Most reactions to Ken Clarke’s return on last night’s thread were positive. The same is true of reactions from bloggers and commentators. Arranged below are key arguments.
The economic times are so serious that David Cameron is correct to bring such a successful former Chancellor back to the frontbench: "The world has changed, and if in response to the resulting tumult Barack Obama can do a deal with Mrs Clinton and Gordon Brown can rediscover his friendship with Peter Mandelson, then surely the Tories should be able to bury the hatchet (in their opponents rather than each other) in order to turf out Labour?" – Iain Martin
His time as Chancellor remains respected (even to The Independent): "His tenure at the Treasury remains highly regarded – something that cannot be said of all former Chancellors."
Ken Clarke can make complex economic issues understandable: "He may also be the Tories’ Vince Cable. What Cable does is talk about economics in clear English – not using Brown’s jargons, nor the soundbites Osborne often uses. To Clarke, economics is easy – and, like Cable, he makes it sound easy. It has been a joy listening to him on the economy recently." – Fraser Nelson
Clarke’s pro-European views may create tensions: "Mr Clarke’s pro European views – in particular, his support for Britain scrapping the pound and joining the Euro – have alienated him from the mainstream of his party. The issue of Europe is still a live one since some now argue that the current economic crisis demonstrates the case for the Euro. Also, the Tories are opposed to the Lisbon EU Treaty which Clarke has backed and they are committed to holding a referendum on it which could lead to a Cameron-led government Britain re-negotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU." – Nick Robinson
Ken’s European views will be submerged within his acceptance of shadow cabinet responsibility: "To those Tories who recoil in horror at the return of Ken Clarke, I’d say this. Few of us agree with his views on Europe, but they should not be allowed to colour the fact that he is a big hitter and is very popular with people who are either soft Tories or not Tories at all. He will have to abide by the same collective responsibility as the Shadow Cabinet and will know that." – Iain Dale
The Conservatives have invited a very loose cannon into their highest ranks: "Mr Clarke has always said precisely what he thought on matters relating to the EU, having appeared on platforms with his political opponents to the detriment of the Conservative Party and to the embarrassment of the Leader. Indeed, he even favours a coalition with the europhile Liberal Democrats, and has publicly said so. He is a loose cannon, and regularly defies the Party whip with impunity: indeed, his voting record identifies him as a rebel." – Cranmer
Clarke’s return is a boost to those who wish to see the Tories form a deal with the Liberal Democrats: "Let’s not forget that Clarke sees coalition with the Lib Dems as a good thing. As he told me three years ago "I’m glad to say the fates could condemn the Conservatives and the Liberals to form a coalition." – Fraser Nelson
And finally… a Conservative MP emailed me this cartoon from 1993. No further comment necessary:
CCHQ has just released the following statements from Cameron and Clarke:
“I am delighted to be joining David Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet.
I look forward to working with David and George Osborne on the policies we need to rescue this country from the economic mess it is now in.
Over the last three years, David Cameron has returned the Conservative Party to the centre-ground of British politics.
He and his team offer a credible alternative government for Britain, a real choice between a better future or more of the same under Labour.
They have the right policies for dealing with the causes of the current economic crisis, and for restoring our economy to stability and growth.
I believe David Cameron will be Britain’s next Prime Minister and I am delighted to be joining his team as we prepare for the General Election.
Some may raise questions about my views on Europe. They are well-known. But I accept that the Party has come to a settled view on European matters, and I will not oppose the direction David will set on European policies in the future.
I have thought carefully about returning to frontline politics.
I am doing so because this country faces a very serious situation – the gravest economic crisis I have known in my lifetime. That view is reinforced by events today.
The situation is made much more difficult because of eleven years of Labour’s economic mismanagement, which leaves Britain facing a debt crisis and spiralling borrowing.
Gordon Brown is part of the problem, so he cannot be part of the solution.
Only a change in Government will restore the confidence that is vital for economic recovery.
It really matters that the Conservative Party wins the next election. It matters for our economy; it matters for our society. It is going to be an historically important election, and I don’t want to sit on the sidelines – I want to be out on the pitch fighting for the change Britain needs.
We will offer the best economic team – and the best ideas – for Britain, to see us through these difficult times, and the best long term vision for the country.”
David Cameron said:
“I am pleased and proud that Ken Clarke has agreed to join my Shadow Cabinet as part of George Osborne’s economic team.
Ken was the last Chancellor of the Exchequer to lead this country out of recession. He has more experience of dealing with tough economic challenges than Gordon Brown¹s entire Cabinet. He has unrivalled experience in Government as Home Secretary, Education Secretary, Health Secretary and at the Treasury.
Eleven years ago it was Ken Clarke who handed over a strong economy, with sound public finances, falling debt and solid growth to Gordon Brown.
Gordon Brown has squandered that legacy.
A new Conservative Government will need to lead this country out of recession again.
With Ken Clarke in the Shadow Cabinet, at the next election we will have the best economic team for these difficult times.
A team that combines fresh thinking with experience, hope and change with stability and common sense.
I’m sure that we now have the team to bring the change that Britain so badly needs."