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« Telegraph pours cold water on Ken Clarke's leadership bid | Main | Europe STILL matters, Mr Clarke »


Sam Coates

Well said. I could still just about put up with him as leader, but with someone strong in charge of foreign policy. Perhaps even Cameron could be groomed for PM by getting experience as Foreign Secretary, he's be big-gun enough to keep Clarke away from that side of things.


Thanks Sam.

I'm not convinced that any Foreign Secretary, however good, could offset Ken Clarke's views on this issue, however. KC is resolutely principled on this issue - he just has the wrong principles.

[I corrected that dodgy newslink you spotted earlier, too!]

Patrick Higham

At last a conservative who says what the country really thinks about the war!! Thank goodness for Ken Clarke. When will we realise that Europe is not the issue, the economy is, education is, the war is, health etc, these are the real issues. If we want to win elections again, we need to gain seats in the North & Midlands (as well as Scotland & Wales) and I can't see any of the leadership candidates doing this other than Ken Clarke. It doesn't matter if a few votes go to UKIP or any other single issue party, so what if existing tory MPs get a slightly larger or smaller majority, we need another 150 - 200 new MPs, will Davies or Cameron do that? I don't think so, but then again the electorate in the party chose IDS, so what hope is there?
For once let us choose a leader who can get us winning!!!!

James Hellyer

Okay, Ken was clearly trying to achieve a number of things with this speech.

Firstly, he was landing blows on Tony Blair that pro-war Conservatives can't. Michael Howard's contortions over the Iraq war only served to remind us that he supported in then and supports it still. Ken at least is free from that ambiguity. In part at least this speech was supposed to build him up as the man Blair fears.

Secondly, this was supposed to dispel the popular criticism that Ken is intellectually lazy and doesn't think things through.

In all fairness, his descriptions of the principles for combatting terrorism appear sound, and give him the chance to sound off about his experience. It's true that we have ample laws in this country and that a failing of our current government is to initiate new legislation on the hoof, rather than enforce what we already have.

Unfortunately the comparisons he made then made him appear woefully out of touch with reality. As Tim notes above, the IRA are not comparable with Qutbists and Caliphatists. The IRA and their political arm could be progressively neutered once they got a taste for office in our political system. No such means could be applied to radical Islamists. They won't accept increased influence over police commissioners or ministerial offices (it they did the Insurgents would have run for office in the Iraqi elections). Therefore assuming the same rationale can be applied to dealing with the IRA and Qutbists is deeply flawed.

For what it's worth, I know a lot of people were impressed by this trashing of Blair and his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions (especially the sections on the links between Iraq and 7/7). However none of them would vote Conservative becasue of it - they were all to the left of New Labour.


While I appreciate the point you are making about it being near impossible to turn the party into an anti-war one your "reason for going to war" doesn't mention those infamous weapons of mass destruction. The country was opposed to the war, Ken and only a dozen or so Tory MPs opposed it, but I hear so many activists now who say "Bush/Blair mislead us" and regret supporting the conflict.

The world now has little trust for Bush's policies anymore and the great sympathy following 9/11 was damaged. Every word he speaks about Iran or Syria is analysed to see if he is thinking of invading. With Clarke as leader it would show the UK electorate that they don't have to choose between two poodles owned by George Bush Jr Inc.

Barry Graham

Well said, Patrick.
While I'm not sure about the anti-war stance or your negativity towards Cameron, I agree with the broad thrust of what you said.
We need a winner, end of story. I'm tired of losing elections and being the only Tory amongst my circle of friends, because they all think the party is weird, extremist, irrelevant or - yes, Theresa May - nasty.
If Ken Clarke's jovial bonhomie is enough to turn that misconception around it suits me.
With respect to some of the other contributors here, I can live with a few earnest idealistic Tories sulking or even leaving, if it means Clarke bringing in the missing millions of votes we need to regain power.

James Hellyer

Over at the UK Polling Report, Anthiny Wells has asked whether Ken's popularity translates into more votes:

'I have only been able to find one poll that actually asked voting intention, and then asked it a second time, imagining that Ken Clarke was leader - it was carried out by YouGov in February 2003. Normal voting intention was CON 32%, LAB 37%. If Ken Clarke was leader, people said they would vote CON 30%, LAB 37% - in other words, Ken’s imaginary leadership lost support.'

Wat Tyler

Well pointed out James- and as you will have seen, Wells reckons it's because many people think he's just too old, and that his (pre-recantation) Europhilia is just too divisive.

I think we're deluding ourselves if we accept Ken's line that it's a choice between "ideological purity" and getting elected under good old pragmatic Ken.

In reality, voters want to see the beef.

James Hellyer

Let's keep Wat happy and repeat the key sentence:

"Ken’s imaginary leadership lost support."

Ken is better known than any other Conservative, but being known is not the same as being liked or being electable.


Ok - before I get co-opted into the Davis camp, the caveat is that the YouGov poll in question was carried out in February 2003. Being an anti-war Tory in February 2003 was a very different position to being an anti-war Tory in September 2005. What may have been a negative for Ken back in 2003 may by now have become a positive.

Hopefully we'll know soon, I can't imagine that none of the newspapers have felt the need to commission a poll on Ken Clarke.


Well you never know.We may find a few Tory MPs who will now admit to being wrong to vote for the Iraq war.I certainly hope so.

Selsdon Man

Ken Clarke pointed out in his speech yesterday that information used to justify the war was extracted by torture. Prisoners were taken, in some cases through Britain, to countries with experience of torturing their citizens (often former Soviet republics). This process (necessary to get round US anti-torture legislation) was called extraordinary rendition. The prisoners were then tortured using methods proven by the KGB.

Many of those subjected to the treatment were not connected to terrorism. One, a Canadian Muslim, was held for several months and then released. The US government will not compensate him.

Mr Clarke is the first senior British politician to draw attention to this appalling practice. The media seem to have missed or ignored it.

Mr Editor, what are your views on extraordinary rendition, especially as you are a Christian who supports Bush and the Iraq war?


I don't support torture, Selsdon Man.

Simon C

The Iraq war will be entirely irrelevent as an issue at the next general election. It barely impacted the 2005 one. It won't sway votes in 2009-10 (or even 2007 if Maude is right).

It does have importance though, in a more subtle way: politicians and parties reveal something of their character to the electorate, through their approach to Iraq.

Conservatives have been badly damaged by charges of opportunism. To fix that, we need to demonstrate consistency, particularly when the going gets tough. To do that, we need to focus on the bigger picture: democratisation of the Middle East. Ken Clarke has nothing to say on that.

That's why the anti-war Ken will find it difficult to lead a pro-war, pro-democracy (in the Middle East, if not to Tory members!) parliamentary party.

We deceive ourselves if we think Ken's opposition to the war will win votes against Gordon Brown. But it will compound the challenge of establishing that we are consistent in the face of adversity.

Selsdon Man

Simon, I have much sympathy with your views and share your reservations about Ken. His speech, however,demonstrated a strong and detailed grasp of the subject.

The next election will be decided on the economy, public services and, possibly and significantly for Ken, the EU.

Selsdon Man

Mr Editor, as a fellow Christian, I am delighted that you do not support extraordinary rendition.

Reports suggest that significant material in the dodgy dossier was obtained from those subjected to extraordinary rendition.

Extraordinary rendition must be considered together with the practices at Guantanamo Bay and`Abu Graib. There appears to be a culture of torture surrounding those gathering intelligence from those suspected to be terrorists or extremists.

And this is to promote democracy and human rights in the Middle East?

"before I get co-opted into the Davis camp"

Not the Davis camp, Anthony, the anyone but Clarke camp!

Selsdon Man

It is possible for the Conservative Party to be anti-war (but not immediate withdrawal)now.

We now know that the evidence was false or even obtained by torture and that there was no post-war plan of any substance.

It is quite reasonable for those who originally supported the war (I did not) to admit that they were duped and that the US has behaved abominably.

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