James Forsyth

The problem with caution

The problem with caution
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Ken Clarke’s interview with the FT is full of the blokey charm that makes him come across as more human than most politicians. But there is one exchange in it which is one of the most interesting reflections on the Cameron project from someone inside the tent.

Clarke is asked what the driving purpose of a Cameron government would be, he replies as follows:

“We are endeavouring to answer the question,” he says. “We are being very cautious – which is a problem – but I accept personally that we have to be.” Why is Mr Cameron’s caution a problem?

“Because you come away as a bit bland and you don’t give a clear enough impression of what you’re going to be doing. But better [that] than causing constant rows and alarms.” That Clarke, hardly an ideologue, is prepared to acknowledge the problems caused by the leadership’s caution is striking. He’s right that travelling fairly light on policy means that the Tories don’t frighten the horses. But he is also correct that this means that it is less clear what a Cameron government would do.

If the Tories are to win on more of a positive, pro-Tory vote rather than an anti-Brow, anti-Labour one, then they are going to have to be clearer about what they will do in government. The philosophical and intellectual framework the Tories are operating with is clear, but what is needed is more policy meat on the bone.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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