Speaking to those subversive wets of the Tory Reform Group at the Carlton Club last night, Ken Clarke displayed some characteristic candour. Reports from the room suggest that Ken was rightly introduced as the “only cabinet minister to lead us out of a recession”, but he quickly veered off message and rambled away:
“So now we’ve had the usual comic shambles that happens after every reshuffle… This has been my umpteenth reshuffle… I deny any suggestion that I got that job because I’ve had all the rest of them. My job will be to slot into the bewildering range of things that the government is doing… I’ll be dealing with the alphabet soup.”
Joking aside, Clarke’s insight into his role is rather telling:
“Now George wants me in to keep an eye on Vince and Vince wants me in to keep an eye on George… We’ve got a deficit the size of Greece, we’ve got a real job on our hands… I don’t want to bring too much gloom, but it will be a long haul.”
He doesn’t seem too bothered about having two masters, and why might that be? Apparently:
“the party has accidentally drifted to the right”.
He also noted that Cameron was having to lead “with the right acting up again” and Guido understands that there was a plea “to keep the centre ground, where elections are won”. The number of Clarke’s ilk in the ranks has greatly diminished since the last time he went into battle with his own party.
UPDATE: Ken Clarke’s office are kicking back hard on some of this. They seem to be blaming tweeters in the room for distorting what Clarke was saying, though he does not deny attacking the right, or the his interesting choice of words like “bewildering range” and “alphabet soup”:
“These tweets give the opposite impression to the serious points I clearly made. It is slightly altered little phrases taken from different jokes and put together. I made the case for a successful coalition and stated there was no ideological divide within it on economic policy. On the economy I stressed that we were in for the long haul and that the Chancellor’s approach is the right one. I also said in passing that the reshuffle should not be interpreted as a shift to the right. Twitter is not renowned as an accurate form of reporting, but even I am surprised at distortions on this sort of scale.”
Seems someone is keeping an eye on Ken keeping an eye on George.