But are the Tory “Arthur Scargills” lining up against?
From where I sit it is a statement of the blindingly obvious that Cameron’s chances of securing a majority at the general election would be greatly enhanced if his line-up of shadow ministers included the former Tory Chancellor and long-time political bruiser, Ken Clarke.
Jackie Ashley has it right in her Monday Guardian column when she writes “…everyone seems to want Ken Clarke.. back. But by almost everyone I mean commentators, voters in polls, ordinary people you come across in the supermarket queue or the hairdressers – you know, the Plain People of England. They like Ken’s outspoken, bumptious, no-prisoners language, his floridly un-PC face and his outrageous self-confidence. He is the Saga generation’s Boris…Yet if you ask Tory MPs, you get an opposite answer. I’ve been struck by the near-unanimous resistance among Tories to bringing back Clarke: the rolled eyebrows, shaken heads, the over-my-dead-body hostility. “
Those wounds over Europe run very deep in the party – just read some of the hysterical outpourings on ConHome where last week former IDS-aide Tim Montgomerie made the outrageous claim that “.Ken Clarke held the Major government to ransomâ€ over the EU.
Tim won’t have been assuaged by Cameron’s refusal on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday to rule out Clarke’s return and Benedict Brogan in the Mail reports that Lord Tebbitt has a new line of attack – that Ken Clarke is “lazy”.
It has often been said that unlike Tony Blair David Cameron has never had a “Clause 4” moment when he’s taken on his party’s past to show that things have changed. Well the return of Ken Clarke could certainly upset the Tory “Arthur Scargills” – people like Montgomerie, Tebbitt and the party donors of yesteryear who are always wheeled out – Lord Kalms and Stuart Wheeler.
Will Cameron do it? I’m beginning to think that he might. He looked pretty resolute on most things in that Andrew Marr interview yesterday and if he was to concede ground now on Clarke that would be portrayed as a major climb-down.
I don’t think that Cameron does climb-downs and the more the “old guard” squeal the greater the victory.
On Saturday William Hill’s put up a market on Ken Clarke’s return to the shadow cabinet. I got Â£100 on when it opened at 6/4 and the price then tightened. We’ll see if it is still on offer later in the morning.