"A word of advice to David Cameron: don’t get into bed with the seductive Ken Clarke. After years helping sell fags to the Vietnamese, the former Chancellor want a job in politics again. He’s amiable (at least on-camera) and speaks well about economics. But his ego is huge. He was first to propose the disastrous VAT cut. Then changed his mind. He has ZERO self-discipline. I hear that Ken is giving Cam the come-on. Sure, he’s a big beast. But one best left out in the yard."
The Mail on Sunday reports that big Tory donor Stuart Wheeler sees Mr Clarke as potentially "disruptive". The Observer notes Lord Tebbit’s concerns at the former Chancellor’s laziness. Who can forget his failure to read the Maastricht Treaty? "I think it would be a nightmare," says Norman Tebbit, "as I don’t think he would be able to stick to the party line. It would imply that we had people at the top of the party who were intent on taking us into the euro at any cost."
Despite a 50% to 41% vote of confidence from party members, Jonathan Isaby and I raised our worries about Ken Clarke earlier this week. Although his pro-European views are a real problem – particularly in advance of this year’s European elections – the concerns are much wider. Philip Cowley identified him as the most rebellious Tory MP. That rebelliousness occasionally erupts into the open. During David Cameron’s leadership he has strongly criticised party policy on the EPP and a new British Bill of Rights. He is also known to oppose recognising marriage in the tax system and has concerns about Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice agenda. He is also cautious about public spending control and his instincts are to increase taxes. As Fraser Nelson pointed out, he supported a VAT cut before changing his mind. That sort of u-turn would have been much more serious if Mr Clarke was on the frontbench.
Mr Clarke is a huge talent. The best way forward might be to include him on a high-powered committee of economic advisers. With Lords Lawson, Lamont and Howe he could advise the current Tory leadership on economic policy. The committee could also include Howard Flight, Peter Lilley, John Redwood, Lord Forsyth and other big economic brains although it mustn’t grow too big and become unwieldy.