Davis camp in panic

AS the Conservative leadership contest reaches its final stages, there are clear signs of panic and pessimism in the camp of the one time favourite David Davis.

AS the Conservative leadership contest reaches its final stages, there are clear signs of panic and pessimism in the camp of the one time favourite David Davis.

Perhaps we'll never know what possessed Mr Davis's ally Derek Conway MP to accuse the BBC of bias in favour of the youthful David Cameron, but it certainly smacked of petulance.

Mr Conway said the BBC had “taken leave of its senses” and was distorting coverage of the race to succeed Michael Howard. “I think the BBC has decided who it wants to lead the Tory Party.”

Mr Davis's supporters are still fuming that the BBC, ITV, and much of the written media dismissed his candidature after his speech to the Tory conference in Blackpool was described as “lacklustre” in comparison to the sparkling performance of the youthful Mr Cameron.


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Before Blackpool, Mr Davis had been expected to be the runaway winner of the MPs' ballot, but last week he trailed badly behind Mr Cameron, who is now the clear favourite to win the backing of the 300,000 party members next month.

In my conversations with party activists in Suffolk and Essex, there is little sign of any support for the Shadow Home Secretary. If that's the feeling in this the most true blue part of Britain, then speculation that Mr Cameron could be heading for victory by a three-to-one margin may well be accurate.

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Crucially in the battle for grass roots votes, Mr Cameron has won the backing of Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin and Harwich's Douglas Carswell, both of whom reflect the Euroscepticism of the typical Tory Party member. Mr Jenkin is organising support for Cameron among the Suffolk and Essex membership.

After the elimination of the hard right candidate Dr Liam Fox and the poor showing of Mr Davis, former Prime Minister Sir John Major said he was delighted “right wing ideology” is losing its grip on the Conservative Party.

“This may be a moment when the terms of political trade begin to change,” said Sir John who claimed the “infection of too much ideology has drained away” as the Conservatives become ready to fight hard to return to government.

Sir John still smarts from the terminal damage done to his premiership by right wing anti European fanatics who proved they would rather see their party sink to ignominious defeat as long as the Tories remained ideologically pure against European integration.

“I think it's a very attractive direction in which we're now headed,” said Sir John. Mr Cameron has also won the backing of Lord Heseltine, who was Deputy Prime Minister under Sir John and who is firmly on the “One Nation” left of the Tory Party. He said Cameron had an “elusive quality that encapsulates people.”

However, the wounded Davies retaliated with a dig at the Cameron bandwagon: “The next general election is not going to be won on the basis of show business but whether people think the leader of the Conservative party can solve people's problems.”

MR Cameron was in Woodbridge last night, talking to members of the Suffolk Central and Ipswich North Conservative Association.

Both leadership contenders will be taking part in 11 regional hustings as ballot papers are sent out to party members. The East of England debate will take place on November 22, probably in the Cambridge area.

BRAINTREE council has been praised in the Commons for its innovative council tax council tax rebate scheme which rewards home-owners who choose to improve their own household energy efficiency by installing cavity wall insulation.

Elliot Morley, the Minister of State in the Department of the Environment in charge of climate change affairs, said the council was making a “valuable contribution” to the challenge of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

The area's Tory MP Brooks Newmark has signed a parliamentary early day motion calling for householders who install energy efficiency measures in their home to be given a stamp duty rebate.

“The need for urgent action to cut our carbon emissions is greater than ever,” said Mr Newmark. “We need to do much more to improve the energy efficiency of our homes if we are to meet even the current modest targets of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010. I fully support a stamp duty rebate for householders improving the energy efficiency of their homes.”

EAST of England Liberal Democrats hold their regional conference tomorrow in Huntingdon. Guest speaker is Lib Dem president Simon Hughes.

LUTON South's Labour MP Margaret Moran wants it to be compulsory for Internet service providers to publicly declare what measures they are taking to block access to child pornography.

Introducing her Control of Internet Access (Child Pornography) Bill, which has cross-party support, she told the Commons: “There are now hundreds of pay-per-view child pornography sites, thousands of free sites filled with images that would make most people physically sick.”

Ms Moran said a new filtering system called Cleanfeed had been developed which ISPs could use to prevent access to child pornography online.

“Instantly supply will be cut off from demand and the illegal act of producing child pornography will become unprofitable. If people cannot reach the web sites . . . then the gangsters who are behind the trade will stop systematically arranging for children to be raped purely so they can photograph or film it in order to get new supplies for sale.”

The Bill gained its first reading but stands little chance of becoming law.

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