Iain Duncan Smith is out. Why?

I’m an American, and not versed in UK politics; maybe some UK Dopers can help?

The vague impression I get on this side of the pond is that Tony Blair is fighting for his political life. I also get the impression that Smith has been trying to lead the Tories toward the center by pushing for more toleration of gays and reaching out to minorities and the poor. Sounds to me like a good strategy when you’re out of power and the other party’s leader is in trouble. So why are the Tories ditching him?

Smith isn’t very charismatic, and not all that good a speaker. He also hasn’t been attacking Blair very harshly about Iraq…a lot of Tories think he was given an opportunity to score political points and blew it.

Also, some people still resent him for his role in getting rid of Major.

Yes, the principal reason is that he has no charisma whatsoever, and so whenever he starts to speak, the public start to snore. Blair makes mincemeat of him in practically ever public argument they have.

The subtext, however, is in-fighting amongst Conservative MPs which dates all the way back to the final months of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership and bitterness over how and why she was ditched. No leader has been able to heal the wounds that were created at that time, and successive leaders have been chosen because they had few obvious enemies rather than because they were especially suited to leadership. The Tory Party is split between numerous competeing factions and there is little consensus about what they ought to stand for. That lack of unity is an even bigger problem for the voters than IDS’s lack of personality – his predecessor, William Hague, was much better at speaking in the House of Commons but he couldn’t unite his party either and the voters don’t like it.

This summary might help you to understand some of the problems he’s had: IDS: Doomed from the start?

Also, displaying “more toleration of gays and reaching out to minorities and the poor” as you phrase it are not big vote winners among Conservatives.

As far as Tony Blair’s difficulties are concerned, the crumbling, factionalised Conservative Party doesn’t represent an attractive alternative to enough voters. For example, those of his critics who believe he was too close to President Bush over the Iraq situation would have found that a Tory party led by IDS was at least as close (so if they reject Blair they are more likely to switch to the Liberal Democrats). People who complain that Labour are too cosy with the European Union are already Tory voters.

Jeez, it sounds like the Tories are in terrible disarray. Everton, the article you linked to shows that the Tories’ poll numbers have been consistently going up while Smith was in power, yet even that wasn’t enough to unite his party behind him.

Are the Tories going to blow it, then? Will Blair ride this thing out just because the Tories can’t unite against him?

I remember when IDS was elected Tory leader (on 12 September 2001–talk about an inauspicious day to get started), there already were rumblings among the Tory backbenchers. IDS was the first Tory leader to be elected by the “whole party”–meaning that the rank-and-file Tory members had a say, not just the MPs. Indeed, as the article everton links to notes, IDS was actually the second choice of the MPs, but lost the party election. Today’s vote of confidence was limited only to MPs…obviously he hadn’t won over any of them during the last two years.

Er, won the party election, that should read.

The improvements in the Tories’ position have only been gradual, and it’s standard procedure for government parties to lose popular support in the middle of a term. Lack of enthusiasm for Blair should not be interpreted as enthusiasm for the opposition. The gap between them stands at 5%, but because of the details of our system that still translates to a Labour majority of 160 seats in the House of Commons if there were a General Election tomorrow.

As that linked article confirms, however, switching Tory leader at this stage is unlikely to help them and may make the situation even worse. The front runner for leadership replacement is Michael Howard, and while 19% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Tory if he were the leader, 26% said they would be less likely. Howard is connected to some of the more controversial Thatcher policies (he was a member of her cabinet); he has even been described as “sinister” and “dangerous” by prominent members of the party and a lot of people think he is a downright liar.

The fact that IDS was the first ever leader chosen by all the members of the Tory party (previously they were chosen by small committees of MPs) will cause extra problems for whoever steps in – grass roots activists are said to be furious about this outcome.

Nevertheless, it’s debatable to what degree Blair would succeed against a united Tory party. Blair’s critics include a number of people who complain that Labour has become too like the Tories, and those people are unlikely to switch their vote towards the right. Personally it would be a cold day in hell before I would vote Conservative.

So the problems they have are multiple and contradictory. They have to be seen to unite; they have to be a distinctive alternative to Labour; and yet they also have to be popular with a majority of voters. The risk is that even if they achieve one of those things the result will automatically fail to achieve one of the others.

“I also get the impression that Smith has been trying to lead the Tories toward the center by pushing for more toleration of gays and reaching out to minorities and the poor.”

Im interested where/how did you get this impression? I havent noticed it at all!

Not really. He is less popular than before the war, but his leadership is fairly safe into the next election. As for party politics, Labour still have a healthy lead in the polls. Should this be cut drastically at the next election, Blair may step aside for eg. Gordon Brown, but this is a way down the road.

No, he never made any significant moves in this direction as I recall. Compared to American conservatives he might sound leftist, but then again so would almost any European right-winger given the currently massive lean to the right in US politics, media and public opinion in general.

The fact is that under Smith the Conservatives were unelectable. What I find telling is that it seems they might elect Michael Howard, thus firmly retaining their reputation as the Nasty Party and, surely, remaining unelectable?

Does anyone else here feel that this indicates that they have effectively written off the next election so that Portillo or Clarke can make a serious play for the centre ground afterwards, in time for the 2008 election?

If so, I feel the Lib Dems might shovel every penny into the next election (and ditch Chucky in favour of a true social democrat like Simon Hughes) in a genuine play for Second Party status.

Is it just me, or does it seem to anyone else who’s studied British political history that Michael Howard’s the rough equivalent of Herbert Samuel, and that what the Tories have gone through in the past few years resembles the fate of the Liberal Party post-1914?

Yes, Smith comes from the right of the Tory party, he has however made attempts to change the parties image, for example he has successfully suppressed the constant eurosceptic rhetoric which made them look a little like a one-issue party (though he himself is a euroscpetic and though the rhetoric has been cut-down the strength of feeling on this issue within the party has not). With him as leader his party is still unelectable as he despite his attempts to throw off the image his party is still seen as the party of little-englanders and the rural upperclass (not a good thing when the UK is ~95% urban).

Howard (who will almost certainly win the leadership contest)represents a more cenritst (within the party) postion, but he still has baggage from his time as a cabinet member under the last Tory government.

I also agree with sentient meat, Portillo or Clarke (or even a Portillo-Clarke axis) would represent a much better propostion at the general election, howver Portillo and Clarke are not well-liked in the party (esp. among grass roots supporters) as they are europhiles (and because of Portillo’s admission of a ‘homosexual experince’ whilst at university). It’d probably take another crushing election defeat for the party to relaize that they should be selecting those who are most electable rather than those they like the best.

Yep. I’ll repost what I said on NADS

There is a real danger to the Tories that they might become Britan’s third party(though I doubt at the next general elections), as the Liberal Democrats (the eventual successors of the Liberal party) are slowly gaining points in the polls (at the moment mainly from Labour).

Iain Duncan Smith has many positive qualities: he is a decent man, loyal to his wife; good with policy and a tottenham supporter.

Unfortunately he is not suited for the modern political arena. He is an ineffective performer in television and is up against one of the best media performers in the world in Blair (and the third party leader is also extremely good on telly - with a friendly “man of the people” image)

There are other issues with IDS, and his handling of his office (not the storm in a teacup over his expenses - but his management of Conservative central office). He created a lot of resentment in the back rooms of the office with his high-handed attitude and hire-and fire behaviour (David Davis being an obvious example)

At this moment in time the Bair government are ripe for a kicking. The public has lost trust in them, and their policies (such as they are) are bobbins. Unfortunately IDS never laid a glove on Blair. Even William Hague showed him up for the over-polished autocue monkey he is.

To take an analogy with the labour party, Hague was our Michael Foot; IDS our Kinnock; Howard will be our John Smith and will hand over to our Blair (hopefully) after the next election (which we will lose). Quite who that person is I’m not sure, but Blair came from nowhere – and Thatcher was a minor minister.

The position of Conservative Leader is an important one for those of you who don’t vote Tory too. This government is by far the worst since records began (or at least sine the Marquis of Bute) and it needs to be held accountable. Michael Howard can do this. IDS couldn’t.

Owl

(Conservative party member and constituency activist – who voted for Ken Clarke last time, and would rather have Boris Johnson as leader)

Isnt the problem that the grassroots of the Tory Party are no longer normal conservative middle-aged middle-class citizens, but have withered into a rump of atavistic, senile, nationalist bigots who are incapable of choosing an electable leader.

I’d quite like to see Boris as the permanent host of Have I Got News For You. I find him very entertaining indeed.

Not in my experience. There are more than a few wierdos, as there are in any such group (the local labour party drink in my local and they are WAY wierder - and if we’re swopping observations - are a bunch of slack-jawed sweater-wearing bad-skinned malodorous bien pensant bicyling vegetarian chippy mommets.)

Most are pretty much what you’d expect, middle aged, middle class people who think the world is going to hell in a handbag.

However a poster above is spot on about our electoral sophistication regarding a leader. We will elect someone we like, rather than someone the rest of the country might like.

Iain Duncan who?

Round of applause.

No, no, no - it’s Iain & Duncan Smith - there are two of them… [sub](credit to HIGNFY)[/sub]

Grim :slight_smile: