Conservative Home's debate blogs


  • DVD rental
  • Conservative Books
My Photo

Conservative blogs

Blog powered by Typepad

  • Tracker 2
  • Extreme Tracker

« Dr Fox calls for 12-week abortion limits | Main | Four more MPs declare for David Davis »


Wat Tyler

The question is was it a bare-faced porkie to Mr Ashley, or has he just sort of forgotten what he used to think? Charitably, I suppose we should presume the latter.

My guess is that he was never very interested in all the tedious debates and analysis that flew around in the nineties about Bank independence. He just wanted to keep his hands on the controls because...well, he obviously knows best.

The arrogance is breathtaking, but I suppose it's possible he really has forgotten what he thought and said.

It's possible.


If he can lead the Conservatives to victory then all this is fine with me.As regards his period as Chancellor,Ilook back on those days with a great deal of affection & respect.Ken is the only candidate who has identified pensions as a leading priority and has not promised a 'low tax economy' without giving us the slightest idea how tax cuts could be financed.


Looking at what was said in the Commons shortly after Labour's '97 win, Clarke did indeed voice opposition to Gordon Brown's move to give the BoE independence, on the grounds that the Bank had been wrong in its recommendations two years previous and Clarke had overruled them in order to deliver low inflation. He also opposed the way the decision had been taken without debate and consultation in parliament and despite a Labour pledge to only give independence once it had established a good track record of success.

But Hansard shows that Gordon Brown responded to Clarke's criticisms by pointing out that actually Clarke hadn't always been against BoE independence:

"The shadow Chancellor's opposition to the reforms we have made at the Bank of England seems to be entirely about method, style and presentation--and, if I may say so, his opposition is recent. Did he not say in 1993 that he had an open mind on this issue, not a closed mind? Did he not say in an interview on "Breakfast With Frost" at the beginning of the year that right-wing parties throughout the world supported the independence of central banks? "

Brown went on to say: "I say to the shadow Chancellor: I have had the courage of his convictions"

I think there's probably enough there for Clarke to be able to maintain a position of saying that he has always supported independence, to some extent, of the Bank of England, even if he opposed it at the time of Brown's decision because of its recent track record and the manner in which he made the change.

Selsdon Man

John Major was against independence for the Bank of England too. Ken Clarke was, at best, conveniently forgetful of his FT article. It was, however, representative of the views of the Major government.

Wat Tyler

Rob- yes, Brown did try to score some points by making those comments, reported in Hansard for 20 May 1997. But in the same debate, Ken himself said:

"Does the Chancellor therefore accept that, within four days of taking office, he handed total control of those matters to an institution with a track record showing that it has been wrong, whereas the track record of a Chancellor pursuing the previous Government's economic polices has been shown to be right?"

The point stands.

And as for Major also opposing Bank independence, I've heard mixed reports on that. And anyway, unless Ken wants to argue JM forced him to oppose it himself, I don't see how that lets him off this particular hook.

Look, we can all forget things. But this seems a pretty big thing to forget. Makes you wonder what else might slip his mind.

Jonathan Sheppard

I couldn't possibly comment - as I want the best person who will deliver a Conservative election victory - and you know I think that David Davis is that man, but Ken also appeared on the East Midlands version of The Politics show (when they cut away the regions). He was his usual personable self. They had a section where Patrick Mercer stated he was a Davis fan, and Anna Soubry - exPPC for Gedling who I went over and helped explained why she was for Clarke.

The interesting comment came when he was asked about why he wanted to do be leader and was he too old. Out came the comments about how he was younger that the pope - and wouldn't be considered for a senior position if he was a politician in China until he aged a bit more.

But the thing that made me smile was when it was put to him that the best scenario for him would be to become leader and then PM in 4 years - to which he commented something along the lines of "there is no point being in semi - retirement in politics....." which is exactly the point his detractors have been putting to him since 1997.

Selsdon Man

Anna Soubry was the left-wing, pro-NUS candidate of the TRG for Federation of Conservative Students chair in 1979. Most of faction defected to the SDP. Ken Clarke is probably too right-wing for her.


This isn't just a question of consistency and principle - although Tim's right that conventional standards of scrutiny don't seem to be applied to Ken, does anybody think that would last longer than 6 months of a hypothetical Clarke leadership? All this BBC-Guardianista cheerleading is only a bit of fun while general politics is uninteresting - if he became leader, they'd look up all of these inconsistencies. Clarke is the one leading Tory who genuinely seems to take pride in not having changed since 1997 - he's not recanted on anything, to my knowledge, only lamented that they didn't push European integration faster and further. Even if I believed all of the propaganda - "Ken the human being," "Ken the pragmatist," etc - he's a liability, plain and simple.

Selsdon Man

Labour will use the Freedom of Information Act to "expose" Ken's convenient amnesia or inconsistency. Those Treasury and Home Office files will make interesting reading.

Jonathan Sheppard

Selsdon - you don't like Anna do you. She seems thoroughly nice when you meet her, but I suspect her type of Conservatism isn't for you. Ken also had a dig at Roger Helmer in the piece on The Politics Show due to his comments about the prospects of resignations within the party.

Cllr Graham Smith

Selsdon Man writes:

"John Major was against independence for the Bank of England too"

Yes, but John Major's view was not shared by colleagues. In his autobiography, completed in 1999, Major gives his view when first appointed Chancellor: "Nigel [Lawson] favoured an independent Bank of England, and I didn't." (p137) He goes on to point out that he dismissed the idea "because I believed the person responsible for monetary policy should be answerable for it in the House of Commons." (p153).

Later on he disagreed with Norman Lamont over the same issue: "Norman brought one other idea to me that autumn that was unwelcome: he wanted to grant independence to the Bank of England. I disliked this proposal on democratic grounds, believing that the person responsible for monetary policy should be answerable for it in the House of Commons. I also feared that the culture of an independent bank would ensure that interest rates went up rapidly but fell only slowly." (p675).

Speaking of Kenneth Clarke, Major says: "Like Norman, he favoured an independent Bank of England, but, cheerfully noting that there was 'not a snowball's chance in Hades' that I would agree, he merely chipped away at me by adding to the Bank's authority without conceding full independence." (p682)

I seem to recall, possibly in an article appearing in the Spectator around the year 2001, John Major expressing regret for not having given independence to the Bank of England.

Simon C


Nice to see that Celia Walden has picked up on this piece in today's Telegraph diary - although it would have been nice if she had given you an attribution!

Selsdon Man

Jonathan, Anna was very critical of Thatcher even in 1979. She supported the NUS closed shop and, if my memory is right, took the Token Tory position on the NUS executive.

She actively opposed the NUS disaffiliation campaigns run by several university Conservative Associations, notably in Scotland. Her loyalty appeared to be to the NUS rather than Conservative Students. NUS was run by Communists like Trevor Phillips at the time.

She seemed to have dropped out of politics for many years only to re-emerge suddenly as the PPC in Gedling.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About Conservative Home


  • Conservative Home's
    free eMailing List
    Enter your name and email address below: