Clarke dismisses referendum call
Wednesday 02 July 1997
In the first signs of his readiness to speak his mind from the backbenches, Mr Clarke, the defeated challenger for the leadership, made it clear that he did not support the proposal by William Hague, the Conservative leader, for a referendum on the Inter-Governmental Conference.
The Independent has learned that Mr Hague had been prepared to offer Mr Clarke the deputy leadership, if he had been prepared to serve in his team, but Mr Clarke made it clear after the leadership election that he wanted to return to the backbenches.
Yesterday, Mr Clarke said on BBC radio that he did not want another "four or five years of collective discussion" as a member of the Shadow Cabinet. "When I looked at shadow government, I felt I've been there, done that; it's time, having been in government, to try to be an elder statesman," he said.
With a sideswipe at Baroness Thatcher, Mr Clarke denied he planned to match the brooding presence of Sir Edward Heath as a constant critic of his successor. "I think Ted behaved very much better towards Margaret than sometimes she behaved towards John [Major]," he said.
But he wasted no time in distancing himself from Mr Hague's call for a referendum. "I think we are having a lot of referendums in this country at the moment. Tony Blair seems keen on them as well. I sometimes think we are becoming like Switzerland without the cowbells," Mr Clarke said.
"I personally prefer the Parliamentary system. I am quite happy to listen to the arguments for a referendum on the Amsterdam treaty although I haven't had too many people pressing me to be allowed to have their say in a referendum."
Mr Clarke said the time would come when MPs would have the chance to debate the legislation that came from the decisions at the IGC. Mr Blair's office supported Mr Clarke in rejecting the idea of a referendum on the IGC, which Mr Hague called for at the Scottish Tory conference in Perth.
A Downing Street source said: "It's more to do with internal Tory Party politics than the IGC. What are we going to have a referendum about? We said we would retain the veto and we did; we got a deal on border controls and fish, which the Tories failed to do when they were in office."
While praising Mr Hague for appointing a balanced Shadow Cabinet, Mr Clarke expressed the hope that Mr Hague would not "move further to the right into hardline Euro-scepticism".
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Nepal earthquake: Rescuers forced to dig with their bare hands in search for survivors as images show damage to historic buildings
Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson in angry clash live on BBC's Andrew Marr Show
Bali Nine executions: British grandmother on death row in Indonesia Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...