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Today’s newspapers include further strong hints that Ken Clarke is poised to make a return to the Conservative frontbench for the first time since 1997.

The Daily Telegraph reports "a friend" of George Osborne saying that the shadow chancellor is actively pushing for his return in a reshuffle being planned by David Cameron:

"George has been talking to Ken about his return and Ken has been very supportive of George. The two get on very well and George would not have a problem with him coming back – in fact is pushing for it."

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, states that a return for Mr Clarke is "hanging in the balance"

ConservativeHome’s most recent reader survey showed half of you wanting to see Ken Clarke return to the shadow Cabinet (nearly three quarters wanted to see a return for David Davis).

I am still not convinced that Mr Clarke would be wiling to take a job even if it were offered – he has previously stated that he would not be interested in shadowing a job he has actually held for real in government or taking a lesser role in the shadow cabinet.

Even if he has had a change of heart on that point, I’m afraid the question would still remain of his ability to be collectively responsible on issues European. Tim has highlighted this problem in previous posts yesterday and last month.

He has been an effective and vociferous critic of the Government on many issues from the backbenches over recent months and I hope he will continue to hold Brown, Darling et al to account in that way in the run-up to the general election.

But I remain unconvinced that returning him to the shadow cabinet would be the right thing to do. If David Cameron does want to give him recognition, I think there is merit in setting up a nominal economic council of wise men or the like. This could enable David Cameron to acknowledge the contributions of individuals such as Mr Clarke and John Redwood – but not shackle them with the responsibilities of a fully-fledged frontbencher.

Jonathan Isaby

98 comments for: Shadow Cabinet return for Ken Clarke increasingly on the cards

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