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I don't know whether this Conference was held under Chatham House Rules - presumably not - but as a general point, why is it that Chatham House Rules are so often disrespected these days?

I presume if he doesn't know what off the record means he will not be invited to anymore conferences.

Sounds like a perfectly reasonable defence of his position to me. People shouldn't be afraid to air their views in public anyway. Anything you say *might* come out, and any politician should bear that in mind rather than whine about it later.

If Ken has different views to his colleagues, so what? We don't want puppet politicans just aping the consensus. As long as they are polite and respectful of opposing views and dont try to derail whatever is the 'party line' we should applaud debate and discussion of issues.

"My third and final report from this event will be about what David Willetts said, which I don’t think will be reported at all by any newspaper."

Lol. I agree with Baxter that this won't affect the polls. 'Unity' is over-rated.

Kenneth Clarke is a loose canon and just cannot be trusted to keep his mouth shut. That is why it was a grave mistake to allow him on the Front Benches where he can, will even, cause untold damage to a carefully repaired Party.

Sadly, he is smug enough to believe in his own infallibility despite all other considerations. Sooner or later he will enjoy himself by creating headlines with opinions on Europe which differ from the Party's. Collective responsibility is not part of the Clarke mind-set.

I deeply object to the whole idea of 'Chatham House Rules'.

I expect (even demand) that our politicians think the unthinkable and investigate all possible options.

It is totally against all principals of 'freedom of information' and transparency for relavant information to be kept secret from the most of the public.

Ok, a couple of Labour MPs have made some jibes in the house - so what?

Knowing where Ken stands works both ways - rather than just a vague awareness of where he stands on some issues, we can know precisely where he stands - rather than assuming the very worst !!

One of the worst things about politics at the moment is journalists (particularly in the BBC) making statements with out being clear about how official their information is.

There's only one Chatham House Rule; participants are entitled to use the information received, but the identity or affiliation of the speaker(s) and of any other participant in the meeting must not be revealed. The Rule doesn't prevent publication of the information itself.

The guy seems all right based on very superficial evidence. As for effects on polling why wasn't everyone saying in the 90's that a split in opinion on important issues would have affect on public perception when it so obviously did? History and Baxter's view are mutually exclusive and I prefer to look at the historical evidence than a journalists opinion. The question of whether these articles affect the polling will be seen in the next round of polling not the latest ones where the field work was highly unlikely to have picked up any dissemination of Clarke's remarks.

I didn't want Clarke back but after the decision was made I was neutral until he proved his worth one way or the other. At the moment Clarke has one strike against him in my book. A couple more incidents like this and he will be a complete disaster. I think his 'gravitas' was overblown by the fact that people weren't paying a lot of attention to his words while a backbencher.

Doh! Should read "As for effects on polling why wasn't everyone saying in the 90's that a split in opinion on important issues would have no effect on public perception when it so obviously did?"

How on earth anyone cannot see that ken has added much needed gravitas and experience to the front bench beats me. His interview last night on Sky, discussing the recession was brilliant and was devastating in its demolition of Brown and also an articulate display of the Tory approach of focussing on the banks as the best way to cope with the recession.

I'm looking forward to extensive use in May of the photo of Ken and Heseltine sharing a platform with Blair to promote our entry into the Euro.
What with his admitting not to have read the Maastricht Treaty and wanting Parliament to become a regional council chamber we should have fun.

In Europe,and Banging on about Europe!

Michael only the obsessives in UKIP and on the right of the Tory Party care about Europe. Know one else does. The general public fall asleep every time its mentioned.

I thought it might be worth pointing out these other two Ken Clarke articles I wrote after interviewing him (unbelievably, as long ago as October 2007!) which hopefully dismiss any ideas of 'Ken bashing'.

(I think he'd just washed his hair by the look of these photos that he happily posed for on the day).

There are some great things in here, including this line which is so relevant today: "When he took over from me Brown initially followed my ‘no return to boom and bust’ policy. But the policy from 2000 to 2007 has been high spend, high tax and high borrowing, all of which has now reached a completely unsustainable level.”

EXCLUSIVE: Northern Rock was a ridiculous crisis caused by catastrophic incompetence and made worse by Darling’s dithering http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=8373

EXCLUSIVE: Reform is extremely difficult to deliver when resources are being squeezed, says Ken Clarke http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=8354

Perhaps now that both Darling and the Millibore have pulled out of going to Davos, we should send Clarke and Hague there. I'm sure that would get favourable coverage.

Have they pulled out of Davos because something is about to go belly up?

"Know one"


What I find interesting is when Michael Gove makes some really good arguments on the value of marriage ['Who says the decline of marriage is bad for us all? I do' Scotland on Sunday 25/1/2009] it doesn't seem to be picked up by the English media; or ConservativeHome, as far as I can see. But please tell me if I'm wrong!

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