Clarke appeals to 'Middle England': Chancellor launches pre-emptive strike against Labour. Donald Macintyre reports

KENNETH CLARKE, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, last night saught to launch a pre-emptive strike against a Labour Party led by Tony Blair in a speech promising that government had a responsibility to provide security for 'Middle England'.

Although fiercely and self-professedly Thatcherite on economic policy, Mr Clarke went out of his way to set out the 'hard centre' of Conservatism by pledging that an efficient and market-minded welfare state played a vital role in the lives of natural Tory supporters.

The Chancellor was forced to interrupt his speech and leave the podium for almost half an hour after slogan-chanting protesters burst into the auditorium at the London School of Economics. His speech to the Social Market Foundation, stressing 'an enlightened Conservatism which promotes civic bonds' marks the latest salvo in the new battle of ideas between the expected new Labour leadership and the Tories, and came on the eve of a big speech by Mr Blair on the modern welfare state.

While reasserting Tory belief in tax cuts and progressive reduction - to below 40 per cent of GNP - of public spending, Mr Clarke said: 'We still have to persuade the people that as Conservatives we know that free-market principles can be a means to an end but never an end in themselves.'

Mr Clarke said that the pace of economic and industrial change created 'anxieties'. He was not advocating 'featherbedding' Middle England. He added: 'I am simply arguing that it is idle to think that Middle England does not sometimes feel worried. Only Conservatism can address that concern.'

Mr Clarke said that a private or public-sector middle manager who found that his organisation was being 'de-layered' or 'downsized' 'will want to feel there is a high quality health and education system on which his family can depend'. He added: 'He will want to know that there is a modernised affordable welfare system which will assist him to retrain and to find new employment.'

Gordon Brown the shadow Chancellor, claimed last night that the speech showed 'the Tories are now panicking in the face of renewed confidence on the left'. He added: 'The smell of fear of a more assertive and changed Labour is in every line and the trumpet of retreat from the 1980s is sounding loud and clear.'

Mr Blair will today refer to the 'anxious middle classes' and say the welfare state has to be modernised and measured by the quality of its services as well as by cash.

He will argue that this will appeal to the enlightened self-interest of the wider public and that welfare should provide 'a springboard to success and not entrench dependency'.

A large welfare budget was not the measure of socialist success but of economic failure, he will argue.

In another speech, David Hunt, Secretary of State for Employment, warned against 'continuous Mao-style revolution'.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home