A long list of bad news about Michael Howard is circulating. The list is in part dubious; as Anthony points out, one version which accuses him of `spiritual Nazism' is quite bonkers -- and pretty offensive, given that Howard is a practising Jew. (Update: see these comments by Chris Brooke on the `spiritual Nazism' claim.)
Anyway, to bolster my reputation for cheerfulness and optimism, here I present a shorter list with a different spin:
Eight Reasons To Welcome New Tory Leader Michael Howard
- At least if Howard is Leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister, he can't ever be Home Secretary again...
- ... and if Howard becomes Prime Minister, it at least means that Blunkett will lose his job.
- 18% of current Tory voters are likely to desert a party led by him. (But note that the same poll says that 15% of Liberal Democrat and 13% of Labout voters would be more likely to vote Tory with Howard in charge, which leads me to wonder whether these people have any idea what they're voting for at all....)
- He is sound on some issues, notably independence for the Bank of England...
- ... and on other issues, well, we still have a court system which should eventually stop him from breaking the law (as he did on seven occasions during two years at the Home Office).
- Anne Robinson fancies him. (Actually, that may not technically be a good thing. But the headline for that article is classic.)
- On the occasion of Iain Duncan Smith's resignation, we should think not that the Tories have lost a leader, but that the rest of us have gained a novelist. How appropriate for the beginning of National Novel Writing Month.
- Michael Howard likes cats. (See end of page.)
OK, so I was scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end there.
A more serious point is that, although Howard's reputation is terrible -- reading the `bad news' list linked above reminded me that, at least in its early stages, the present government actually was a lot better than the last -- we should accept that people, even senior politicians, can do remarkable about-turns when out of office. Blair converted the Labour party from socialism and pacifism to Thatcherism and belligerence in a few short years; since 1997, Portillo has matured from invoking the SAS in his ghastly 1995 conference speech to becoming a television single parent on the Conservative Party's rapidly dwindling `inoffensive' wing.
In his speech announcing his candidacy, Michael Howard made all the right noises about inclusivity (mixed in, of course, with a noises about cutting taxes) and an appeal to the young which comes as a bit of a surprise from the architect of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act. Since advertising his record in the last government isn't likely to make people vote for him, Howard will, presuambly, have to drift left just like Portillo.
We can but hope.
(Another thought. We're repeatedly reminded that Michael Howard is the son of immigrants -- his mother was a refugee from Hitler -- and is or should therefore be a poster child for Conservative tolerance and multiculturalism. Well, maybe. But that's the same sort of racism which isn't supposed to enter the debate. ``Howard can't be a racist [or anti-immigrant, or whatever euphemism you want to use],'' the argument apparently runs, ``because he's a foreigner.'' Please.)