Saturday, May 21, 2011

Opponents come to aid of Great Survivor

The story is often told of the new MP who remarked on what a pleasure it was to look across the Chamber into the eyes of his enemies. The old sweat next to him responded: "No laddie, they are your opponents; your enemies are behind you."

Never was this hoary old adage more true than in the case of the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke.

Like Tony Blair, Denis Healey and Rab Butler before him, Mr Clarke has always been one of those politicians who are more popular outside their own parties than they are in them.

There can be absolutely no doubt that had Mr Blair been up against Mr Clarke in either of the 2001 or 2005 elections, his majorities would have been significantly smaller. But the Tory Party might also have split in two.

As we have seen this week, Mr Clarke continues to divide opinion. Many on his own side – not to mention the right-wing tabloid press – would not have been at all displeased to see him lose his job over his comments on rape.

By contrast, it was instructive to see the conscience of liberal Britain,
Shami Chakrabarti, passing up the opportunity to twist the knife in Mr Clarke when they appeared alongside eachother on the BBC's Question Time on Thursday.

But it was not Shami who ultimately saved him, but a much more obvious 'opponent' - Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The moment Mr Miliband urged David Cameron to sack Mr Clarke over the Commons Despatch Box on Wednesday, it became virtually for the Prime Minister to do so.

My initial reading of this was that it was a smart piece of politics by the often under-rated Mr Miliband.

Keeping Mr Clarke in the government is, after all, in Labour's interests - firstly because, because he exacerbates the divisions between Mr Cameron and his backbenchers, and secondly because the policy agenda he is pursuing is not so very different from Labour's own.

Others might argue that this is way too Machiavellian for the young opposition leader, and that Mr Miliband was simply showing his inexperience.

Either way, the man who has become the great survivor of British politics lives to fight another day.

There is much less confidence this weekend in the future of Mr Clarke's Lib Dem Cabinet colleague, Chris Huhne.

Essex police are now formally investigating claims that he asked someone close to him to take some speeding penalty points he allegedly incurred in 2003 before he became an MP.

Mr Huhne has described the claims as 'inaccurate' but his denials seem to be cutting little ice with some colleagues.

One Lib Dem insider was quoted as saying on Thursday: "The conventional wisdom is that Huhne will end up having to go. He is being highly reckless in taking it to the wire like this. Chris clearly doesn't think they will find the evidence. He wants to brazen it out. He is brazen. That's what he does."

The departure of Mr Huhne would doubtless have a further destabilising impact on the Coalition, already under strain as a result of the AV referendum debacle.

Under the terms of the Coalition agreement, he would have to be replaced by another Lib Dem, with Ed Davey, Jeremy Browne and Norman Lamb among the potential candidates

Meanwhile more able Tories in the ministerial middle-ranks would once again be forced to wait their turn, as was the case when David Laws was defenestrated after just 17 days in office.

Maybe that is one of the reasons some of them were so keen to see the back of Mr Clarke.

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1 comment:

G Eagle Esq said...

" .... the man who has become the great survivor of British politics lives to fight another day ..."

... BUT what about the Victims of Rape and Burglary

What is UK Politics/Law about, as unEmployment and Inflation rise ?

Is it about "Politicians"and the "rights" of the Hyper-Rich to hide the Truth through "Super-Injunctions

.... or is it about the lives of fragile, ordinary "Little People" who cannot afford the cost of Super-Injunctions or ever more relaxed sentences for rapists, if Mr Clarke has his way


PS Your Word Verifier = kulled

? Is it trying to tell us something