The Conservative MPs (yeah, they still have some) voted yesterday in the first round of the Conservative election. In that round, and the next on Thursday, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The final two will then be voted on by the Conservative Party members over the next 6 weeks.
The result was not too unexpected, Ken Clarke only got 38 votes while David Davis got 62, David Cameron got 56 and Liam Fox got 42. Clarke while he seems like a nice enough fellow would probably have been a disaster for the Conservatives as he would not appeal to too many young non-Conservative voters.
A lot of TV pundits declared David Cameron to now be the firm favorite since they expect that a lot of MPs could defect from David Davis' camp now that the first round of voting is done. That is probably true. In fact they got so carried away several theorised that Liam Fox could overtake Davis and become the second candidate in the final round of voting. I think that's unlikely for one good reason Fox seemed genuinely surprised and delighted to still be in the race and to have beaten Clarke. MPs will smell fear and defeat in his campaign and wont want to side with him in a power struggle, supporting a loosing leadership candidate is a sure way to political obscurity.
So I expect it will be Davis and Cameron in the final round. Davis has gone out of his way in the last few weeks to tarnish Cameron on drugs issues. Fair enough drugs are a serious issue. But he also went on TV and in a two faced manner denied that his team had anything to do with keeping the issue in the media but then the next day went on TV and brought it up again.
The final round will see Conservative party members voting. This really is where anything can happen. Party grassroots members anywhere in the world are always hard to predict. The strangest things can win them over or loose them. Davis is obviously targeting them already by attacking Cameron on possible drugs use. That could have been a wise move, but I suspect he may have used it too early in the campaign. If it had been raised in 4 to 5 weeks time shortly before the members vote then the damage to Camerons campaign could have been fatal. Davis obviously hoped to force Cameron to withdraw from the race. As it is Cameron is keeping his mouth shut and focusing on winning MPs to his side. Then once he is in the final round I would expect to see him on the TV over the weekend making a frank and open interview about the drugs issue and getting it out of the way once and for all.
My moneys still on Cameron, but 6 weeks is a long time in politics. In fact it seems that these days its almost the average term of a Conservative Party leader.