Clarke 'Can Win Back Voters Who Deserted Tories'

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Byline: TIM SHIPMAN

KEN Clarke is the only Tory who can win back voters and beat Labour, according to two polls.

The former Chancellor would boost Tory support by 12 per cent if he were in charge, enough to win a commanding Parliamentary majority.

He is the runaway favourite with the public to become the next Tory leader, with four out of ten voters backing him, four times more than plumped for his nearest rival, frontrunner David Davis.

But, most importantly, an ICM survey for the BBC's Newsnight programme shows he can win back voters who have defected to Labour and the Liberal Democrats over the last decade.

He is ahead among all age groups including young people who rivals have claimed he would struggle to win over.

Some 20 per cent of those questioned said they would be more likely to vote Conservative if Mr Clarke was leader, against 8 per cent who said they would be less likely.

That would lift the Tories from about 33 per cent in the polls to 45 per cent.

Experts say the Tories need to win about 42 per cent for an election victory.

Mr Clarke also enjoys a huge lead among women, who have gradually abandoned the party since 1992 and now vote overwhelmingly for Labour.

The Tories could expect a 9 per cent boost in their ratings among women if there was a Clarke leadership.

Election experts say it will be impossible for the Tories to get back into Downing Street unless they can overturn Labour's lead among women voters.

Mr Clarke led Mr Davis 40 per cent to 10 per cent in the ICM survey. A second poll for the Times put him ahead by 41 per cent to 10 per cent. They are a vital fillip to Mr Clarke because it supports his contention that he is the one Tory capable of taking on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Last night Mr Clarke said: 'This really goes to show how much I can turn the Conservative Party into an electionwinning party and beat Labour at the next election.

'It is nice to know that such a wide section of the public hold me in such high regard and have confidence in me.' But the poll makes grim reading for the other leadership contenders.

Mr Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, is a clear second favourite with the public, claiming the support of one in ten voters. But only 7 per cent say they would be more likely to vote Tory if he was leader and 10 per cent say they would be even less likely to do so.

Only 4 per cent of voters favour David Cameron as leader, the same number as Sir Malcolm Rifkind. …