Monday, January 19, 2009

The return of Ken Clarke

Back from the dead, a new Conservative politician enters the shadow cabinet. To the left of half the Labour party.

Here's to the renewal of the British political scene. Kenneth Clarke, 68, was the Health Minister as far back as 1982 and went on to work his way up the Conservative ladder. During the John Major years he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and later contested the Tory leadership on three occasions (1997, 2001, 2005). And now he's back, with David Cameron appointing him shadow business secretary in order to "take on Lord Mandelson".

To be fair, Kenneth Clarke has always been my favourite Conservative, if there is such a thing. He may have puffed a cigar or two with Maggie Thatcher. And he's most certainly pro-big business (having sat at the top of several international corporations), but at the height of the anti-Europe Tory hysteria, he was amongst the very few who argued against 'Little Britainism' at the cost of being publicly slain by his own party. Most say that his successive leadership bids went tits up precisely because of his pro-Europe ideas.

And I can't have been alone in thinking that Ken Clarke was also consistently to the left of Blair and his acolytes. He was amongst the 15 Tory MPs who in 2003 defied their own Party as they voted against the Iraq war and he was also strongly opposed to increasing tuition fees. He once said: "I never liked tuition fees as an idea. They are too severe on people who come from families with modest means or those who do not expect high-flying jobs when they leave university". Right on.

And so, if you think of all the old Tory relics that could have done a Lazarus, good old Ken is a million times better than Ann 'Peter Beardsley' Widdecombe or super right-w(h)inger John Redwood. Or in fact, any of the people in the photo above, straight back from the pre-technicolour days, showing Ken Clarke along with friends Michael Howard (second left) and Norman Lamont (far right, excuse the pun).


Josh Halliday said...

Providing the Tories win election and Clarke keeps this prominent seat, we could see a right old rift over Europe with Hague.

In any case, he's certainly the most palatable Tory for most lefties, and that's saying something.

Stan Moss said...

So then a Tory government would fall and you get a Neo New Labour to carry the torch for them ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ken Clarke: fat bastard you want Europe to simply destroy our independence!