Press pundits précised
The main British political stories today centre, as usual, on the election of the next Conservative leader. The Sunday Telegraph reports that its poll of constituency chairmen showed a 44% vote against the proposed change to the party’s constitution which would give MPs the final say on the leadership. With the proposal requiring a two-thirds majority at the National Convention on 27th September, this would be enough to block it. The Sunday Times speculates that the compromise option of an electoral college may be explored.
The Observer has polled Tory MPs and found that none of those elected for the first time in May are prepared to tell the paper they back Kenneth Clarke – an anonymous member of this cohort is quoted as saying that the ex-Chancellor’s previous support for the single currency is still a barrier. An article in the business section of the Independent on Sunday points out that Clarke’s anti-euro article is a “strategic retreat” rather than a U-turn.
The Sunday Times’s poll of 100 Conservative MPs has David Davis leading, followed by Liam Fox and David Cameron, with Clarke in fourth. The same article quoted Alan Duncan, who has withdrawn from the contest, calling for Cameron to abandon his challenge and accept a Davis–Clarke finale. The betting markets have made the same judgement, with Clarke (3.3/1) well ahead of Cameron (6.8/1) – but if The Sunday Times‘s poll is correct, Clarke’s odds have come in far too short.
Scotland on Sunday reports on two developments which could harm Labour’s chances in the by-election for the Glasgow Cathcart seat in the Scottish Parliament. Former Labour incumbent Mike Watson (who pleaded guilty on Thursday to a charge of wilful fireraising) is reported to have claimed Â£21,000 in expenses for attending the House of Lords during a period in which he made only two speeches in the upper house. And in the fight for the Labour nomination in the by-election, there are moves to back Charan Gill, a multimillionaire friend of First Minister Jack McConnell – but not a Cathcart resident or even a Labour party member.
Switching to Cabinet politics, The Sunday Times reports on a warming of relations between Gordon Brown and David Blunkett. With Brown’s endorsement thought to be important in the eventual choice of a Labour deputy leader, this could justify Blunkett’s favourite status at 7/2. The same paper has more on the recent conflicts between Tony Blair and Home Secretary Charles Clarke – reportedly seen by the Prime Minister as excessively liberal. The paper reports Blair forcing Clarke to fund the projects of “anti-yob tsar” Louise Casey. Given Casey’s previous comments about “decking” Downing Street staffers, perhaps it is unfair to accuse Blair of ignoring the possibility of rehabilitation.
Mike Smithson is on holiday until 5th September.