Mixed mori signals

If Conservative Party members who vote in the leadership ballot are interested in the outcome of the next election they will opt for Kenneth Clarke. If, however, they are more interested in fighting their own internal battles all over again their choice may be Duncan Smith. A MORI poll taken last week shows that in the country at large Mr Clarke commands a 46 per cent to 20 per cent lead over Mr Smith as the candidate likely to make the better leader of the party. Among Conservative voters, however, his lead is only 48 to 35 per cent and there are some indications that the gap is narrowing – in a separate poll of 100 Conservative constituency chairmen Mr Smith held a lead of 46 to 28 per cent. Even more encouraging to Mr Smith was a survey of all members of a single constituency party, Cambridgeshire North East, which gave him a majority of six to one; oddly, both the sitting MP and the consituency chairman are both Clarke supporters. There is something for each man in these results. One curious result was that Mr Clarke is significantly more popular with those under 55 than with those over that age; the latter group, of course, forms the bulk of Conservative members. Another complicating factor is that Mr Clarke is drawing more support from men than from women members; the latter make up the larger part of the ”don't knows” at this stage. It is just as well that the two–week holiday truce in the campaign has now started; there were signs last week that the candidates and their supporters were loosing their cool; will they be able to keep it when they resume activities?


Macedonia vital

In the six months he has been in office President Bush has changed his mind on very few things but fortunately one of these is the importance of the United States role in the Balkans. During his visit to US forces there following the G8 summit meeting in Genoa he said, ”We came in here together with NATO and we'll leave together.” He might have added, but didn't, ”However long it takes”. This was not his position or that of his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in January but wiser counsels have prevailed. Despite all the criticisms made against it, the NATO Kosovo campaign was a success to the degree that it stopped genocide in Kosovo and contributed significantly to the eventual overthrow by the Serbian people themselves of the instigator of the Balkan violence, Slobodan Milosevic. Plenty of problems remain, of which the most volatile is that in Macedonia where the ethnic Albanian community is pressing for greater civic recognition while in the hills Albanian guerrillas are negotiating with guns. There are no NATO troops in Macedonia but there are many US, NATO and European Union diplomats hard at work to persuade the Slav and Albanian Macedonians that their future would be better working together than fighting each other. Thus far they have succeeded in keeping a kind of peace, but only just. If civil war were to start in Macedonia many of the hard–won gains of recent years in the Balkans would be at serious risk.