Peter Hoskin

Dodging the split story

Dodging the split story
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Do take the time to read through the Independent's Q&A with Ken Clarke today.  Beyond his classic answer to the question "What was your biggest mistake as Chancellor of the Exchequer?" (clue: it involves malt whisky), the most noteworthy thing is how ably he dodges the numerous, inevitable, "split" questions.  There's the stock reponse of "I have no intention to change or challenge the party's policy on x", but he mixes in a few tongue-in-cheek curveballs, which do a great job of defusing the situation.  This has to be one of them:

In December you came out against supporting marriage through the tax system. David Cameron feels differently. Have you changed your mind? JENNIFER BURT, London

I am now directly exposed to the collective wisdom of my colleagues in [the Shadow] cabinet and of course I accept the policy of my party.

All in all, Clarke really does inject some fun - as well as hardheaded economic nous - into politics.  Sure, it's still early days.  But if this Q&A's anything to go by, there are few signs that his presence will damage the party leadership.