Ken Clarke MP has been eliminated from the race to become Leader of the Conservative Party. Votes were as follows:
David Davis - 62
David Cameron - 56
Liam Fox - 42
Ken Clarke - 38
Total votes cast - 198
The three remaining candidates will face another vote by Conservative MPs on Thursday to eliminate one of the three and the final two will face a postal vote of the whole Party membership with the result expected on 6th December.
Davis has done slightly less well than predicted publicly (earlier predictions were for 66 [then 65] votes) although a number of journalists have indicated that privately the Davis camp hoped for 80 or so in the first rouond.
Of the two who were likely to be eliminated at the first hurdle (Clarke and Fox) it is probably tactically better for Cameron that it was Clarke, as the speculation is that the great bulk of the Clarke votes will switch to Cameron; no-one seems to expect more than a very few to transfer to one of the two 'right wing' candidates.
For Davis and Fox I suspect the possibilities are somewhat more complex. Conventional wisdom might say that the Fox votes might slip away, very largely to support the other 'right wing' candidate, but it is possible that at least some of the Davis supporters might decide that as he has failed to achieve his predicted target for votes that the best chance of securing a 'right wing' victory is to switch to Fox. Fox and Cameron are pretty evenly matched age-wise and both are media-savvy. If this is what happens it will be a pretty clear indication that a strategic decision has been taken to go for a younger generation of Leader. It is also possible that some of the Fox and/or Davis supporters might move across to Cameron, recognising that the momentum he has achieved in the past few weeks makes his the 'winning team' - and the natural human instinct is to want to be on the winning team!
All this speculation is moot - the result of the next round will soon enough be known to make it clear the choice the Party membership will be given. My hope is that it will be a Davis/Cameron stand-off, when I would expect Cameron to wipe the floor with Davis. If it is a Cameron/Fox face-off, always a possibility, then I suspect that the final outcome might be much less certain although Cameron would probably win. But Fox is very media-savvy and looks as if he is a 'people person' who would be able to charm the only electorate which counts in this race, the full Party membership, but in this case I think any chance of a Conservative Party victory at the next General Election will have been kissed goodbye. I am not non-partisan in this contest, of course. Of the available candidates, the choice is clear - I want David Cameron to win on 6th December. A Cameron victory will certainly not guarantee a Conservative victory in 2009/2010, but I believe he is the only potential Leader who can make the changes necessary to fit the Conservative Party once more for government - and with a fighting chance of convincing the British electorate of this.