2005 Conservative Party leadership election
← 2003 7 October – 6 December 2005 (2005-10-07 – 2005-12-06) 2016 →
 
David Cameron official.jpg
Official portrait of Mr David Davis crop 2.jpg
Candidate David Cameron David Davis
First ballot 56 (28.3%) 62 (31.3%)
Second ballot 90 (45.5%) 57 (28.8%)
Members' vote 134,446 (67.6%) 64,398 (32.4%)

 
Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP (4799289920).jpg
Kenneth Clarke (2011).jpg
Candidate Liam Fox Kenneth Clarke
First ballot 42 (21.2%) 38 (19.2%)
Second ballot 51 (25.7%) Eliminated
Members' vote Eliminated Eliminated

Leader before election

Michael Howard

Elected Leader

David Cameron

The 2005 Conservative Party leadership election was called by party leader Michael Howard on 6 May 2005, when he announced that he would be stepping down as Leader of the Conservative Party in the near future. However, he stated that he would not depart until a review of the rules for the leadership election had been conducted, given the high level of dissatisfaction with the current system. Ultimately, no changes were made and the election proceeded with the existing rules, which were introduced in 1998.

The contest formally began on 7 October 2005, when the Chairman of the 1922 committee, Michael Spicer, received a letter of resignation from Howard. Nominations for candidates opened immediately, and closed on 13 October.

The first round of voting amongst Conservative Members of Parliament took place on 18 October and Kenneth Clarke was eliminated (38 votes) leaving David Davis (62 votes), David Cameron (56 votes) and Liam Fox (42 votes) to go through to the second ballot on 20 October. In the second ballot, Fox was eliminated (51 votes), leaving Cameron (90 votes) and Davis (57 votes) to go through to a postal ballot. The ballot, whose result was declared on 6 December, saw Cameron win 68% of votes to Davis' 32%.[1]

Candidates

Results

The first ballot of MPs was held on 18 October. The results were announced, ten minutes later than expected, at 5:30 pm by Sir Michael Spicer, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee.

Candidate First ballot:
18 October 2005
Second ballot:
20 October 2005
Members' vote
Votes % Votes % Votes %
David Cameron 56 28.3 90 45.5 134,446 67.6
David Davis 62 31.3 57 28.8 64,398 32.4
Liam Fox 42 21.2 51 25.7 Eliminated
Kenneth Clarke 38 19.2 Eliminated
Turnout 198 100 198 100 198,844 100
David Cameron elected
First ballot
There were no abstentions, with all 198 Conservative members voting. Cameron, Davis and Fox went through to the second ballot held on 20 October. The results were announced by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee at 5:30 pm.
Second ballot
Cameron and Davis went through to the runoff vote of the Conservative Party's 300,000 members. The votes were counted on 5 December and the winner, David Cameron, was announced shortly after 15:00 on 6 December.

The rules of the contest

Much speculation surrounded the review of the rules, as it is widely estimated that the system eventually adopted could prove a help or hindrance to particular candidates with strong support in certain areas of the party. However, on 27 September 2005, the proposal to change the rules was rejected.[2]

The existing rules

Under the rules adopted in 1998, under which both Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard were elected, a leadership contest can be initiated either by the incumbent leader resigning or by the Parliamentary Party passing a vote of no confidence in the present leader. The latter is called if 15% of the Parliamentary Party write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee. If a vote of no confidence is passed, a leadership election is called and the incumbent is barred from standing in it.

The returning officer is the Chairman of the 1922 Committee. Candidates must be nominated by any two MPs taking the Conservative whip. If only one candidate stands (as happened in the 2003 leadership election) then they are elected nem con (uncontested).

If two candidates stand, then the election immediately proceeds to a ballot of all members of the party. If more than two candidates stand, then MPs first hold a series of ballots to reduce the number to two. On each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. (If two or more candidates tie for last place, as happened in the 2001 contest, then the ballot is repeated, and if the tie remains, all bottom-placed candidates are eliminated.) Candidates may also withdraw between rounds (this also happened in the 2001 contest).

The series of ballots by MPs continues until there are only two candidates remaining. At this point the all-member ballot begins; this lasts for some weeks. To be eligible to vote, an individual has to have been a paid-up member of the party for at least three months. The candidate who tops the poll is declared leader.

Criticisms of the existing rules

Many criticisms have been made of the rules, in light of some problems encountered in previous elections:

Technical
Structural

Many have criticised the system as having been devised to try to answer those who believed that a leader should have the backing of the bulk of MPs, to answer demands for ordinary party members to have a say, and to allow for the removal of a failing leader.

It is possible for a candidate to reach the final two with the support of barely a third of MPs in the final ballot (or even less if the rival candidate has overwhelming support in the Parliamentary Party) and then be elected leader by the party members. Conversely, they are then vulnerable to being removed as leader by the MPs.

Some have argued that party members are unrepresentative of the electorate at large and are prone to elect a leader reflecting their views rather than those of the country at large.

Proposals to change the leadership election process

Initial proposals for electing a new leader

Following the Conservative Party's defeat at the 2005 general election, in a speech on 6 May 2005, Howard announced his intention to retire as leader of the Conservative Party. However, he indicated that before he stood down he wanted to oversee changes to the Party’s process of electing a new leader.[3] These new proposals were set out in principle in the Conservative Party document A 21st Century Party:

  1. To be validly nominated, candidates would require the support of 10 per cent of Conservative MPs.
  2. If one Candidate is nominated by over half of the Parliamentary Party, he or she would automatically be declared leader.
  3. If no candidate is nominated by over half of the Parliamentary Party, each candidate would address and answer questions from the National Convention. The Convention would then vote and the result of this election would be published.
  4. The MPs would then make the final choice. It will be for the 1922 Committee to determine how they do this but the candidate who received most votes from the National Convention would be guaranteed a place in each ballot including the final ballot.
  5. Candidates would be allowed to spend up to £25,000 from the opening of nominations. The Party Treasurer would be responsible for raising this money for each candidate. Any money raised from other sources would be deducted from the money they receive from the Party Treasurer.[4]

This proposal was put to the 1922 Committee on 15 May 2005, but rejected. About 100 of the 180 backbenchers that attended the meeting instead endorsed a motion drawn up by the executive of the committee. The 1922 Committee proposal included a consultative period with all local associations, but the choice of leader would ultimately be decided by the parliamentary party.[5]

Revised proposals for electing a new leader

Under the 1922 Committee proposed system, Sir Michael Spicer, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of MPs, would seek nominations for leader from Conservative Members of Parliament. Contenders would need the support of 5% of the party, or 10 MPs (in the current Parliament), in order to stand. Once nominations had closed MPs would then start a two-week consultation process with their constituencies, MEPs and local councillors to ascertain their preferred candidates. They would then report back to Sir Michael, who would assess their findings and inform MPs of the two candidates who gained most support, in order of preference. MPs would then hold the first ballot, in which all nominated candidates would be able to participate. As in the current system the MP with the lowest number of votes would be eliminated. The process would then be repeated, as required, until one candidate remained.[6]

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester hailed the decision by the parliamentary party to accept the new proposals, by 127 votes to 50 on 20 July 2005 at a meeting of the 1922 committee, as a "victory for common sense".[7] The 1922 Committee proposal was then put to the Conservative Party Board which duly supported it. Following this result Party Chairman, Francis Maude commented; "I am pleased that these changes, agreed by the Party Board and the 1922 Committee, are going to be put forward. If these changes go through, the Conservative Party will have a new Leader in place by the middle of November."[8] However, other MPs were less enthusiastic about the new system. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph a number of MPs including David Willetts, Michael Ancram, Andrew Lansley, Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith, wrote: "It is not too late for the parliamentary party to find a way of involving grassroots members in the Conservative Party’s most important decisions. Any proposals that do not facilitate democratic involvement deserve to be defeated."[9]

Proposal not backed by the Constitutional College

When the results of the ballot of the Constitutional College[a] of the Conservative Party were announced on 27 September 2005, the proposals had failed to gain enough backing. A total of 1,001 (87.7% of full membership) ballots were returned, the votes in each section were:

Proposal for electing a new leader
Option MPs Volunteers Peers and MEPs Total
Votes % Votes % Votes % %
For Green tickY 132 71.4 446 58.4 33 63.6 61.0
Against 53 28.6 317 41.5 19 36.5 39.0

This equated to a total of 61 per cent of the constitutional college in favour. For the changes to be approved, 50 per cent of all those eligible to vote were required to vote in favour, along with 66 per cent of MPs who voted and 66 per cent of the National Convention members who voted; it is this final threshold that was not reached.[10]

As a result of the Constitutional College ballot, no changes were made to the party’s rules on electing a leader.

Timeline of events

This article is in list format but may read better as prose. You can help by converting this article, if appropriate. Editing help is available. (March 2014)

Election timetable

Party Conference

At the 2005 Conservative Party conference, each of the five announced candidates at the time was allowed a 20-minute speech. This was seen by many as the start of the leadership campaign by each of the candidates and their speeches were closely analysed by party members and the media. Many felt that front-runner (at the time of his speech) David Davis had performed rather poorly, while the speeches of Kenneth Clarke, Liam Fox, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and David Cameron were much better. This led to a rapid change in the odds of the five candidates on the betting markets – on the morning of 6 October, David Davis was the clear leader and David Cameron third, but by the evening of the same day the two had swapped places. By the end of the conference, David Cameron had become the front runner, with Ken Clarke and David Davis closely behind.

The conference was also seen as similar to the Conservatives' 1963 conference, where there was also a race to become leader.

Polling

The Sunday Times and YouGov polled 746 members of the Conservative Party just after the conference.[51] The poll showed support slipping away from David Davis (14%) and Ken Clarke (26%) and moving to Liam Fox (13%) and David Cameron (39%) instead.

The Daily Telegraph and YouGov polled 665 members of the Conservative Party just after the first ballot, where Clarke was eliminated leaving only three contestants. The poll showed that 59 percent backed David Cameron, against 18 percent for Liam Fox and 15 per cent for Mr Davis. This poll showed support for Mr Cameron being strong amongst the grassroots of the party on the eve of the final (membership) ballot.

In a YouGov poll published on 12 November, more than two-thirds of party members looked set to vote for the younger candidate as party leader. Around 68 per cent of voters who had already returned their ballot papers had opted for Mr Cameron, while 66 per cent of those still to vote said they were likely to choose him over the then-Shadow Home Secretary David Davis. 57 per cent of those still to vote said they may change their minds between then and the postal ballot deadline on 5 December.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Constitutional college has a total of 1,141 members and is made up of MPs, MEPs, the officers of the Association of Conservative Peers, frontbench spokesmen in the Lords, and members of The National Conservative Convention (Association Chairmen, area and regional officers, members of the Board and other senior volunteers).

References

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  4. ^ The Fresh Future: A consultation paper setting out proposals to reform the Conservative party's organisation. 25 May 2005.
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