Is Portillo right about the Conservatives and Clarke?
The Sunday Times reports that the Cabinet is split over the proposed third runway at Heathrow, with Hilary Benn warning that the expansion should be rejected unless noise and air pollution are dramatically cut. The Environment Secretary gives an interview to the paper who suggest that the “similarities between the father and his cabinet minister son are becoming increasingly apparent”.
ST columnist Michael Portillo argues that “if the Tories lose the election it may not be apparent that once more Europe has sealed their fate, but nonetheless it will be true”. He describes Brown as a changed man, “once risk-averse, he is now risk-addicted” but that “thus far [his] gamble is looking good”. The Tories, however “have had a lamentable economic slump so far. The business community is unimpressed and the party has lost its most important advantage: the expectation that it will win”.
Portillo argues that the Tories would be far stronger if Ken Clarke were back on the pitch, that their credibility would soar with him as Shadow Chancellor – “if Obama is big enough to take in Hillary, why cannot Cameron reel in Clarke?” Europe, now rearing its head again with the second Irish referendum, is of course the answer.
“For Cameron the paradox is this. Nobody has changed the Conservative party as much and as fast as he has, yet he will seek office on much the same economic ground as Hague and Howard. Also, having escaped the old Tory curse of its civil war over Europe, even so Cameron is fatally constrained from deploying Clarke, his partyâ€™s most effective weapon. If the Tories lose the election it may not be apparent that once more Europe has sealed their fate, but nonetheless it will be true.”
In the Independent, John Rentoul asks how long Gordon can make the crisis last, since he is suited by stormy weather and will want an election before calmer times emerge, while Alan Watkins looks at the lack of enthusiasm for coalitions in Britain. The paper also reports that Tony Blair was a secret Catholic while in Downing Street.
The Mail on Sunday highlights the taxpayer-funded perks of the just-resigned boss of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority Ken Boston, and the paper also highlights Cameron’s doubts about the image portrayed by his Shadow Cabinet.
The Sunday Telegraph reports on the Â£130m refurbishment bill for Jack Straw’s new Ministry of Justice offices, while Matthew D’Ancona argues that although Cameron can’t do anything about the recession, he “must say the right things”:
“…it is intrinsic to Mr Cameron’s prospects that he demand an election immediately. He must display unquenchable kinetic energy. The best way to communicate the urgency of the nation’s economic plight is to personify urgency himself…”