Sorry I have been away so long: with a dissertation to write, and finals to revise for, I simply haven't had the time......... not that anyone noticed, I'm sure.
Well, the Conservatives didn't get in, thank God.
The economy will soon go tits up (by which time I hope to have moved abroad, and so will not have, as a taxpayer, to pick up the pieces of the economic disaster which Gordon Brown has caused as chancellor) and so we must hope that Labour are still in power, and thus it will be they who suffer the fall-out - and let us hope at the same time that the Conservatives have had the balls to institute a genuinely liberal economic policy, which will institute a flat rate of tax and increase the tax threshold to at least double its present rate.
Furthermore, the Tories not getting in this time hits home to them that they cannot hope simply to present themselves as a slightly more right-wing version of the Labour party. They need a vision, and they need to reflect on what they are really about. They need to stand up for what is just and right. We will avoid the disastrous immigration policy proposed by Michael Howard, and we can hope that the social liberals manage more coherently and more strongly to press their points.
David Davis is looking very strong as a contender. For my part, I would most like Alan Duncan to be leader; but I cannot realistically expect him to win a leadership contest. I don't mind Davis; and although he is said to be an authoritarian, he has come out against ID cards, and he is a strong economic liberal. The media seem to like him, which is unfortunately perhaps the most important requirement for a political leader today. He is relatively good looking compared to his rivals (not hard, I'll admit), and he comes across as being somewhat charming, even though he is said to be unpleasantly ambitious. If he keeps his economic policies (or ideally become more liberal), and adopts a more liberal social policy, then I will happily support him.
Ken Clarke is a europhile, and he has had his day. I don't dislike the man, but I could not support a pro-European party.
Malcolm Rifkind is decent enough and opposed the Iraq war, and he would keep the party together, but I don't feel that he is what the party needs right now; he would be seen as "Michael Howard but different" - just another "blast from the past".
Andrew Lansley is a social liberal, but lacks the stature needed for leadership. I suspect also that he would be too "nice" to be PM.
David Cameron is much talked about as a possible contender, but doesn't have a hope. He's too inexperienced to stand this year. Maybe if Howard had stayed for a couple of years then he could let the succession go to Cameron, but it's too soon. We just haven't seen enough of him properly to judge his ability at leadership and presentation.
David Willetts is a very thoughtful, humane and intelligent man, who is devising some very strong policies. But he just isn't leadership material. One former MP was telling me the other day that he's just too clever for his own good - and that Tories are scared of intelligence.
It is of course too soon really to tell what sort of campaigns each of these (and possibly others) will come up with. But on current form, I would say that this election is Davis' to lose; but then, the 2001 election was Portillo's to lose, and he managed it in spectacular style.