Monday, December 10, 2007

Is it time for a Ken Clarke comeback?

Fraser Nelson spent most of this article in the Spectator assessing the state of the Brown premiership, but in a revealing throwaway paragraph near the end he also had some trenchant words for David Cameron and his team.

David Cameron has meanwhile been going back to his constituency and preparing for government. This has involved a fairly sober assessment of how many genuinely Cabinet-grade people he has on his team (he struggled to get into double digits). Ideally, his next reshuffle should be the last. It is vital for his prospects that the Tory frontbench look and sound like a competent government-in-waiting in comparison to the disintegrating Brown Cabinet.

I think this assessment is pretty near the mark. For all the government's troubles, there are really only two shadow spokesmen who look as if they could do a better job than their opposite numbers - David Davis (Home Affairs) and George Osborne (Treasury.) What they are desperately short of is gravitas.

If Cameron wants his Shadow Cabinet to look like a government-in-waiting as Nelson suggests, the man he needs is Ken Clarke, ideally in a cross-cutting, non-departmental role such as Shadow Leader of the House where he could deploy his political skills across the board.

Iain Dale once wrote a light-hearted but brilliantly entertaining political counterfactual about how a Michael Portillo-led Tory Party managed to overturn Tony Blair's first majority and win the 2001 election. Key to Portillo's victory was persuading Clarke to rejoin the frontbench.

Okay, so that was fiction, but I reckon that if Cameron were to pull off the same stunt now, it would have a not dissimilar effect on his election chances. Ken Clarke is still one of the most popular politicians in the country, and as last week's Question Time showed, remains a class act.

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1 comment:

Mike Power said...

Watching Question Time I thought the self same thing.