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James Hellyer

'Reacting to the French rejection Mr Clarke told BBC News 24 that it was proof of the "folly" of asking voters to ratify a complex legal treaty.'

I'd prefer a leader who trusted the people. That would be far more in keeping with the tenets of Conservatism...

Jonathan Sheppard

Now what was the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who famously said that he hadn't even read the Maastricht Treaty? Perhaps it was too complex.

James Hellyer

Looking at Ken Clarke's comments, he seems to be displaying the "sod the people" attitude that lost the referendum in France. Is that what we want in our next leader?!?

Simon C

Agreed that Ken's view is more on the lines of "The people have spoken...the bastards!"

(Incidentally, John Major was quite wrong in attribuing the cause of party disunity to euro-sceptic bastards - it was the europhile rump that was quite out of touch with everybody else, but let's not return to old battles.)

The constitution may now be dead (although let's wait & see on that), but even if that is the case, Europe is still a live issue. There will be a very significant debate throughout the EU on the direction Europe should now take. The Conservative Party will need to set out its vision for Europe in its contribution to that debate. Ideally, we should also be looking for allies who share that vision amongst other European parties -we are after all an outward-looking party, and support in "European partner nations" will be needed when we return to power.

We will not be able to achieve this under Ken Clarke - his vision is entirely out of kilter with the rest of the party. He has no strategic grasp, but instead survives, and sometimes prospers, on a combination of bonhomie, bluff and bluster. In many ways he is still like a jobbing Rumople on the provincial circuit of the Bar. The party could often do with more bonhomie, but needs rather more than the sum total of the above qualities if it is to grow and then succeed.


Please give one historical example of when raising the European issue has helped the Conservative party.

James Hellyer

The last European elections.

Simon C

There's some irony if the death of the constitution means that one of its die-hard supporters, having being proved wrong, finds his career prospects improved!

On Edward's point - and in other threads - Europe was not a key general election issue in the public mind, because it had been parked by the promise of referenda on the constitution and/or the Euro. That was actually the case in 2001 also - the promise of a referendum on the Euro meant that our "24 Hours to save the pound" campaign was demonstrably not true. A number of voters made that abundantly clear to me at the time, and we did not use the leafelts supplied by the party to that effect.

The Party is now pretty united in its view of Europe. William Hague must take much of the credit. The votes in France and Holland actually bear out the critique we have been making for some time - that EU institutions have become too remote from the people they "serve"; that there is no transparecy or accountability; that the EU is wrongly seeking competencies in relation issues that ought to be the subject of vigorous national debate in elections.

The French may think the constituion too Anglo-Saxon - in Britain we may think it's too bureacratic & centralist. That doesn't make us both wrong - what it does mean is that the EU project has gone too far in dictating what policies nation states should pursue and what should be left to national electorates.

There is a real opportunity now to make the case for a smaller, more flexible Europe.

The party needs to make this case, and find allies. However, it would be a mistake to do that at the expense of talking about social reform and domestic policy, which are far higher on the list of issues that determine how people vote in general elections.


The last EU elections we did so badly blair decided not to resign.

My point is merely that if Ken Clarke were the best person for the job his position on Europe would not be important because it is not an important election issue and because the UK is not nearly as eurosceptic as most conservative bloggers seem to assume.

I will shut up about it now.

James Hellyer

"The last EU elections we did so badly blair decided not to resign."

Yes, I'm sure he was overjoyed at being roundly thrashed.

"My point is merely that if Ken Clarke were the best person for the job his position on Europe would not be."

But Ken Clarke is not the best man for the job! He was a disasterm in most ministerial posts he held and rather than oppose Labour from '97 onwards, took his toys home and sold tobacco instead.

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