Ken clarke

Did Radio 2 really need to give us four days of the Beatles to celebrate Abbey Road?

This Changeling Self, Radio 4’s lead drama this week, clearly ought to have gone out in August. It’s set — and was recorded — at the Edinburgh Festival and would have been a gift to marketing. ‘I love the festival!’ coos She. ‘All these millions of conversations, listen, listen, oh and stories, lots of stories, the different ways of telling…!’ No one in the real world speaks like this. But it’s just about OK, because she isn’t quite real either. She is a Fairy Queen, come to Edinburgh to spirit away a young pianist named Tam, as in Tamlin, who is a bit wet but really rather nice. The story

Sunday shows round-up: Nicola Sturgeon, Keir Starmer, Ken Clarke, Dominic Raab

Keir Starmer – Tory Remainers should vote with us The week ahead promises a showdown in the House of Commons as the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill will face several key votes which could decisively impact the future of Brexit. The votes come after the bill was substantially amended by the House of Lords back in April, with peers notably seeking to keep the UK in the EU’s customs union and to give Parliament a ‘meaningful say’ on the final Brexit deal. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer joined Andrew Marr to discuss Labour’s approach to the bill, with Marr highlighting that Labour was not seizing the opportunity to keep the

Sunday shows round-up: Diane Abbott sounds public sector alarm

Diane Abbott – Public sector at risk if migration collapses The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has told Andrew Marr that British businesses and essential services such as the NHS require a certain level of migration from Europe after Brexit and that a ‘collapse’ in numbers could pose a serious risk to the UK economy. Abbott claimed that a Labour government would clamp down on bureaucracy with regard to EU migration and that she would implement ‘fair rules’ and ‘reasonable management’: AM: Do you think that the number of people coming here from the EU will go down after Brexit if you’re in power? DA: You should talk to British

Theresa May has outmanoeuvred herself with amendment 381

This week a Conservative politician managed to get both the SNP and Labour to applaud them in the Chamber. Unfortunately for Theresa May, it wasn’t in response to government policy. Instead it was Europhile – and Tory grandee – Ken Clarke, who took the opportunity to explain why he thinks Nigel Farage is the ‘most successful politician’ of his generation, why bent bananas won’t be making a comeback and, most importantly, why MPs ought to oppose Theresa May’s Brexit date amendment (also known as amendment 381) to the EU Withdrawal Bill. Announced in the Telegraph last week, May has put an amendment in the bill which would mean the date

Sunday shows round-up: Blair says Britain can limit immigration without leaving the EU

Tony Blair – Britain can limit immigration without leaving the EU Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been trying to find a way to reduce immigration to the UK without leaving the European Union. The Institute for Global Change, the organisation that Blair set up earlier this year, has published a report on this very topic. Outlining his proposals to Andrew Marr, Blair also called on sympathetic MPs to unite against Brexit in order to prevent ‘economic and political damage’: AM: A lot of people already this morning have said ‘It’s a little bit rich coming from you given how you opened the doors back in the 2000s to mass

Carry on Major: real democrats don’t shout down Europhiles

As Prime Minister, John Major was intolerant of opposition from within the Conservative party over the EU — memorably calling Maastricht rebels ‘bastards’. It was unwise, and the bad blood it created within his party has been swirling around ever since. Now that the tables have turned and Sir John now finds himself the rebellious outsider on Europe, it is tempting for those on the Conservative party’s Eurosceptic wing, who for so long were denounced as freaks, fruitcakes and swivel–eyed loons, to take the same approach. Their instinct is to denounce Sir John, Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke and others as dinosaurs seeking to deny the will of the British people. A

Brexit Bill debate: MPs are confused about their job description

The debate over the Bill allowing the government to trigger Article 50 has been surprisingly good-natured, so far, given the stakes. There have been some impressive speeches from all sides, and even some humour. We have learned very little about what the Bill entails and have been largely unsurprised by what each MP has said: Labour is in a very miserable place and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer laboured this point with great feeling. Ken Clarke opposed the referendum, opposes leaving and isn’t going to change his mind. Nicky Morgan and Michael Gove are unlikely to consider sharing office facilities any time soon (the europhile former Education Secretary intervened on


When Ken Clarke failed to stand up to fascism

This afternoon, Ken Clarke made a particularly lively contribution to the Article 50 debate when he announced that his party had become ‘Eurosceptic and mildly anti-immigrant’. As the Remain campaigner complained that ‘no serious’ country actually holds referendums, he claimed even Enoch Powell would be surprised by how hostile to immigration the Conservatives have now become. While the latter point will come as news to many Tories, Mr S couldn’t help but recall that the Tory grandee’s record on immigration can hardly be described as pristine. When Clarke was studying at Cambridge university in 1961, he invited Sir Oswald Mosley to address the Cambridge Tories. While Clarke hoped an appearance from the founder of the British Union of Fascists

Why doesn’t the ‘tyranny of the majority’ bother MPs during elections?

Older readers might remember the night in April 1992 when, unexpectedly, a tyranny of the majority returned John Major’s Conservative government to power. That same night a local bunch of tyrants in Huntingdon sent Major back to Westminster with a majority of over 30,000, while a tyrannical mob up in Nottingham did the same for Ken Clarke – who was to become Home Secretary and later Chancellor. Funny enough, though, I don’t recall either John Major or Ken Clarke using the word ‘tyranny’ at the time – or anything approaching it. On the contrary, I vaguely remember them making remarks as to the effect that the good old British people

Commons votes in favour of invoking Article 50 by the end of March

461 MPs have just voted for Theresa May to invoke Article 50 by the end of March. The Tory amendment to Labour’s opposition day motion passed comfortably with only 89 MPs opposing it—and Ken Clarke the only Tory amongst them with 20-odd Labour Mps joining the SNP and the Lib Dems in voting against. Now, this vote is not binding and if the government loses its appeal to the Supreme Court will not be sufficient to satisfy the courts. But it does indicate that the government will be able to get an Article 50 bill through the Commons without too much trouble. It does make you wonder why Theresa May


Bill Cash teaches Ken Clarke a lesson at Brexit debate

In today’s Article 50 debate, MPs from across the House offered their two cents worth on what Brexit means. However, one Remain MP got more than they bargained for when they sparred with Brexiteer Bill Cash in the Chamber. After Cash argued that the vote for Leave was perfectly clear, Ken Clarke intervened with a counter argument. The Tory grandee accused Cash of double standards over referendums. Pointing to the 1975 referendum on Europe, Clarke said that Cash had argued that referendum was ‘purely advisory’: ‘He will recall, he and I took part in a referendum in the 1970s when he was no doubt saddened to find he was on the

Ken Clarke caught on camera discussing Tory leadership hopefuls – ‘Theresa is a bloody difficult woman’

Don’t expect to see Ken Clarke on Sky News anytime soon. The former Chancellor has been left red-faced after the broadcaster aired footage of him engaging in a very honest assessment of the Tory leadership — not realising the camera was rolling. No candidate mentioned got off scot-free during his lively discussion with Sir Malcolm Rifkind. While raising the prospect of Michael Gove as Prime Minister, Clarke expressed concerns about his ‘wild’ views on foreign policy — concluding that, with the Justice Secretary as PM, Britain would go to war with ‘at least three countries at once’: ‘I remember having a discussion once about something we should do in Syria or Iraq

What should Jeremy Hunt do next to the NHS?

The Tories barely talked about the NHS during the election campaign. It was an area of Labour strength, and one Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham were keen to talk about as much as possible. But now they’re back in with a majority, the Conservatives are keen to start talking about the health service again, and to start trying to erode that Labour poll lead on the issue. David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt yesterday announced their plans for a seven day NHS, but though announcements are always very handy for getting attention, the Tories need to strike a balance between lots of new initiatives and too much meddling that upsets people

PMQs: Was Ken Clarke snoozing? If so, he missed nothing

The PMQs before the Budget is always pretty pointless, and David Cameron turned up clearly determined to trivialise his exchanges with Ed Miliband as much as possible. He came armed with a plethora of jokes about second kitchens, chuckling about throwing two kitchen sinks at problems, that if the Leader of the Opposition couldn’t stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen, and that the Shadow Chancellor wouldn’t be able to tell which kitchen he could find his leader in. It was partly a device to blunt the attacks that Ed Miliband made, which predictably were on the NHS, on his promise not to reorganise the health service,

Tory MP accepts donation from banker who used same tax avoidance scheme as Jimmy Carr

With the Tories currently getting flak for holding a ball for the party’s super rich donors in the same week queries were raised about their tax habits, Ken Clarke appeared on the Sunday Politics to deny any suggestions of wrongdoing. He did, however, say that a ‘more defensible system’ should be put in place with a ‘donation cap’ and state funding so parties do not become overly reliant on rich individuals. Until that happens it’s business as usual for the Conservatives. According to the latest register of interests, Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, accepted a £10,000 donation from George Robinson. In 2012 Robinson, a top hedge fund boss, was ordered

Tory MPs split over how far to push English votes for English laws

Tory backbenchers have just finished a long meeting about English Votes for English Laws. The 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers have just spent the last hour and a bit debating the matter with William Hague in attendance. The question at issue was whether the Tories should bar all MPs other than English ones from voting on English-only issues. Or, whether they should limit their plans to only allowing English MPs to vote on English laws at committee stage and giving them a veto before third reading. The leadership is thought to favour the latter option and Malcolm Rifkind and Ken Clarke both spoke up for it. But there was considerable

David Cameron and Ken Clarke clash over Ukip and immigration

Ken Clarke is one of the biggest beasts left in the Tory jungle. He had been a fixture in every Tory government since Ted Heaths time until Cameron retired him at the last reshuffle. But Clarke is clearly deeply concerned with Cameron’s strategy at the moment.   On Tuesday night, at a meeting of the Tory parliamentary party, Clarke warned Cameron that by talking up immigration so much, he was only helping Ukip. He argued that the public have an ‘insatiable appetite’ for clampdowns on immigration and so the Tories could never match Ukip on this. He said that, instead, the Tories should be talking about their strongest suit, the

David Cameron hints at tax cuts for Middle England

The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope tweets the news that David Cameron is open to raising the threshold for the 40p rate: NEWS! PM: “I would love to raise the 40p tax threshold, I understand the problem, but would have to look at the books before doing it” — Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) July 30, 2014   The Telegraph has been pushing for this change for some time. Cameron has, in political terms, flashed a bit of thigh at Middle England. One of the strange features of this parliament is how little credit the government gets for keeping taxes low. This sense was reinforced recently by one of Lord Ashcroft’s polls, which found

Parliament’s next crisis: a dangerous shortage of middle-aged men

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”James Forsyth and Paul Goodman discuss why so many MPs are leaving the Commons” startat=873] Listen [/audioplayer]The House of Commons is off for the summer. But few MPs and ministers expect to make it through to September without the House being recalled because of the grim international situation. This has been the worst year for the West in foreign policy terms since 1979. A terrorist enclave has been established in the heart of the Middle East, Iraq has confirmed its status as an Iranian vassal state, Russia has annexed Crimea with minimal consequences and the West has not even been able to come up with a robust response

Stephen Dorrell: The NHS still has plenty to learn

If anyone thought Stephen Dorrell would take a break from talking about health after standing down as chairman of the House of Commons health select committee, they were quite wrong. The Spectator finds him in his Portcullis House office preparing to give a speech to the think tank Reform — his first since quitting the post — on how to make the health system better at delivering social care. He has no intention of leaving the NHS alone, even though he’s no longer leading the group of MPs whose job it is to scrutinise health policy. But, strangely, he stumbles when asked if he’s proud of the NHS. ‘Pride is a funny