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Will “Clarke’s golden legacy” now become centre stage?

January 19th, 2009

Is Ken tasked with “bursting the Brown bubble”?

I was very taken by a comment from a ConHome contributor, Jono, that the real reason why Clarke has been brought back is not to handle Mandelson – but to challenge Brown. This was picked up by ChritstinaD.

Jono writes “..There is one pillar of the whole, painstakingly constructed edifice of the Brown myth that has always been vulnerable and that is the role of Ken Clarke in creating what was sustainable economic growth. He created the ‘Golden Legacy’ that Gordon, a lesser economist all round, has destroyed. It’s a powerful narrative..I think Clarke (no stranger to vanity himself, but a manager like Cameron knows that) is pissed off with Brown’s boasts and he’s been given the opportunity to stick it to the pretender.. I think Brown’s life just got a lot more difficult – not least because he’s about to be held a lot more accountable for his incompetence – by someone he looks up to (not through choice).”

In appearance after appearance since 1997 Ken has left little doubt that he feels particularly aggrieved about the way that his legacy has been diminished by Brown who has often appeared discomforted when Clarke has been allowed to put this point at PMQs. This is probably what Cameron’s move has been designed to exploit.

Clarke in full flow gets his point over very effectively and he’ll become the shadow minister that broadcasters will go to first. He promises to eclipse both Vince Cable and George Osborne.

One little bit of polling history that is not generally known is that in the 1997 general election campaign that the Tories (Clarke) won the argument on the economy over Labour ( Brown). As I have recounted here before Blair’s party held a comfortable lead on the economy right through until the election campaign started. It was during April 1997, after the formal campaign had begun, that Labour began to struggle on the “which party has the best party for the economy” question reaching, at one stage, a deficit of 6%.

In the final ICM survey for the Guardian, published on polling day, May 1st 1997, the Tories were still ahead – though it made no difference to the overall result.

If Clarke won the argument then how is he going to do in the much more fertile environment for the Tories of the next general election? In the general election betting my guess is that there will be a Clarke boost for the Tories.

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