The Times's Anthony Howard is bemused by Michael Howard's dismal performance as Conservative leader:

Howard’s current plight is... something of a puzzle. His failure to make any headway has, I suspect, been a surprise to most political scribes. He is, after all, a highly articulate, thoroughly professional politician — used to eating his parliamentary opponents for breakfast — but remains unable to improve on the lamentable record in terms of Tory ratings set by his unhappy predecessor.

Surely the pundts could have seen this coming? Howard may be a sharp act in the debating chamber, but what does that matter to the public at large? Half the electorate has no idea what he stands for; the rest still associates him with the Major years. (I'm not sure his wife is much help either, although she gets good write-ups from journalists who have spent time with her close-up. Compared with Sandra Howard, super-lawyer Cherie Blair seems genuine next-door material.)

Best, if you're a die-hard Tory, to take the long view. Here's Margaret Thatcher's biographer, John Campbell, reviewing John Sargeant's book, Maggie - Her Fatal Legacy:

It would have been better for the Tory party if Michael Heseltine had seized the crown in 1990 and led it in a clearly different direction (as she had done after defeating Heath)....

Yet the Tories' eclipse is also a tribute to her success. She set out in 1975 to expel socialism from British public life, and succeeded beyond her wildest hopes. She was so successful in forcing the Labour Party to embrace her values that she left the Tories with no distinctive project. Much the same happened to Labour after 1951, when the Conservatives' adoption of Attlee's new consensus doomed Labour to 13 years of internecine squabbling. The Thatcherite legacy may have been fatal for her party, but it is what happens when all your dreams come true.

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/02/tory-trauma-timess-anthony-howard-is.html|||2/15/2005 06:46:00 pm|||||||||