Would not appointing him now seem like a defeat?
As the Daily Mail is reporting this morning David Cameron “..did not rule out an audacious move to appoint Mr Clarke to the Shadow Cabinet when asked about the possibility for the first time yesterday.”
Certainly the speculation about a return of the 68 year old ex-Chancellor has been allowed to continue for more than a week and if it doesn’t happen then it could appear as though the leader has given in to shadow cabinet members and others who are reported to be strongly opposed. The Telegraph is talking about a “Shadow cabinet revolt”.
This, of course, comes on top of the fight before Christmas when the Tory leader had to withdraw plans to stop his top team having outside interests – something that might prove problematical in the run-up to the general election.
The main problem with Clarke, of course, goes back to his pro-EU views which almost certainly cost him the leadership in the past. The appointment now could open up some of those splits once again. Clarke is also one of the few leading Tories who was opposed to the Iraq war – an element that has added to the mistrust.
The main benefit is that Clarke is a “big beast” who comes over effectively on TV and in the media. He would add much needed fire-power to a front-bench team that is not very well known. He could play a key role in getting the party message out on the economy – something that Osborne sometimes appears to be struggling with – which in itself could create a problem. This would no doubt be spun as a defeat for the shadow chancellor.
Clarke would also seem to be the ideal person to go up against Labour’s “come-back kid”, Peter Mandelson, and a return would really spice up politics in the run-up to the general election. One issue that hasn’t been raised is whether Clarke would have to go to the House of Lords.
Cameron might be quite pleased at the way the Mail is reporting it – which is in sharp contrast to the Telegraph report which is full of negatives. Certainly you can see the latter, which threw everything it could against Clarke in the 2001 leadership contest, being none too happy.