Letter: In the political endgame, Kenneth Clarke is the winner

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The Independent Online
Sir: The defeat of Ken Clarke for the Tory leadership is a good time to mark what may turn out to be his seminal contribution to contemporary British polities. It now seems clear that had Clarke, whilst Chancellor, not stood firm on the European question then the Conservatives would almost certainly have committed themselves against a single currency as part of their general election campaign. This, in turn, would have forced the hand of election-conscious New Labour, who could have been counted on to follow suit.

Once made - even in the heat of a protracted election battle - these campaign commitments tend to stick. Therefore, Britain, under New Labour, would by now have probably ruled out single currency membership in the first tranche, a fateful dynamic which could have taken the country out of monetary union for all time, and indeed even put at risk our position in the single market.

By standing firm on European policy Ken Clarke, like Roy Jenkins before him, knew exactly what he was doing, and consciously placed his beliefs ahead of his career. This kind of politics is rare in the increasingly superficial public-relations dominated world of Westminster. Clarke will not now become Prime Minister, yet he can console himself with the thought that he will probably have played a more important role in the real political endgame than those who won the (increasingly tattered) crown.


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