Bad for them! The Tories have eliminated the one man who could have rescued them from their (now) inevitable spiral of decline. With Kenneth Clarke out of the leadership contest, there are now only variants of the unelectable touting for the favour of the unleadable. It’s all rather unspeakable.
It might seem appropriate to say ‘Good for us’, because the deselection of Ken Clarke has removed the biggest risk to Lib-Dem prospects at the next election. But if it’s ‘good for us’, it’s a sour one. Political leaders don’t just attempt to win elections. They also set the agenda in the public debate. Sensible leaders, sensible debate. Right wing leaders hope to sway the electorate in their direction. And they open the debate to extremists who live beyond even the Tory right. Britain has gained nothing by the loss of Ken Clarke. And it will gain nothing by the eventual selection of one of the three contenders who remain.
So it’s back to bad business as usual for the Tories. Michael Howard will continue as a caretaker — just as he has done since the very day he became Tory leader. The party will select someone who appeals to their self-image fantasy — that they have lost the last elections because they were not right wing enough.
And Kenneth Clarke? He can console himself with the fact that the Tories could not have elected him without admitting that they were wrong on the previous two occasions. And if we have learned one thing from the past of the Tory party, it is that Tories cannot learn from their own past. And he can remind himself that he never gave up. History will show that Clarke was right, and his party was wrong.