Tory sources have confirmed that Ken Clarke is returning to the Tory frontbench.

As we predicted last week, the Tory reshuffle has been brought forward and other announcements will be made tomorrow, probably all finalised by lunchtime. 

Mr Clarke will be Shadow Business Secretary.  He will replace Alan Duncan who is being offered a different "senior role".

CCHQ is briefing that it was in December that George Osborne first suggested a frontbench role for the former Chancellor and thrice-defeated leadership candidate.  The Telegraph’s Andy Porter got there first in terms of media speculation.  That was when the Conservatives were faltering in the polls and Mr Clarke’s return was seen as a quick route back to economic credibility.

Over lunch yesterday (Saturday) George Osborne, David Cameron and Ken Clarke met to agree terms.  That it was Osborne rather than Hague at the meeting confirms that it is the Shadow Chancellor who is the real Deputy Leader.

Mr Clarke has accepted that the Tory position on Lisbon, the EPP and the Euro is settled.  He won’t attempt to change party policy but neither will he change his views.  His focus, says the spin, will be 100% on his new portfolio and the interests of British business.

David Cameron has gambled that any internal unhappiness at Mr Clarke’s return will be smothered by the renewed Conservative strength in the opinion polls – now 13% ahead according to YouGov.  Mr Clarke brings immediate media firepower to the Tory frontbench.  Any announcement from his office will attract media attention but you can expect lots of ‘Clarke overshadows Osborne’ stories to come from mischievous sections of the press.

ConservativeHome opposed Mr Clarke’s return but a plurality of grassroots members (50% to 41%) supported a comeback.

Tim Montgomerie