Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Labour Fears Ken Clarke

James MacIntyre, who is in pole position to succeed Martin Bright as the New Statesman's political editor, has written an interesting article on the return of Ken Clarke in this week's magazine. He says Cameron should be praised for bringing back the old warhorse and explains why Labour fear him.
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.

Read the whole article HERE.

18 comments:

Dennis said...

'Although Brown, Alistair Darling and Mandelson - "serious people for serious times" - represent a heavyweight team on the economy ...'

What's this guy smoking? Can I have some?

Norfolk Blogger said...

I agree with the thrust of this. He is definitely the leader the Tories should have had in 1997 and would have rehabilitated your party much earlier in the eyes of voters, making them less extreme.

The Raven said...

Agree with Dennis. Calling the terrible trio a 'heavyweight team on the economy' is like calling Hitler, Goering and Goebells 'a heavyweight team on human rights'.

ed said...

It won't just be Labour trying to drive wedges between Clarke and Cameron..it will be the BBC and their ilk as well. Presumably every time Clarke is invited onto, say, Today to talk about the economy, they will be doing their best to add a European slant to the line of questioning. Pass the sickbag..

canvas said...

Iain, shouldn't you be saying 'Why Labour Fear Ken Clarke' - not 'the left'. I think you've got it wrong there.

I'm 'left leaning' and I don't fear Ken Clarke. I think he is great.

It would be far more inclusive for you to say LABOUR - not the left. Anyway, I'm not convinced that Labour are actually that 'left' anymore...

Iain Dale said...

Canvas, a good point. I will change it now!

canvas said...

Thanks, see I'm not completely useless. :)

canvas said...

PS> you forgot to amend the last paragraph. over and out.

Man in a Shed said...

Based on what the Telegraph is currently reporting I think the Conservatives could have as much to fear from Ken Clarke.

He needs to familiarise himself with the party line and get on side or get out.

Tachybaptus said...

Man in a Shed, 7.13: Yes. To paraphrase Wellington: 'I don't know whether he frightens the enemy but, by God, he frightens me.'

Robert said...

Clarke will do for the Tory Party what Petain did for the 3rd Republic in 1940.

Robert said...

Clarke will do for the Tory Party what Petain did for the 3rd Republic in 1940.

Ted Foan said...

"Leaving aside the fact that "Change to win" was Cameron's slogan..."

That's fairly significant mistake I would have thought, given that this bloke was supposedly giving us a serious analysis of Clarke's influence on Labour thinking. Sloppy stuff!

Rush-is-Right said...

Ken Clarke dismisses David Cameron's claim that Britain is going bankrupt

See? It's started already. The man is a buffoon.

Lobbydog said...

A problem for Cameron is this. Those trying to use Clarke to drive a wedge through the Tory party will talk up the European issue. To overcome that Clarke will have to be loud, consistent and even controversial on other issues. But doing that will mean he naturally overshadows Osborne and highlights wider differences. Finding a balance will be very tough.

DespairingLiberal said...

I think both the Conservative Party and the country would be better off if Ken Clarke were Shadow Chancellor, it's a damn shame he is not, but I suppose having him back in any role is a start.

My opinion is that the Tory party won't truly be re-electable until Clarke is back in one of the top jobs - I don't usually vote Tory but might if he is and I suspect that goes for a lot of other floaters and centrists as well.

Iain Dale said...

Er, he IS in one of the top jobs. At a time like this, it's probably one of the three most important jobs in government. Which is why Brown appointed Mandelson.

DespairingLiberal said...

Iain - I think I was thinking of THE top job. (grin)

I note that today the Guardian had Clarke publicly correcting Cameron about his misunderstandings on what to do in the credit crunch. Looks like Ken is on the way!