Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "IDS had to go"

The Tories would never have won the next general election with Iain Duncan Smith as leader, but they won't with Michael Howard, either. In making their decision to dump IDS, Tory MPs had only one thing to think about: "Could someone else do better?"

The answer seemed simple enough and so IDS was unceremoniously dumped. Now Conservative MPs are asking themselves if they have done the right thing, as polls show that they are even more unpopular under their new leader.

There is no doubt that Tony Blair would have preferred IDS to stay on, if only because he will now face a tougher time at the despatch box every Wednesday. Blair hates being taken apart in the Commons, as he regularly was by William Hague. None of that mattered in electoral terms, though, and there is every likelihood that ditching IDS will come to be seen as a mistake.

The Tory MPs are so out of touch that they actually thought that shouting at Gordon Brown, as Howard often did, really mattered. Political commentators who were never in the chamber to hear Brown's replies to the new Tory leader made the same mistake, too. If they had heard the Chancellor tear Howard's record in government to shreds, they may not have been so quick to proclaim the shadow chancellor as a new Tory hero.

The British public still hasn't forgotten the role Howard played in Conservative governments. Voters will be asking themselves what sort of party changes its leader every few years. Can anyone imagine new Labour being so cavalier over who leads its party? Most members haven't got a clue how to get rid of Blair, and neither have MPs. They know that ditching him is wishful thinking.