13 Sep 2012

Ken Clarke: The man Cameron couldn’t live without?

He was the man David Cameron just couldn’t live without. Or was he too dangerous on the outside of the tent?

We’ll be asking Ken Clarke how he rates that reshuffle after 40 years on the frontline of politics watching leaders come and go. Did he ever get round to reading Crime and Punishment, as the PM recommended at last year’s conference? When does the man now seeing Treasury papers think the economy will turn round? These, and other questions, I’ll be asking the Minister without Portfolio, Ken Clarke, at a Channel 4 “In Conversation” fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference at 1pm, Monday 8 October 2012 at The ICC (Hall 5), Birmingham.

After two and a half years at the Justice Ministry, Ken Clarke has been given a brief looking across government, chipping in on the economy, national security – even sitting on the Europe Cabinet Committee. What would the veteran, celebrated and unabashed Europhile make of a Conservative manifesto commitment to a referendum on Europe? I think I can guess, but we can all hear his answer.

Ken Clarke’s seen as a bit of “lefty” in Tory terms. But he was a Tory radical in the Thatcher years taking on what he saw as vested interests in the public sector. He’s been massively supportive of the coalition deficit reduction plan from the moment it was conceived. But he’s a liberal on social issues who often mocks those who support an increase in the prison population.

Ken Clarke has watched the decline in party membership and a transformation in the way politics is carried out in the 24 hour news era. Does he think mass membership politics is gone for ever? Should all politicians take a leaf out of his book: Turn the mobile phone off and never look at Twitter? What are the secrets of his Zen-like powers of chillaxing? And what’s he made of watching the coalition close up? Are coalitions here to stay?

Jazz and cricket will be provided. This is a strictly cigar-smoking event.

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