suddenly jumped from 2/1 to 10/1. Somebody who knew something at 5.30 pm made a nice profit two or three hours before David Davisâ€™s formal statement.]
David Davis continues to be the firm favourite in the Next Tory leader market and so far few other serious challengers have emerged.
Under the proposed changes any Conservative MP who can get the support of 20 of his/her colleagues will go forward to a national convention where representatives from the grass-roots of the party will rate the candidates in order. It would then be for Conservative MPs to make the final decision. The aim is to avoid a situation where a candidate who does not have the support of colleagues in the Commons is foisted on MPs by the membership as a whole.
But isn’t there are danger that under the proposed new system the party at large could have foisted on them a leader who doesn’t command their support?
Assuming Davis will get 20 MPs to support him then it would seem pretty likely that he’ll make the number one spot at the national convention. It’s also likely that the former Conservative Chancellor who has been rebuffed twice for the leadership, Ken Clarke, would receive a pretty low rating at this meeting because of his support for the EU. It then might be quite hard for the party’s MPs to reject the “grass-root” choice particularly after the way Michael Howard’s election worked in 2003.
The 2/1 on David Davis is a fair price.