Labour strategists envisage two serious problems that Clarke could cause Cameron in the coming months. The first is how the Tory leader will cope with being outshone, either in the Commons or on television, by the new shadow business secretary, who may be 68 but whose appetite for politics has not diminished - he amusingly tells friends he is in mid-career. The second problem will come if and when Ireland votes "Yes" in its second referendum on the Lisbon treaty later this year. Even before Clarke's recall, Cameron faced sharp questions about whether he would then reverse his commitment to Britain's holding a retrospective referendum on the treaty. With Clarke, whose firm position is well known, having to field questions on the issue, the pressure on Cameron will be all the greater.
For now, however, Cameron should be praised for surprising his critics - including this one - with a bold move that, in a stroke, does as much to "decontaminate" the brand of Conservatism as have all his superficial image changes since 2005. The Clarke camp's slogan during the last leadership contest, after years of refining the message, was, simply, "Change to win", and his presence goes some way to addressing the lack of any Cameron "Clause Four moment".
Clarke is one of very few politicians with genuine popular appeal: what strategists call "cut through", an ability to connect. It is arguable whether Labour has anyone as popular. Although Brown, Alistair Darling and Mandelson - "serious people for serious times" - represent a heavyweight team on the economy, the Tories appear to be on the front foot for the first time since the Business Secretary's recall. Suddenly, it is harder for Cameron to be criticised from the left by those who believe he has done nothing substantial to change the Tory party. The "nasty party" image has faded more this week than in any other in the past decade.
Leaving aside the fact that "Change to win" was Cameron's slogan, not Clarke's, MacIntyre's general analysis is spot on, and reveals just how much Labour fears Clarke. They will try their damndest to drive wedges between Clarke and Cameron over the next few months. Tories must not allow that to happen.
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