Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith should make a deal, rather than spending the summer slugging it out with each other. Some chance …
The dropping of Michael Portillo from the Conservative leadership race should not have been unexpected. Excellent as Portillo is in many ways, he and those around him should have been aware that he had not moved seamlessly from his "SAS" speech at the Conservative Party conference in 1995 to the politics of new age love.

The intellectual jump from gun power to flower power was bound to be beyond the mental capacity of Tory backbenchers, let alone the rank and file of the party. For the past 11 years, the Conservative Party has strenuously opposed the notion of conversion. In a party more likely to lose its foot soldiers than recruit new ones, this is entirely understandable.

In Thatcher's years, Labour peers and backbenchers crossed the floor to swell her ranks. Under Major and Hague, the reverse was true. Shaun Woodward, the most spectacular of Conservative defectors, has consistently been attacked, not so much for his politics – which, if the truth be told, are more inclined to New Labour, with all its Thatcherite instincts, than to those of William Hague, with his lumpen right-wing stubbornness – as for his lifestyle. Under fire from the Tory ranks was his large country house and his butler, although both of these were requisites of a Tory grandee less than half a century ago. Today, they, along with a Rolls-Royce, are the objects of aspiration for every young entrepreneur.

  No wonder that New Labour flourishes while the Conservatives languish in the wilderness. The Conservatives do not understand that the conversion of opponents is the very essence of politics. Poor Portillo only added fuel to the smouldering fire when he aired his doubts about his sexuality in public.

Just when we thought things couldn't get worse for the Conservative Party, it produced a bunch of leadership candidates that were less attractive than the members of a police line-up at an identity parade after an attempted mugging. Now, only Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith are left.

The Tories produced a bunch of candidates less attractive than the members of a police line-up

Duncan Smith, who once worked for a housebuilder (unfortunately, in the marketing department), is the candidate of the right, Clarke the candidate of the left. The right seem at the moment to be in a majority, so Duncan Smith could well win. An unknown candidate as far as the public is concerned, he will bring little unity to the party. Clarke, on the other hand, though the more experienced candidate, will bring open warfare at best and sniper fire at worst.

Never during the parliamentary summer recess has any government moved down in the polls. This summer, with two Conservative leadership candidates campaigning against each other, those polls may well look as if the Tories have jumped off a cliff.

The right action for the whole Conservative Party is for Clarke and Duncan Smith to meet and reach an agreement within the week. Protracted warfare, however delicately conducted, will only bring disaster to the party.

Clarke will be 65 years old by the next general election – an age at which even the most tenacious politicians believe that the time has come to relinquish power. Duncan Smith, a man with many talents that need a final polish, is the person to lead the Tories after the general election. Experience gained as shadow chancellor would hugely enhance Duncan Smith's chances of becoming a great Tory leader. Clarke should lead now and Duncan Smith gain the admiration of his party by being seen to allow this to happen.