Last week our sister blog BritainAndAmerica looked at the similarities between John McCain and David Cameron.
Steve Richards of The Independent
suggests that Ken Clarke is the figure that would have had an effect on
the Conservative Party similar to that which Senator McCain is now
having on the Republicans:
"More than Cameron, Clarke is the McCain of the
Conservative Party, the veteran with broad appeal who arouses
suspicious wariness in Tory activists. The question is more interesting
in the light of the Conservatives’ relatively small opinion poll lead
and their internal debate, increasingly intense, about the direction of
policy. The election of Clarke would have signalled the Conservatives had
changed. Although Cameron spoke a lot about the need for the party to
change in many ways he represented continuity in his support for a
smaller state, tax cuts and Euro-scepticism.
Clarke spent much of his leadership speech at the Tory conference
in 2005 lecturing his audience on the limited scope for tax cuts.
Recently in an interview he told me there was no scope at all for cuts
in the light of the economic gloom. If he had been elected leader there
would have been no flakiness around the issue of tax and spend as there
is at the top of the party now. The economic policy would be more
rooted and credible. Clarke opposed the war against Iraq and would
therefore have more credibility in relation to foreign policy in
comparison with the current shadow cabinet, which contains some of the
most enthusiastic neo-cons in the land."
Richards’ idea is an interesting one but flawed. Most of the issues
that divide McCain and the Republicans are secondary issues. McCain
has something serious to say to all three legs of America’s
conservative movement. Ken Clarke is out of sync with Tories on the
most fundamental of issues – Europe. If Ken Clarke had led the Tories
from 1997 to 2001 the political risks for Blair of holding a referendum
on the euro would have been completely different and he might have
Clarke and McCain hold completely different views on Iraq of course.
Where Clarke and McCain are similar is in manner. Both are
straight-talkers (Clarke was straight-talking yesterday about Rowan Williams). As Martin Ivens noted in The Sunday Times,
Cameron is more like Obama in always appearing reasonable, positive and
eager to avoid offence. If, as appears increasingly likely, it’s
Obama Vs McCain, Brown is more like McCain in character, Cameron more