As of Monday 19th January 2008 Ken Clarke will be back in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet. Iain Dale has the scoop here.
The next 10 days will be very interesting. There is going to be something of a backlash amongst Conservative voters, and David Cameron will come under fire for this decision. Ken Clarke has seven, maybe ten days to land a big body blow on Peter Mandelson and/or the Labour Party. If he does this, David Cameron's decision will be vindicated.* If not, then the recent poll results which have been showing an overall Conservative Majority will likely slip back, as the anti-Ken voices from within the Conservative Party get louder. Mandelson and Brown will be prepared for his return, suspect they have some counter punches lined up already.
This is not, in my opinion a clause 4 moment for David Cameron. This is not the Conservative setting a new direction, or casting of the burden of unpopular ideology. This is the moment however that the Conservative Party was honest with itself and who they are and what they stand for. Most have suspected since David Cameron accession that he is Pro-EU at heart and wants to lead Britain from inside the EU. I would rather he were more open about this so that it can be debated, rather than a closed issue which will, in the long run, cause greater frustrations and factions within the Conservative Party.
If I was still a likely Conservative voter, and held my previous concerns, this announcement would definitely send me over the edge…. However, paradoxically, now looking in without a sense of voting allegiance it could be a good move for the Conservatives. The only thing, politically speaking, that I want more than to withdraw from the EU is the complete defeat of the current Labour Government. If Ken Clarke's return ensures that The Conservatives move from narrow election majority, to comfortable majority then it may help put more Conservative MPs in Parliament and may subsequently ensure that I get what I want, an open, national debate on continued EU membership.
Of course, there is the chance also that Labour will on Tuesday announce that they are taking the UK into the Euro, then the Conservative party might possible implode into full scale civil war... and my head would explode from the excess rage surging through my brain.
*Provided that Ken Clarke does not then go off and rattle the Tories by a) Standing on a platform with Gordon Brown & Peter Mandelson to promote the Euro or the Lisbon Treaty. B) declares publicly that ‘smoking does not cause cancer’ or C) launches another ill-fated leadership bid. (If I have missed any, please add to the comments…)