Dozens of viewers share moment of intimacy before
Saturday 20 March 1999
Ken gazed at Paddy's rugged good looks, Paddy laughed at Ken's jokes. The air crackled with a shared passion. It was enough to make a hardened Eurosceptic gag.
In an interview to be broadcast today on Bloomberg Television, Kenneth Clarke and Paddy Ashdown will reveal that they once had a brief encounter in Paris in which they indulged each other's forbidden love of the euro.
The previously secret meeting, which is sure to confirm the worst conspiracy theories of anti-federalist Tories, emerged when the former Tory chancellor interviewed the Liberal Democrat leader earlier this week.
Proving that anything the young whippersnapper Michael Portillo can do he can do better, Mr Clarke has spent the past year presenting a 15- minute show on the business channel.
Although he admits that Bloomberg's audience consists of City dealers and "bored businessmen in hotels", he has had Roy Jenkins, Ted Heath, and Geoffrey Howe in his hot seat over the year. Monica Lewinsky, he assures us, he turned down.
Adopting an interrogation technique that was more Judy Finnigan than Jeremy Paxman, Mr Clarke smiled benignly on his fellow Euro-enthusiast as they discussed everything from Paddy's future to, er, Ken's future. But it was those stolen moments in Paris in 1997, when both men attended a meeting of the Association for Monetary Union in Europe, that stirred the blood.
"Paddy, I think the last time we had a proper conversation was in slightly more private surroundings of a cafe in Paris," Ken opened. "You owe me lunch," replied Paddy.
"I do. You were the only one with French francs," said Ken.
Remembering that this was a political interview and not a love-in, Mr Clarke did ask more probing questions about Mr Ashdown's intentions once he stands down as leader in June.
"What about Mr Foreign Affairs?" he asked. The Liberal Democrat leader admitted that he was fascinated by the topic, particularly the Balkans, but refused to give any details of his job applications.
But whatever happens to Ken and Paddy, the world now knows that, at the very least, they'll always have Paris.
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