Peter Hoskin

With delicate management, Clarke can be a powerful asset for Cameron

With delicate management, Clarke can be a powerful asset for Cameron
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What's my take on the return of Ken Clarke? Hm. I guess it's summed up by four-and-a-bit words: let's wait and see. A wishy-washy response, I know, but so much depends on whether Cameron's got himself Clarke the Angel or Clarke the Devil that it's hard to talk about success or failure in advance. Apparently, Clarke's assured the Dave they he'll be angelic - that he won't stir up a storm over Europe, that he won't deal out economic prescriptions that contradict the party line - but will the most rebellious Tory MP in the Commons be able to change his spots? Possibly. But it's going to require some delicate man-management from Cameron.

Given the way in which Clarke's been unveiled to the press, it seems that the delicate management is in full swing already. Briefing the news on Sunday evening - before the rest of the reshuffle has been announced - has ensured that the standout recruit gets some prominent coverage. But the story's soon going to be swamped by news of today's banking bailout and tomorrow's inauguration of Barack Obama; which, in turn, means that any response from Labour - any 'Mandelson delighted to see return of Clarke' stories - won't have time to gain proper traction. I expect it will be an impossible task to quell all the 'Europhile Clarke' and 'Clarke the VAT cutter' mischief, but CCHQ's certainly made as good a start as possible.

As for the rest of the reshuffle, stay tuned to Coffee House for updates throughout the day.