Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ken Clarkes Take On Tory EU Policy

James Kirkup describes Ken Clarke as "a walking gift to journalism if there ever was one" and then quotes Ken Clarke from the Commons Press Gallery on David Cameron's new EU policy.

Mr Clarke’s words:

“We’re going to have a go at repatriating, going back to the old opt-out on the social chapter. People want to be reassured on criminal justice.

“I think it’s largely reassurance, myself.

“But I do think we will not be alone. We will have allies.

“So long as you don’t over-dramatise it, done properly, there’s a serious negotiation to be had.

“I look forward to getting the debate back to a bit of calmness and common sense on both sides of the argument.”
I wrote down my thoughts after hearing Cameron's speech last week, I have not heard or read anything to make me change my mind. Many Conservatives reaction was supportive of David Cameron, but laced with a not so subtle bitterness which betrayed what was in their hearts, that they were again gambling on the Conservatives coming through for them later on; lying back and thinking of England so to speak.

There is talk of a civil war brewing; this may be the case but I suspect this may take some time to happen. The Conservatives can handle lively debate under the roof of their broad church, even if it is no longer encouraged actively. But the real dilemma is not between the factions but in the hearts and minds of potential and loyal Conservative voters. To many, the question is different. What is the lesser of two evils... Five more years of Labour or acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty and accepting Britain as a province in the new EUslavia? Neither play well in the minds of many.

The return of Ken Clarke the front benches prompted much comment at the time. I reluctantly tried to find some positives in the decision myself. I made the point that Clarke needed to land a scalp and live up to the image of the Big Beast. However, what has he achieved since? Lord Mandy loves having Ken Clarke as a Shadow, he has failed to land any big blows and Mandy even joked at the Labour Conference that Ken Clarke privately agrees with all Mandy has said and is doing. What else could be expected from two paid up EU loving foot soldiers?

It's not like Ken Clarke is doing his homework and trying to hold Labour to account. In a recent exchange in the Commons Clarke proclaimed that British businesses were struggling under the burden of over regulation. His designated chaperone retorted with a simple request for Clarke to name three regulations that he would dismantle... Clarke had no answer. Not one. Perhaps Ken Clarke could find some time to have a read of this or even this - He is going through the motions and not trying very hard. It will be a seamless transition when he takes over from Peter Mandelson.

As I was listening to David Cameron last week on his new EU policy, it did not sound like a speech that had been written by Ken Clarke; it sounded like a speech written for Ken Clarke. Ken Clarke is not someone I would pick out as a good representative what Conservative voters want, or how they think.

The new EU policy has only one unarguable plus point so far as I can see...

David Cameron cannot be accused any time soon of being a popularist when writing up policy.

All of this got me thinking that maybe Clarke was not brought back because he is a big beast, but maybe he just knows where the bodies are buried and convinced Cameron to let him back in. After a not very convincing start to his role, he does not appear to be under any pressure to claim any scalps. Just maybe Clarke has the dirt on Cameron already.

After removing the Conservatives from the EPP in the EU Parliament, one could be forgiven for having expected a more robust line when Lisbon was finally ratified from Cameron; he had certianly convinced the likes on Dan Hannan and William Hague convinced that there were some serious intentions there. Yet instead of looking to the Party and to what they want to see, Cameron looked to Clarke and the supporters of the EU and wrote up another chapter in the Conservative EU play book. Was this a reversal or an attempt at Blairesque triangulation?

Agree with me or not; agree with Cameron or don't. But his EU policy is going to define Cameron and the Conservative Party for a generation and the more it is discussed, and the closer we get to Cameron as PM the greater that split will be felt by those who have to chose which side of the line they want to be on.

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