It's official. Ken Clarke is coming back to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Business Secretary. Tory sources tell me the deal was sealed at a lunch yesterday at George Osborne's London home at which David Cameron was also present and will be formally announced tomorrow.
It was Osborne who had suggested the possibility of a job for Clarke to Cameron in December, and discussions between the two of them have been ongoing since then. I'm told Ken Clarke is fully signed up to the Cameron/Osborne strategy and policy. Just as importantly, he accepts that the Party has a settled view on Europe and has said that while he isn't going to change his own view, he won't attempt to persuade others to follow his line.
Alan Duncan is going to be offered another senior post, but the full reshuffle is not expected to be very wideranging. It will be announced tomorrow. I believe Caroline Spelman will remain in her job and that there will be very few casualties. There will, apparently, be no return for DD.
I think Alan Duncan has handled himself with a great degree of dignity over the last few weeks. He could easily have flown off the handle once the Ken Clarke kite flying stories started, but instead, remained quite calm - possibly to his own surprise and that of some of his more 'Duncan-sceptic' colleagues. This has not gone unnoticed by the leadership. I don't know what job he will be offered tomorrow, but I suspect it will be Environment or Universities & Skills.
To those Tories who recoil in horror at the return of Ken Clarke, I'd say this. Few of us agree with his views on Europe, but they should not be allowed to colour the fact that he is a big hitter and is very popular with people who are either soft Tories or not Tories at all. He will have to abide by the same collective responsibility as the Shadow Cabinet and will know that.
David Cameron will regard this as a real coup, and rightly so. It will be the biggest news story in the morning. But more important than that, it brings some much needed economic ballast to the Tory front bench. It's clear that Osborne will still be in charge of economic policy development but Ken Clarke will play a big role in its public explanation.
Other blog reaction from...
Three Line Whip