Howard’s Parting Favour

Interesting article on Michael Howard’s signal of his intention to resign as leader of the Tories on the BBC.

The last thing the Tories want is another instant resignation similar to William Hague’s the day after the 2001 election defeat.

And there is no clamour for Mr Howard’s head after what most believe was an effective election campaign.

Mr Hague clearly believed he was also doing the best by the Tories, but that is not how it turned out.

Thanks to the recently introduced election procedures, it tipped the party into a prolonged battle which ended with outside candidate, “quiet man” Iain Duncan Smith winning as a result of the grassroots vote and then suffering an unhappy spell in the leadership.

The Tories are determined not to go down that route again and Mr Howard has given them time to sort out a new leadership election procedure – which will inevitably mean giving MPs the greatest say.

And he has also ensured that should be a swift process to allow his eventual successor time to bed in before the next election in 2009 or 2010.

There will be some in the Tory party who will grumble that he has not given them time to recover from the election defeat before being thrown into another, internal campaign.

And there is no doubt that the contenders will start positioning themselves immediately for the contest which most will hope comes within the next six to 12 months.

But most Conservatives probably believed the best they could hope for from this general election was an honourable second place, and Mr Howard has delivered that.

When I first heard that he was quitting I was under the impression that he was doing it straight away, Major and Hague style. But leaving a break of 6–12 months does make sense.