It was in 1965 that Conservative Party MPs were allowed to vote on their leader for the first time. Since then, there have been eight leadership contests. The rules have changed a couple of times, but even now – when the final decision is taken by the party’s membership – MPs get to do the early selection. And today we get the first round of voting in the process to choose David Cameron’s successor.
Barring truly exceptional circumstances, we’re not going to get the winner today, but we will find out who the loser is. And these are the benchmarks by which to judge that loser’s performance. These are the six men whose percentages have failed to reach double figures in those eight contests:
9.5 per cent – Anthony Meyer (1989)
6.9 per cent – Geoffrey Howe (1975)
6.9 per cent – James Prior (1975)
6.0 per cent – Hugh Fraser (1975)
5.0 per cent – Enoch Powell (1965)
4.0 per cent – John Peyton (1975)
Back-marker John Peyton – the man who made compulsory the wearing of motorcycle helmets, and who privatized Thomas Cook (as though you needed reminding) – set the record by attracting just eleven votes. There are hopes that it might be broken today.
UPDATE: The results of the first round of voting are now in, and unfortunately Dr Liam Fox was unable to break the 46-year-old record. With the support of sixteen MPs, he secured a full 4.8 per cent of the votes.