Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Ken Clarke - the great political survivor

Something that has been a bit overlooked in all the excitement over the new coalition government is just what an incredible achievement it is for Ken Clarke to be resuming a cabinet position after 13 years in opposition.

Clarke was a government whip under Heath from 1972 - 1974 and then became a junior minister when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979. From 1985 he then took on a succession of cabinet posts under both Thatcher and Major culminating in Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 - 1997.

There can't be many politicians whose government careers span 38 years. And of course we have no idea how long he might last. He could easily be in the cabinet for a good few years yet. He's only 69.

What also makes his achievement even more remarkable is that he was able to maintain his position in Cameron's shadow cabinet despite his very pro-EU views in a party dominated by anti-EU sentiment. I know that now the coalition with the Lib Dems has come about there are plenty of pro-EU cabinet ministers but to have been in contention for a good post in opposition was an achievement in itself.

So let's raise a glass to Ken Clarke, one of the great survivors of British politics!


Anonymous said...

Ken Clarke is great! …and it would help the coalition for Lib Dems to bear him in mind when looking at the differences between the two parties.


David said...

Remarkable it is, but let's not get carried away. The Justice portfolio is one he had no interest in and in the space of three years has become where old ministers go to die. Out at the first reshuffle - "there's enough people to the left of the leader in this government, thankyouverymuch."

Andrew said...

This looks a little like a sideways move to me. He was brought in bacause of the financial crisis and he's now been shunted away from that area of policy.

Mark- how do you think the appointment will effect the chances of libel reform?

PaulMBentley said...

Andrew, Cameron had to make room for Cable and he was never going to be made Chancellor of the Exchequer, so Business is his appropriate next-best. At Ken's age he isn't going to quibble about being moved sideways from the dreary task of digging Britain out of Brown's gaping hole.

David, Ken's a Tory. At the Justice Department he gets to be Lord High Chancellor and Keeper of the Queen's Conscience, occupying the oldest office of state and giving him precedence over all other members of the government. Just observing the pleasure he took in being sworn in as Lord Chancellor, you could see that Ken Clarke will be just as happy overseeing the judiciary as he would have been troubling over rebalancing the economy. He offered authoritative and effective opposition to Mandelson. Now Mandelson's gone, and Cable's in, Ken can move on to crowning his political career by sitting at the apex of his pre-political profession. Labour may have viewed the job as a graveyard, but I'm sure like Lord Hailsham, Ken will give it the best of his latter years in life.