The candidates up for the Tory leadership are a second-rate bunch. In the glittery world of showbusiness they would not even rate as B-list celebrities.
But it is often the case that the job makes the man, so however unexciting they seem, the winner may surprise us as a leader who can restore this ramshackle party to its former glory. At least Michael Portillo has flair and charisma, but he is easily swayed by the merest political breeze.
His personal background, too, leaves too many unanswered questions.
Iain Duncan Smith is being paraded as the family man next door, with a blameless military record. But what sort of a recommendation is that?
It is like praising football hooligans simply because they behave normally for once.
Kenneth Clarke, the so-called pro-Europe big-hitter, seems not to want the job, even if he succumbs to the pressure to apply for it. He knows he faces the prospect of eight years in opposition by which time he will be nearly 70. He probably feels he would rather be earning squillions in the City than trying to lead a fractious party, most of whose members despise him.
Michael Ancram, the party chairman; John Redwood, a former cabinet minister, and David Davis, would all like the post. Davis is the least known but the most dynamic.
But William Hague’s brilliant performance at the start of the Queen’s Speech debate demonstrated he is head and shoulders above those who vie to succeed him.
Not many, after hearing this speech, could believe his political career as a front-runner is over. But the Tories’ biggest election setback was the failure, for the second successive election, of the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind to regain his Edinburgh Pentlands seat.
He would have been ideal to hose down the recalcitrant and bring at least the appearance of sanity to a party which needs a severe shaking.
But by comparison, the fact remains that William Hague is a class act, even in the throes of defeat.
– Chris Moncrieff is a senior political analyst at PA News.