Can the Tories to expunge their Euro nightmares?
Perhaps nothing demonstrated more that the Tories were not interested in returning to power was in 2001 when the party’s grass roots membership chose IDS in spite of the fact that his opponent, Ken Clarke, had the support of more Tory MPs.
For those who worked closely with Clarke at Westminster knew that whatever his views on Europe he had the capability to deal with Blair in a way that the hapless IDS simply did not.
It was a sign of Clarke’s resolute character that he was not going to adapt his line on the EU simply because it would have been more convenient in terms of securing the nomination.
What would the shape of British politics be like today if Clarke had won? How would Tony Blair have coped with the old bruiser across the dispatch box, especially as he did not fall in line with the policy on Iraq? Would there have been a different General Election outcome?
Who knows? But Clarke has made it clear that he wants another go and his steadfast pro-Europe views might not be the disadvantage they once were following Sunday’s French referendum. A lot depends on whether the Michael Howard voting changes are accepted by the party but, surely, the rank and file membership have got to get rid of their Euro-fixation one day.
Choosing Ken Clarke as leader could have the same symbolic importance of a departure from the past as Labour’s abolition of Clause 4.
There are some who obviously think Clarke can do it and his price has been tightening right from 9 pm on Sunday when the first news of the French NON emerged. He’s now moved up to third favourite on the Betfair betting exchange though there is still great value to be had at BinaryBet where you can still get 15/1. This compares with about 10/1 elsewhere.
David Davis is still the red-hot favourite but could this be Ken Clarke’s moment?