Fraser Nelson

Ken Clarke is Shadow Business Secretary

Ken Clarke is Shadow Business Secretary
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So it's official - Ken Clarke is back in a reshuffle to be announced tomorrow, replacing Alan Duncan as Shadow Business Secretary. Clarke promised to behave over a lunch with Cameron and Osborne yesterday. He apparently told them he does not accept the party line on Lisbon or the EPP, but will shut up about it and not try to change the party line. No moves in the top jobs (i.e. Hague and Gove staying put, as are Fox and Grayling), yet I hear there may be extensive reshuffling in the lower ranks. My initial take:

1. Cameron is taking a large gamble. Clarke has said precisely what he thought pretty much since 1994, and hasn't held back from sounding off over Europe when he felt like it. Toeing a party line is a very hard task, you have to stop your mental reflexes so you don't screw up on Question Time or whatever. I'm sure Clarke was genuine when he promised to behave, but I'm not sure he knows how to.

2. The rationale is that Clarke will embody the message 'we handed Labour a golden economy in 1997' and will balance the youthful mien of the Shadow Cabinet with some cigar-chomping greyness. He's undeniably popular with a chunk of the electorate who will be ressured by his return.

3. He may also be the Tories' Vince Cable. What Cable does is talk about economics in clear English - not using Brown's jargons, nor the soundbites Osborne often uses. To Clarke, economics is easy - and, like Cable, he makes it sound easy. It has been a joy listening to him on the economy recently. He must refrain from claiming (as he did on the Daily Politics last month) that spending cuts are inevitable. While I agree with him, that's not Tory policy. Today's newspapers have stories of that interview he gave to the Guardian magazine saying that a party which goes into an election offering tax cuts (as the Tories finally are) is asking for trouble. In this way, Clarke s a walking 'split' story for Labour.

4. Will he give up his directorships? He could very well point to his Shadow Cabinet colleagues and ask why on earth he should, if they don't. And will he be asked about his role helping BAT sell fags to the Vietnamese?

5. Let's not forget that Clarke sees coalition with the Lib Dems as a good thing. As he told me three years ago "I'm glad to say the fates could condemn the Conservatives and the Liberals to form a coalition".

Hague said earlier that "in spirit, Ken is already back". Now in body, too. It'll be a busy day tomorrow. We'll keep you posted here at Coffee House.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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