Monday, July 14, 2014

Kenneth Clarke should have become Conservative leader in 1997

Kenneth Clarke stood down today after a remarkable 42 years in front-bench politics.

If the Conservative Party had known its own best interests, he would have become its leader after the landslide defeat of 1997. Clarke would have busked it and kept the Tories' spirits up while they worked out how the hell they were going to fight back against Tony Blair and New Labour.

Instead, the party's members chose leaders whom they saw as true Thatcherites - William Hague and then Iain Duncan Smith. Eventually the MPs felt obliged to take control by nominating Michael Howard as the sole candidate for leader after the collapse of IDS.

The party began its recovery under Howard, but if Clarke, a figure far more likely to appeal to the wider public, had been made leader in 1997, that recovery would surely have come sooner.

And if Clarke had become leader, William Hague would have been spared the premature exposure that blighted his career. Without it, he might well have become prime minister by now.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

One might conclude that Kenneth Clarke was successful in government owing to his ability to escape culpability. He never had to stand up to defend the result of his decisions. He had a new job next year.