Ken Clarke's final role of the dice

Matt Snape argues that Ken Clarke has sunk to new depths to become Prime Minister.

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Matt Snape
On 22 August 2019 01:13

Ken Clarke reached the peak of his political career when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1993. In an ideal world, his success in managing the economy would make him the perfect candidate for Prime Minister. During his tenure, the economy boomed, and this country is yet to witness a return to levels of growth experienced during the 1990s. He reduced the basic rate of income tax from 25 per cent to 23 per cent, reduced government spending as a percentage of GDP, and slashed the budget deficit from £50.8 billion in 1993 to £15.5 billion in 1997. Interest rates, unemployment and inflation all fell under Clarke’s occupancy of HM Treasury. This enabled Gordon Brown to eliminate the deficit in 1998 and preside over a four-year surplus. It is no wonder Clarke could boast during a Guardian interview in 2005 that he left Brown with a healthy economy.

Unfortunately for him, Clarke was never destined to be Tory Party leader. During the Tories’ time in opposition, he failed to become leader of the party three times in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Clarke then served as Justice Secretary in 2010-12 and was criticised by many party figures for his liberal attitude towards crime, particularly regarding fathers who fail to pay child maintenance, disqualified drivers and criminals fighting asylum refusals. He embarrassed himself further in May 2011 by suggesting sentences for rapists should be reduced if they plead guilty before trial. In 2014, the former Chancellor announced he would return to the backbenches after serving as Minister without Portfolio following a cabinet reshuffle in 2012.

Sadly, Brexit has allowed this veteran to re-emerge from the backbenches and now he believes he has a chance of becoming Prime Minister. As the most ardent Europhile in the Conservatives, Clarke has done everything he can to oppose Britain leaving the EU. He even voted against the EU Referendum. When May announced an unexpected general election in 2017, instead of retiring like many anticipated he would, the Rushcliffe MP announced he would run for Parliament again, no doubt hoping he would stop Brexit. But the UK’s EU exit shows this man has sunk to new depths to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming Prime Minister.

As The Daily Telegraph wrote, he still has half an eye on entering Number 10. Clarke also told BBC Radio 4 he was not opposed to Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson’s idea of him managing a ‘government of national unity’ designed to stop a no-deal Brexit with support from Labour. The fact that the Rushcliffe MP would even contemplate a Corbyn government over no-deal should leave any decent Conservative with a sense of despair.

The Spectator proved that businesses fear a Corbyn government more than a no-deal Brexit. A Labour government would result in soaring taxes to pay for some of the Labour Leader’s wildest ambitions like nationalising the railways completely, rolling out social housing on a wider scale, ending Trident, and reversing years of progress towards a free market economy, which is the true guarantee of happiness and freedom. He would also lead a government with the most despicable individuals in British politics right now. For example, Labour’s leading figures are IRA-sympathising John McDonnell, the incompetent Diane Abbott and the loathsome Emily Thornberry. For any Tory to consider this as a sensible alternative to a no-deal Conservative government shows that Conservative stalwarts like Clarke have lost any sense of pragmatism that helps the party win successive elections.

Therefore, Boris must call an election sooner rather than later. The Westminster swamp must be drained of people like Clarke who have been in office for too long and are willing to put their love of the EU ahead of the national interest to the extent that he would allow a Corbyn government into power. This is not what the Conservative Party is about.

 

Matt Snape is a freelance journalist whose stories have been featured in numerous national, local and specialist publications

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