Someone has to do less well than everyone else.
1965: Enoch Powell, shadow defense secretary, 15 votes, 5 percent of the total. Ted Heath, the shadow chancellor, beat out the other candidate, Reginald Maudling, the shadow foreign secretary. Powell’s poor performance encouraged Heath to dismiss him from the shadow cabinet three years later for his “Rivers of Blood” speech.
1975: hugh fraser, former Secretary of State for Air, 16 votes, 6 percent. Shadow environment secretary Margaret Thatcher beat Heath on the first ballot and then William Whitelaw, Geoffrey Howe and Jim Prior on the second after Heath withdrew.
1989: Sir Anthony Mayer, backbencher, third baronet, 33 votes, 10 per cent. Thatcher defeated the pro-EC protest candidate by an overwhelming margin, but 27 other MPs abstained and she looked deadly for the first time. He was unselected for disloyalty to him, he joined a team called the Pro-Euro Conservative Party set up in 1999 by former Conservative MEPs and later by Liberal Democrats.
1990: Douglas Hurd, Foreign Secretary, 56 votes, 15 percent. She entered the second round after Thatcher failed to beat Michael Heseltine by the required 15 percent margin; Thatcher withdrew and John Major defeated Heseltine.
nineteen ninety five: john sequoia, Welsh secretary, 89 votes, 27 percent. Support me or fire me, said John Major, fed up with Eurosceptic criticism. Michael Portillo, Secretary of Defense, was too nerdy to stand up, so Redwood stood up for him. His slogan was ‘No change, no chance’, which was true, but the Conservative MPs decided that change also meant no chance, so they stuck with Major.
1997: michael howard, shadow interior minister, 23 votes, 14 percent. He placed fifth after William Hague reneged on an agreement to endorse him and raced himself, beating Ken Clarke, Redwood and Peter Lilley.
2001: miguel ancram, president of the Conservative Party, 17 votes, 10 percent. After a tie for fourth with David Davis, neither candidate backed down, so the vote was retaken, with Davis outscoring by one vote. Both candidates then dropped out and Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke went to a membership vote for the first time, with Portillo losing by a single vote.
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2005: ken clark, former chancellor, 38 votes, 19 percent. He placed fourth and last on the third time he tried it, with David Cameron and Davis moving into the members’ vote ahead of Liam Fox.
2016: liam fox, former secretary of defense, 16 votes, 5 percent. Theresa May was declared the winner after Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the members’ ballot. I think Michael Gove, who came third, should have taken her place, but May probably would have won anyway. Boris Johnson had withdrawn before the first vote.
2019: Esther Mcvey, former Secretary of Labor and Pensions, 9 votes, 3 percent. She came last in a field of 10 candidates and was eliminated along with Mark Harper and Leadsom, who also failed to reach the new 17-vote threshold required to remain in the race.
Nobody came last in the 2003 Conservative leadership election, not on the list, because Michael Howard was elected unopposed, which was the fashion in those days and was copied by the Labor Party in 2007.
Next week: the most underrated children’s books.
Coming up: Political careers that ended in success (without being “cut midway at a happy moment”), contradicting Enoch Powell’s dictum.
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