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I agree with most of your points Tim but I'm not so sure about not using Ken Clarke at all. His European views are abhorrent but if he could be made to refuse to speak about them it would be a shame not to use this skilful popular man.
Like John Major yesterday he has the ability to destroy arguments for Labour economic policy which is beyond some of our younger spokesman.
However if there's a danger of reopening party wounds on Europe then the price of having him in the team would be too high.

Fair comment Malcolm. The main point of my piece was to argue against Ken Clarke as Chancellor. I could have been clearer.

Haha, you waited for Portillo to say it before bringing in your counter-arguments?

And I hope you are right, Tim.

Just to remind people, he likes to take the credit for starting the economic recovery of the 1990s - statistics show that this actually began when Norman Lamont was Chancellor. So, logically, let's bring him back first.

Tim is absolutely right.

I do not begin to understand the deluded sentimentalism that wreathes Clarke in clouds of glory, nor would I rate Portillo's political judgement as being any better than a 6yr old's.

Thankfully, Mr Portillo does not number amongst the 'big guns' being thought of!

Mr Clarke is certainly his own man - and that is both a strength and a problem. He should have been Tory Leader ages ago, but for his sometimes misdirected singlemindedness.

His supposed answer to the WLQ was indeed timid and showed lack of courage in that respect. He should either have plumped for a resolute rejection of the need for any such measure or else wholeheartedly embraced something along the lines of UKIP's proposals. The half-hearted irrelevance that he came out with showed lack of political judgement.

[For clarification, I have changed from Eng Dem to UKIP. as the latter has a solution to England's constitutional deficit that fits better with my underlying Unionist sentiment]

Tim, on this you are simply wrong. While Ken Clarke's views on Europe are abhorrent he is still a very experienced politician and a jolly successful former Chancellor. He need not replace Osborne as Shadow Chancellor, but could be brought in as Business Secretary or Shadow Chief Secretary to HM Treasury.


Has George Osborne shed all his work except the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer role?
That remains my concern. George Osborne got into trouble by not focusing solely on Govt Finance and the Economy.

I agree with Tim that Ken Clarke would be a bad move because he seems incapable of holding the line. I also know he would switch off a large group of activists. But his acts of disloyalty are no different to IDS's during John Major's time. That generation lost sight of the need to work as a team.

I really have noticed quite a change in the media narrative in recent days, and although little noticed, it has rattled the government.

Just check out Ed Balls performance on Sky news last week, Cooper yesterday, and this petty carry on from Brown's office reported in the Coffee House.
Brown should stop being so petty

More on that issue here at the Timesonline.
Time to talk

I think big beasts like Ken Clarke are a vital part of our attack on the government and their economic incompetence. But talking from the sidelines like Major did yesterday is just as powerful, and that is where Clark&Co are really helping right now.

I am trying to think of a time in the last 11 years where so many of the older big hitters have all been so united in attacking the Labour party and their woeful record in government?

The media darlings of Portillo and Tebbit can sometimes seem more isolated these days.

Its been a little noted victory for the present Shadow Cabinet. Having that numpty Brown in No10 has certainly helped, he certainly knows how to make enemies inside and outside his own party.

Not *still* on about shadow chancellor ?!?!

What next? Is Portillo going to give his view on whether the UK should go decimal ?

He may be an ex-Minister, but he said on 'This Week' some time ago that he is not a tory he is a journalist...

Clark aparantly gives some old tories a warm fuzzy feeling - but noone else. George has a future, Clark has a past.

Portillo tends to go off on tangents and is quite often wrong. Ken Clarke has been very effective on TV though and is a big hitter. I think many of the public want us to succeed but a section of foating voters are drifting back and forth in expectation of some beef.

Our position going into a pre-election period needs tweaking and focusing. We need to fix on some simple, strong messages and then ram them home over and over again. Overall the most important areas the public are interested in are crime, economy, health and education. The IDS themes on society need uniting with a theme on a broken economic balance and what our economic future should be. We should identify areas we would reduce spending by focusing on areas that are non-essential but the Govt are committed to and say that otherwise we would protect frontline key public services.

Also perceptions can be unfair but are very important - we need to beef up the shadow cabinet in just one or two places so overall we come across with a bit more experience and gravitas and look a little less "southern" and a bit more gritty. We need a few more who are self evidently enthused and passionate about sticking up for people, angry at how ordinary people are treated and seen to be hungry to get into Govt and make changes. If one or two of them northern all the better.

This is all do-able and is about sealing the deal with both the message and the messengers. I do not hold the view we have a serious problem or should lurch to the right, rant on about Europe etc. We can win and people want us to win.

Personally I hope that the Tory leadership does bring Ken Clarke back into the fold because that would give a large boost to the U K Independence Party.

But there again, another part of me looks forward to the time when the Conservative Party becomes, once again, the party of a free sovereign Britain and concerned for the welfare of all our people. When/if that occurs there would be no need for UKIP. So that other part of me agrees with you, Tim.

Portillo is certainly right about bringing back Clarke. He is one of the few "big beasts" left on the Tory benches and the party should be using his skills.

Not sure about bringing him back as Shadow Chancellor though:it would probably be counter-productive as no doubt the Eurosceptic brigade would not give him any peace.

I have an alternative suggestion though- Clarke for party chairman. Going into an election he would be magnificent as an attack-dog.

When you have the correct policy, as Tim says, it would seem odd to consider changing the team two months before a possible election.

Brown may just go for it in desperation though I suspect he won't have the guts to actually push the button.

I sincerely hope that Mr Cameron has a clear idea of a way forward in these very difficult times and will spell it out in his major speech. Can he afford to continue to keep his powder dry to stop Labour stealing his ideas?

" I've already set out some reasons why the 'bite of recession' will cause bigger and bigger political problems for Labour "

So what you are saying is that it will take the bite of recession for people to forget about Osborne's ineffectiveness!

C'mon Iain. That was just one of my reasons for leaving George Osborne in place. Don't take things out of context!


For once Portillo is absolutely right. Cameron and Osborne have been constantly shown to be completely inept and out of their depth in their dealing with the economic crisis. No one - and I say this sadly as a life-long Conservative - can have the slightest confidence in them or their ability on this question. That is why the large lead in the polls has been moreorless lost. Simon Heffer in Saturday's Telegraph summed up the situation very accurately.

I agree it would be wrong to move Osborne but why not get Ken Clarke to shadow Mandeleson? That has a lot of possibilities....

The problem we face is that our arguments are all about the future, whereas voters, in the main, are fixed firmly in the present. Gazillions of national debt is a distant, abstract notion. It doesn’t compete with today’s reality-for-most that interest rates are down, fuel prices are down, taxes seem to be down, the buses are still running and the lights are still burning.

The only people who are really feeling pain, today, are those who have lost their jobs, those who know their jobs are in danger and, rather more trivially, those who have booked a winter holiday. Large though those numbers are, they do not yet compete with the public sector whose jobs are largely insulated from economic reality.

The editor is completely correct that we have to see this issue in the long term. Our arguments are the right ones and that will become increasingly evident. Our team is also the right one. Changing it now weaken our case and hand Labour a political victory potentially massive enough to also hand them an election.

JS, you kicked the editor's foul "noone" habit but then went and ruined it all with "moreorless"!

Actually KC is best placed right where he is, sitting on the back benches lobbing the occasional hand grenade at the Labour spin machine and trashing Brown's fiscal credibility.

Editor, Portillo does not deserve to be taken seriously. We should not grace his views with comment. Whilst KC is a maverick, he's our maverick and we must not forget that.

Recalling his past sins when he's not either likely or credible in the role of Shadow Chancellor is as divisive as Portillo suggesting that he be brought back in the first place.

We all know the challenges we face and whilst there has been a great deal of concern at the conduct and performance of the current encumbent, the time for action has passed.

If there is a reshuffle in the New Year I would not expect Mr Osbourne to be moved, unless he wants to move.

What's more important at the moment is that we focus on exposing Brown's economic strategy for the economic roadcrash that it is. Which is why we need every economic spokesman past and present who remain members of the Conservative Party to concentrate on attacking Labour.

"That was just one of my reasons for leaving George Osborne in place"

Well your other was that Osborne was a good mate of Cameron's, that as a reason is even worse than the other. Would you be happy having your families finances managed by someone who had no experience and was only there because he was a good mate of the boss? The only reason for Osborne to be Shadow Chancellor is if he can do the job, all the evidence suggests he can't, so it would be better to move him. Its never too late to do that, but it would certainly be better it was done earlier.

Clarke has never been reticent about speaking his mind.It would be impossible to muzzle him over comments about our relationship with the EU if he were to be brought back onto the front bench, and this would blow Cameron's eurosceptic cover, dubious though this may be. However, I would not be surprised to see Clarke in the cabinet of a new Tory Government - as Minister for Europe perhaps?

Whatever anyone says Ken Clarke has gravitas, bottom and weight. How to use him? I would have thought there was someway for him to be more prominent - sombody suggested 'shadowing' Mandelson... sounds pretty good to me - but one note of warning in that European matters in the sense of divisiveness must not surface. Ken Clarke must know the importance to this country of the conservatives winning the next election.

I think the comments made my Michael Portillo has touched a nerve in the wider community outside of the party's headquarters that there is a substanial negativve public opinion of David Camerons and George Osbournes handling of the oppositions plans to the economic policies of the government. This is further reinforced by current opinion polls placing Brown/Darling ahead of the Tory duo on this subject.

A return of Clarke to the front bench in my opinion would be a massive boost to the party, a big hitter is needed at this time to wipe away Gordon Browns clunking fist. Clarke's cv speaks for itself, whilst his views on Europe may not please all, I myself share a eurosceptic viewpoint, Clarke in the past has reigned in his views on Europe, particularly over the Euro. And from being a consituent of Clarke's and having met and communicated with him on a number of issues, I'm sure Ken would see this as a economic issue and not a European Union issue.

I personally would like to see a shadow cabinet reshuffle, with Clarke coming in as Shadow Chancellor, Osbourne being moved to shadow Mandelson and Alan Duncan being moved to Party Chairman. A return of Clarke should be seen as a positive, not just for the economic future of the country but also for the One Nation spirit of the party.

Very interesting and bold piece, Tim.

"there is a substanial negativve public opinion of David Camerons and George Osbournes handling of the oppositions plans to the economic policies of the government"

I am not sure how much blame should be attached to Cameron, when David Davis was leading the Shadow Home Office team is was effective because of his leadership of it. Certainly Cameron as leader should have been asking the questions of the Shadow Treasury team, but I would like to know if Osborne was bringing any concerns or making any case about the economy to the Shadow Cabinet. I get a feeling there was precious little, for if Osborne had been leading his Treasury team like David Davis was shadowing his department, then the Conservatives wouldn't be in the mess they are over economic matters.

But I have to say the Conservatives have been more effective on the economy in recent weeks, but then its Cameron who is leading the charge not Osborne. Osborne it would appear is to kept in the background, with anybody but Osborne being dusted off to make the Conservative economic case. That isn’t a vote of confidence in Osborne, but its also a dangerous game for Cameron to play, for in leading the charge he will attract all the attention and brick bats if he takes a wrong step, where as if the Shadow Treasury team were functioning unit then it would be Osborne leading the charge and offering a bit of protection to Cameron if they make a wrong move. As such one can only assume Cameron thinks Osborne his very best mate, otherwise why put his leadership and possible Prime Ministerial position in jeopardy for anybody but their best mate, but in doing that it suggest Cameron is confusing matters, for there is a place for friendships and a place for people able to do a job, putting friends into jobs they can’t do is just plain stupid.

Mark [email protected] - I'm more or less sorry !


Fully agree with your comments and as Clarke virtually ruled out coming back yesterday and given his increasingly erratic support for the leadership I doubt he will return.

As for the February election date I am dubious to say the least. Brown has tried to cut and run on temporary popularity before and bottled it (and by most accounts he is still 6 points or so behind). Such transparent party self-indulgence on behalf of the Labour Party is what we have come expect from and despise about them. I suspect talk of an election is no more than further smoke and mirrors in a desperate attempt to hide how deep the recession will become and how futile Brown's recent economic tinkerings are.

Brown has led this country to the brink of disaster and there is nothing he can do to redress it. He has already done too much damage. Instead he makes his Government look busy while it unfolds.

Brown's legacy is a Broken Society, a Broken Democracy and a Broken Economy. In short a Broken Britain!


You are bang on the money again. Ken is a nice guy, but he would a nightmare if we were to make him anything senior again.

I was under the impression that Ken Clarke wouldn't accept a Shadow Cabinet position at any price. This discussion is fascinating but a bit "cloud cuckoo land" if the main protaganist wouldn't take the job anyway!

Ken Clark is far from a one-dimensional politician, and even if he was, he still represents the view of a large number of Conservatives, who recognize the reality of our position and our need to be part of Europe. So now the Euro skeptics are open about their non-democratic attitudes, which makes them as bad as the ass’s in the EEC who will not accept the No vote of the Irish. So what exactly is the problem? Do you fear that giving Ken a front bench job would bring the tensions in the party to the fore?” nobody looks less Bullingdon club than Clarke “ and this issue of the Eton “in” group is going to be one that Labour will exploit to the fullest extent in the run up to the next election. I think that far from not daring to use Clark, DC is wasting one of his very best guns to appease the relatively small number of euro-skeptics who believe that only by stifling this debate can they hope to win the next election. When the next election is lost (which is certainly a possibility) and Dave and his cronies have been chased to the backbenches, there will be plenty of people asking quite rightly why Clark and Redbourn were gagged. As it is the very many Europeans within the party, have remained disciplined in the interest of the party . Its time to reward these people with the return of one of their favorite sons. I believe that Clark alone of all of our MP’s, has the gravitas and knowledge to smash Brown in an open debate. He also remains immensely popular with the British public. I suppose you will think I am a Europhile and so feel free to ignore me, but the truth is I am as skeptical as most members of the “better off out” brigade about the EEC. It would be a massive mistake to believe that the Conservative party is only for the likes of the Eton and Oxford few. Nobody demonstrates this more clearly than Ken Clarke who’s Grammer school clout is sadly missing from our front line. Finally how ridiculous is the idea that Ken would undermine the Change agenda of the party? Let me put this bluntly, if you believe that change means giving away the party to a few toffs from Eton you are quite right. I also believe that Labour will likely make out that they are out of touch with the common people, regardless of the noises they make. It is absolutely essential, in the best interest of the party and the Nation, that the Tory front bench is about finding the very best people for the job, regardless of their social background. Leaving Clark out is a massive mistake and one that we may well come to regret. Just a final note, whilst the members of the party and the politically aware may well understand what DC means when he attacks the human rights legislation , the majority of people I talk to think he is trying to undermine the very few rights that Labour have left us with. DC should tread very carefully, around such issues as Human rights and minimum wage legislation, as many working people smell a reactionary rat.

Actually, I think its Michael Portillo thats right and Tim that's wrong.

Ken Clarke would be an excellent Shadow Chancellor. Unfortunately, his bizarre pro-Europe stance basically rules him out of the job. Ever. Which is pretty much what Portillo said.

If Portillo came back to the Conservatives I for one would cheer. Whatever the rest of you think.

Clarke or no Clarke, and personally I would like to see him there. I really do fear we will have another five years of the current lot unless the Cameron front bench has a bit of substance injected. It really will need it if we are to stand a chance at the next election be it in February or whenever. Haigue seems the only trace of substance from where I stand. The comments on the etherial Osbourne are fully justified, maybe he is 'Daves best mate' but where is he? I am certainly ashamed he is my MP. Why isn't he screaming for those bankers and other city whiz kids who are or should be made accountable for the horrendous fiscal mess that he, Osbourne, amongst others, have allowed to creep up on us while they slept on their watch. Dreaming no doubt of the day when they would be swept into power by default, without effort due only to the failure of the incumbent dunderheads.

What is bizarre is the completely out-dated anti European sentiment that is prevalent in the Tory Party. Ken Clarke is correct on the European issue and he is largely right on economic matters. It must be of huge comfort to Gordon Brown to see the antidiluvian element in the Tory party keeping the Tories most able protagonist on the sidelines. The 19th century attitude to Europe by many who profess to be 21st century Tories may yet prevent the Tories from winning the next election.
It should be possible to be a Tory AND a supporter of the European Union. The positions are not mutually incompatible but some peope have the issues badly mixed up.

I still believe Gordon Brown is being led into an election ambush by a combination of flattering medai coverage and carefully crafted polls.

[email protected] - Hear Hear ! You are absolutely correct and I agree with you 100 per cent. Well said.

"The Osborne-Cameron relationship works"

Really? Problem is, they actually accepted Brown's claim to have abolished boom and bust and based their own policy (sharing proceeds etc) on it. Not having a strong interlectual conservative argument based on small govt, low spending and low taxes, they were left floundering when the 'growth' disappeared. Now they're playing catch-up. At least Cameron is, Osborne appears to have left the field.

Dave McEwan Hill, you are not alone.

They do not have them mixed up at all David Mcewan Hill, they merely disagree with you. You are right Mark, he's not alone but he is I think part of a small and decreasing minority.

Dave McEwan Hill - I hope you are right!

The problem with your argument Tim is that none of your reasons for not having Clarke have anything to do with economic policy, and instead revolve around issues of internal party management and politics. Is the party so childish that it regards views on the EPP and the West Lothian Question as more pertinent when choosing a Shadow Chancellor than views and ability to formulate policy on taxation, monetary policy, and financial regulation?

That said, there is a perfectly good reason for not bringing Clarke back - he was supportive of a VAT cut, and his only objection was that it was unaffordable.

Likewise John Redwood is an unwise choice for resurrection - he was the author of a policy report that recommended complete deregulation of the mortgage market because banks carried the risk and could properly discern it.

"It should be possible to be a Tory AND a supporter of the European Union."

Maybe. Not being a Tory I don’t know but is it possible to be a democrat, that is supporter of democracy, AND a supporter of the European Union?

A good word of advice is not to let one's opponents choose one's leader or team. McCain was every Democrat's choice for candidate, and most of the opposing media's. The same was not true of Ronald Reagan

There are many Labour supporters who dislike George Osborne and yet quite like the man whose spending decisions/priorities helped set them on the road to credibility.

I nave no doubt that Ken Clark will do a perfectly good job as a freelance critic. One of the problems of having too homogonised candidates lists is that one loses the back benchers with a shock troop mentality because they want to keep their reputations clean for future promotion and will not give any hostages to fortune.

Look where the really interesting contributions came from over Damien Green. The most significant contributions - on all sides - came from those without the self restraint imposed by ambition.

Leave Ken Clark where he is but encourage him with a few pints and a good cigar. It is precisely because he has the independence to criticise his own side that when he really weighs in on Brown, he attracts attention.

That's the way we should like it.

I agree with the editor totally. the core of the Tory party is now so anti-european that its impossible for anyone to hold pro-european views and be a part of the leadership. The only way hClarke could be Shadow Chancellor would be if you didn`t allow him to comment on Britains future in or out of the euro and that would just not work.

I just can't see how you can be a Tory and support the EU. Think about it!!

I share Iain's view as expressed at 12.33:

"But I have to say the Conservatives have been more effective on the economy in recent weeks, but then it's Cameron who is leading the charge not Osborne. Osborne it would appear is to kept in the background, with anybody but Osborne being dusted off to make the Conservative economic case. That isn’t a vote of confidence in Osborne..."

It certainly is worrying that David Cameron appears to feel that he has to do pretty well all the talking on the recession and hardly involve the shadow treasury team.

This must make people wonder whether they are up to the enormous task of managing a recession.

It would be even more seriously worrying if there were anything in Iain's other comment that GO has got the job because he is such a good mate of David Cameron.

We are talking about the most crucial portfolio in government at the moment and the country just cannot afford to have anyone in charge who is not the best qualified person for the job.

I personally now accept that GO, when full-time as shadow chancellor, is fully capable of holding the government to account on the economy but I would like to see one or two other people drafted in to the team who have a much better grasp of economic and business matters.

There is one tiny flaw in Tim's argument. Michael Portillo did not "urge" the return of Ken Clarke as Shadow Chancellor.

He said that giving Clarke this position would cause the Tories' credibility to soar. And he said that Cameron, like Obama, need not fear surrounding himself with big beasts. But he went on to say that, despite this, Clarke "cannot" be brought back because of his views on Europe: "Clarke would be dangerous at any time because he would ruthlessly use the power of his position. But he would be especially divisive now because the European issue has returned to the fore."

On any sensible reading, Michael Portillo is simply lamenting the fact that the party's historic divisions on Europe, and Clarke's refusal to compromise on the issue, mean a serious figure has to remain on the backbenchers in serious times. He is not saying that Cameron should pretent this obstacle is not there and make Clarke Shadow Chancellor regardless.

By all means argue that Portillo has underestimated the political case for fiscal conservatism (in my view he has, though it's too early to tell),and that George Osborne should remain Shadow Chancellor in any case owing to his relations with Cameron and the big judgement call on fiscal policy that he recently got right (in my view he should). But why create a straw man?

The last time the party followed the Editor's advice in angrily rejecting Portillo and Clarke without pausing to look at what they had to say or what the alernative meant was in 2001. Didn't that turn out well?

You can`t be a Tory and support the EU!! Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Lord Heseltine, KJen Clark, the list could go on and on. All supported a European Union.If they were not Conservative I don`t know who is!

Tim, I think you've missed the point of Portillos article, oe maybe i've understood it?!

I thought Portillo was saying eaxctly what you've said above. Namely, that Ken Clarke WOULD be devastating economically on the government. His record, his politcal skill and heavyweight status would blow the government out of the water. The impression i got from Portillo was that the risk of opening old European inter-tory rifts was too great to bring him back!

Have i read it wrong? Is this not what he said?

the big picture is -

New_Nu_Lab is <=>35 and Nu_Con just near tipping point downwards on a consistant level to i.e. 3 months of polling to 36<=>38.

that's all peter/charlie/draper need and brown will call an election.

what's missing is the 'tipping point'
i.e Obama visit, heavy spending on white working class as they dread the ecomomic heap the worst as having tasted it twice, and thus running back to Labour

ps the grid is back in operation


You are spot on (as I argued at 18.26 above). It tells you a lot about this site that the editor can launch a mini campaign, with graphics and everything, in opposition to an op-ed piece that he has misunderstood, and that countless people then post supportive comments without taking the time to read the op-ed piece in question and draw the obvious conclusion.

Come on people, stop going on about Ken Clarke being shadow Chancellor and, fingers crossed, the next chancellor.

We all know that Brown, Darling and the rest of this shower of a government have cocked up big time so get on the BBC website and airwaves, local radio and other outlets and say so.

People on this site (bar a few idiots) don't need convincing about the need for a Tory government but the polls suggest the public do. There are hundreds of reasons, spend your time setting them out to floating voters.

Jack Stone :

"You can`t be a Tory and support the EU!! Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Lord Heseltine, KJen Clark, the list could go on and on. All supported a European Union.If they were not Conservative I don`t know who is!" QTF.

Ben said "The impression i got from Portillo was that the risk of opening old European inter-tory rifts was too great to bring him back!"

Thats exactly the way I read his (Portillo's)comments.Other than his European opnions there really can be no good reason for shutting him(Clark)out !

Totally agree with everything the Ed says on this. Far from wiping smirks from Labour faces as Portillo claims, the return of Ken Clarke to any front bench post would delight Labour as well as the BBC who'd be forever looking for splits and disagreements over the EU. Furthermore Ken Clarke as Shadow Chancellor must risk Blair-Brown type 'working relationship'. (If this is the case, Portillo must surely realise it?) Even with Ken Clarke's ability to attack Labour's economic policy and to attract attention when he does, he'd be too big a risk for Shadow Cabinet.

As well as being pro-surrendering sovereignty to the EU, Ken Clarke's opposition to DC's key policies on the family and doing what politicians can do to help mend brokennes in society e.g. by recognising marriage in the tax system, in particular must be a particular warning not to heed Portillo's advice.

I would hope we can continue the relentless exposure of Labour's economic policies that over the last 10 years have ensured the situation here is worse than in other nations.

Winston Churchill died before there was an EU - who knows what he would have thought of it? I rather suspect that Margaret Thatcher now regrets campaigning for membership of The Common Market and for agreeing to many of the extensions in the EU in the 1980s, if she had won the 1990 leadership election I would not have been surprised if she had turned volte face and saying that the EU was not what we had signed up for and that the UK was leaving.

Are you thinking...at all? @21:38

You are truly a pathetically reactionary piece of work.

Start your own blog, implement an 'entry exam' to ensure noone can speak until they have spend half a decade in education(/indocrination) learning the standard-view on the precise subject in question, exclude anyone who doesn't precisely follow the mainstream (your) view...

Then you will be a true socialist, and maybe even a Labour PM my son.

(and you will also have a blog as dead as all the left wing ones are -- they all defer to lenin, marx et al, so have absolutley nothing to say for themselves...)

Obviously you can be a Conservative and support the EU. The Conservatives are a broad church and there is room for many strands of opinion.

I'm part of the group that is extremely EU-Skeptic. But the basic *idea* of the EU as a trading group with shared ideals, working as a block to influence other areas of the world, I fully support.

My problem with the EU is that its 'leaders' are intent on making it much more than that. They want a European superstate that takes powers away from the sovereign nations within.

You might list Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill as pro-Europe Conservatives, but I'm sure the latter is turning in his grave over what we've given away to Brussels, and I'm sure the former had no intention of the turn of events.

Frankly I'd rather drop dead where I stand than give any more control of the United Kingdom to eurocrats. At this point, since there seems to be no way to get back to the "original idea" and we are stuck with a relentlessly growing monster that has no bearing on the union we originally supported, I see no way but OUT.

And from what I hear people say, a huge majority of Conservatives are not a million miles from my position. Which will no doubt mean problems down the line if the leadership don't eventually recognise that. But I suspect they will, when its politically safe to do so.

As regards the Portillo article I think the point is the conservative party desperately needs a shadow chancellor. Clarke or whoever!! David can't go on doing the two jobs of leader and shadow chancellor!

Osbourne gives a whole new meaning to his title of shadow chancellor.

Churchill was all in favour of a united Europe --- but he tended to mean "over there" on the Continent!

He sometimes appeared to lean towards Britain's direct participation but took no action towards such an objective.
E.g. "..Cabinet memorandum 29 November 1951, Churchill said unequivocally that Britain should not become an 'integral part of European integration' as it would 'forfeit our insular or commonwealth wide character.' "

Portillo's articles in the Sunday Times simply reveal what a lucky escape the Tories had when he didn't get the leadership.

As for bringing back Clarke who is my local MP - perhaps but not as Chancellor. Shadowing Mandelson would be a possibility. I would also give someone like Eric Pickles a bigger profile if only to counter the gibes about Tory "toffs". Strange that we don't see balancing gibes after the connections some of the senior Labour politicians have had with the hard left.

And, by the way, Clarke does not have "grammar school" clout. He attended Nottm High School, which is independent.

Also, I wish people like Dave DcEwan Hill would stop equating "Europe" and the EU. I have done a great deal of work towards European co-operation. I am a profound sceptic about the EU.

Re Jack Stone

The people you list did not support the EU. The EU did not exist when they were active in politics.

Yes, Churchill expressed support for a united Europe but he seemed to suggest that the UK should not be part of it.

Why not bring Ken Clarke back? The present front bench lacks a big hitter, and is floundering around at the moment.Didn't Tony Blair turn like a corkscrew over Europe? Ken Clarke has the gravitas and experience and should be brought into the fold and soon.

"Ken Clarke's views on Europe are 'abhorrent'"

Get over it!!! We are in the EU. We aren't leaving. The British public would never vote to join the Euro however so why get so worked up about it.

Ken's views on Europe are perfectly fine. I disagree with him on joining the Euro - so what! I disagree with Brown on Pensions, the Economy, Taxation, Education, Healthcare, Transportation, etc etc etc Rather more important no! Some people in the Tory party seem to focus more on Ken than they do on the real danger to this country - Labour.

Beyond a few nutters in UKIP, do you really think anyone cares about Europe and the Euro at the moment (if they ever did?). Our currency has collapsed by 30%, unemployment is going to go over 3m, the banks are still not stable, house prices are collapsing by 30%....

The reality is that the general public like and trust Ken. He was an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would be by far the best person to be Shadow Chancellor right now.

Unfortunately moving George Osbourne would:
1) Be seen as an admission that George is not up to the job - even if he actually is (which I believe).
2) Probably make an enemy of GO for DC - not a step he would be willing to take unless absolutely necessary.

DC won't move him, but it would be a nice trick if he could move him into a similar type of role - perhaps shadowing Mandelson's role - could he do that somehow from the Commons?

Rant over... ;-)

Mondeo Man 15:43 -
>>"Beyond a few nutters in UKIP"<<

Quite a lot of dedicated tories have views not a million miles from UKIP. Dismissing them as "nutters" isn't helpful, really. I'm not sure what your local Conservatives are like, but at meetings I attend the pro-EU crowd are the minority.

>>"Get over it!!! We are in the EU. We aren't leaving."<<

Unless you are clairvoyant, you can't know this for sure. The world is a strange place. As the current economic crisis is proving, everything can change rather quickly and unexpectedly.

>>Our currency has collapsed by 30%<<

Which is useful for exporters, some forms of debt, and tourism.

>>unemployment is going to go over 3m<<

Or has been for a long time if you record people actually not working, rather than just the ones not on "special lists" to avoid counting them.

>>the banks are still not stable<<

Nor will they ever be if we insist on forcing them to lend when and where it isn't prudent to do so.

>> house prices are collapsing by 30%....<<

Or are just revealing their true worth, instead of the inflated nonsense they had previously achieved.

My point is just... there's more than one way to spin a situation. Yours isn't necessarily right just because you rant it loudly.

Steve - fair enough. However what I was trying to say was, in the words of Cigar man himself "It's the economy, Stupid".

Right now (and arguably at all elections) Europe has never been a vote winner. Most people that I know just couldn't care about it - particularly with what is going on in the economy. They may be wrong, in fact they probably are, but telling them (or implying) that they are wrong is hardly going to win them over.

Ken on the other hand is actually quite good at winning people over. He sounds normal, and the key voters in the next election respect him and like him - particularly on the economy.

Calm discursive explanation of opinion over ;-)

Well said Dave McEwan Hill! Of course it's possible to be a Conservative and a supporter of an active role for Britain in the European Union - lots of people are and have been over the last 50 years! The challenges of recession may well make the leadership think a bit more flexibly about Europe, as the appetite for spending the first two years of a Conservative Government bogged down on Europe will not appeal. If that disappoints some ardent anti-Europeans, so be it. Remember, for all the public's visceral concerns about Europe, the major party that has been seen as the more anti-European of the two has lost the general elections of 1979, 1983, 1987, 1997, 2001, 2005. Not a bad predictor - the public doesn't vote for anti-European parties in general elections. I am confident there will be more repositioning by the leadership on this than we might think.

Andrew Marshall

Bring back Ken Clarke?
Big Beast and good Chancellor.
But he's pro-EU and he's had his day.

Still leaves a big question mark over Osborne. He has totally failed to hold Brown to account for his economic incompetence.

Switch Hague & Osborne now! And Davis back as Party Chairman.

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