Fraser Nelson

The view from the front bench

The view from the front bench
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Ken Clarke walked back into the chamber to cheers as if he’d just won a by-election, itself an indication of how little we’ve seen from the man who took an MP's salary for the last 11 years but has seldom been seen around the House. It was his first time, ever, on an opposition front bench and he looked around at the view. Together with Cameron, he flanked Osborne. Clarke hasn’t worked out yet that his job is to make facial expressions of support when Osborne speaks, and to feign disdain at Darling. It’ll take a while to relearn the techniques of active politics.

Osborne was on good form. How much of our money is Darling spending? We need to know. “They didn’t have a clue what they were buying, and didn’t bother to find out,” he said. Personally, I’d like to see Osborne do Mr Angry a bit more, as per his superb PBR response. Ken’s main performance was on Sky News earlier, and was excellent – sidestepping Europe and the EU Constitution. He speaks easily and eloquently about the country's economic woes, as if it's really simple and only a halfwit like Brown can’t get it. This is what I like most about Ken, the way he – and only he - can be gently condescending towards Brown.

And what about William Hague, the “deputy in all but name?” Nowhere to be seen, preparing to reply to Miliband. And Hague, take note, was not being served up meatloaf chez Osborne on Saturday when Clarke was let back into the fold. So Osborne remains the de facto deputy – he who gets the meatloaf gets the power.

P.S. Some CoffeeHousers argue that I'm being unfair and that Ken has been turning up. Thanks to the Public Whip website, we can settle this instantly by looking at his attendance record. He's voted in just 54% of divisions since 2005 - which, while better than the desultory 42% he managed in 1997-01, still ranks him amongst the laziest of MPs. Sure, he speaks in more debates when he does show up. But he has still been a rare sight. 

Turns out this wasn't Clarke first appearance on an opposition front bench, though - Jonathan Isaby has the details here.

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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