Leading article: A big beast at home in the jungle

Share
Related Topics

It is not hard to imagine the agonising that has gone on in the upper echelons of the Conservative Party about whether to bring back Kenneth Clarke. The former Chancellor warrants the description "big beast" simply by virtue of his positions in governments past. But he is not one of those whose distinction has been frozen in time; the description remains valid, more than a decade after he retired to the backbenches.

This is, first, because his tenure at the Treasury remains highly regarded – something that cannot be said of all former Chancellors. It is, second, because he is a doughty Commons performer – someone whom fellow MPs crowd the chamber to hear. And it is, third, because his popularity in the Commons extends to the country at large. Mr Clarke speaks plain English and he is gifted with a common touch; he is a politician voters relate to.

For all these reasons, Mr Clarke can only be an asset to a Shadow Cabinet which is open to criticism for being lightweight in the Commons and short on economic expertise. With the economy likely to be the crucial battleground of the next election – whenever it is called – Mr Clarke gives the Conservatives someone qualified and effective in tackling Gordon Brown on his record. His bluff manner also dilutes the sense of privilege that attends to David Cameron and his immediate entourage.

The return of one or more big beasts, though, could spell trouble for lesser inhabitants of the jungle – not only Labour ministers whom the Conservatives would like to see devoured. Mr Cameron may have hesitated about recruiting a past – and perhaps future – rival. He will also have been wary of Mr Clarke's pro-Europe views – not only because he does not share them, but because Mr Clarke's very presence on the frontbench could revive the divisive subject of Europe and generate new talk of party splits.

But for a party leader who needs a strengthened pre-election line-up against a Government reinvigorated by the return of Peter Mandelson, the risk is well worth taking. With sufficient courage, and sufficient confidence in his own leadership, Mr Cameron can afford to invite the big beast back.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine