There is no part of the political anatomy that has been scrutinised more closely than the wrinkled navel of the Conservative Party. I cannot pick up a serious newspaper without reading the thoughts of a colleague on the 3 W’s – What Went Wrong; or log on without being sent the text of an introspective speech delivered to a Think Tank. Yes, some analysis is good for the Party – we need a post-mortem for our third bad defeat in a row.
But six weeks after the election, the time has come to raise the gaze from the umbilicus to the political horizon.
The Government is embarking on a controversial legislative programme – though sometimes I think I have woken up on Groundhog Day. They are re-introducing the same Bills they introduced last November, but which fell when the General Election was called. Controversial Bills like the one on ID Cards next Tuesday. They need to be watched very closely, and supported when they get it right and hammered when they get it wrong.
So this is my advice to the army of MP’s who want to lead my great Party. There is a happy marriage between the political imperative of holding the Government to account on the one hand; and the personal ambition of the many to become Leader of the Opposition on the other. Move on from the analysis of what happened last May to constructive debate and critical analysis of what the government is planning for the country. The public are not in the least interested in the internal problems of the Conservative Party - whether or not we wear ties, where we went to school or how often our nose was broken. They are interested in their jobs, their taxes, their hospitals and their schools. The candidate who will win my vote is the one who raises his (and they do all seem to be he’s)sights and moves the debate on and captures the attention of the wider public.
I have to confess, in conclusion, to some disappointment with the current Leadership election. When I first got into Parliament and we had a leadership election, invitations from the salons of London poured through my letter box, offering me an opportunity to break bread with the prospective leader over a table of haute cuisine. This time, with twice the number of candidates and living standards considerably higher, I am still waiting. Perhaps they know that, in all the serious elections for the Leader, I have backed the losing candidate.. Is that why the campaign managers are tiptoeing past my door?