… that was my reaction to news of Ken Clarkes return to the Tory front bench. Now before explaining my reasons as to why I am opposed to his return I want to make a few things clear: First I don’t deny Kens, often inexplicable, popularity with the public. Second I can just about understand Camerons desire to counter Gordon Brown’s Mandelson move by bringing Clarke back. And third I respect Clarke as an important member of the Tory party even though I profoundly disagree with him on almost every issue. But make no mistake of this: Cameron will rue the day he brought Ken Clarke back.
So why do I believe this is a disaster? Well for starters a large number of the Shadow Cabinet have already informed the Daily Telegraph that they are categorically opposed to his comeback which I feel could pose deep problems for cabinet unity in the coming months and years should the Tories win the election. Cabinet unity, or more importantly disunity, as we have seen before could be lethal for a leader.Furthermore I am perplexed as to why Cameron, who prides himself as being a moderniser, would bring back such an obvious relic of our past? He is a memory of by-gone days and not a good one at that. He is a reminder of the bitterness and division that still lingers within the party faithful, particularly on Europe.
Now the BBC is reporting that Cameron and Clarke have agreed to disagree on Europe. This utter tosh. They have agreed to disagree… for now . But what about when we are in power? Can Clarke really be trusted to tow the party line which is currently emphatically opposed to Britain joining the Euro… the same Euro he is a keen proponent of? Can he really be trusted to oppose the Lisbon treaty… the same treaty he has endorsed? Cameron has in one fell swoop exposed one of our most potent of wounds. A wound which had failed to fully heal but wasn’t a major threat to party unity given the partys current Eurosceptic line. This choice risks blowing the wound right open.
Similarly at a time of economic instability and insecurity do we really want someone like Ken around who is so linked with the failures of not just the Thatcher and Major governments but Heath too!? Now I am not suggesting I believe the Thatcher, Major and Heath governments were economically incompetent, quite the opposite, what I am getting at is public opinion is not all that favourable in regard to certain elements of our economic record. Whether this criticism of our economic record is fair or not is another question, but the reality is public opinion isn’t so favourable and we have to come to terms with that. Bringing Clarke back does not aid us in this task.
Ultimately I feel his return flies in the face of Cameron’s change agenda and is tantamount to bringing in a ticking time bomb to Conservative HQ. Clarke may tow the line for now but will he in the future? And whilst he may be popular with the country he is certainly not with the party. There is a good reason we rejected him 3 times as leader you know! And to make matters worse a number of our most prominent party donors have vowed should Ken return they won’t give another penny to the party. Not wise in the run up to an election.
Therefore as much as I am loathed to admit it, Cameron has handed Gordon Brown a great gift by bringing ‘the beast’ back. The government will now do all they can to push Europe to the fore of the political and expose the deep divisions both within the cabinet and the party at large. They will also ridicule the change agenda and remind everyone of the ‘failures’ in Conservative party history with which Ken is assosciated. Will Cameron be able to keep his cabinet, his party and his country in line when it all starts to unravel? Hell no. Why doesn’t he just bring Thatcher back as Secretary of State for Local Communities?!?! That’ll really go down well…