Monday, January 19, 2009

Cuddly Ken Is A Vote Winner

Cuddly Ken's move into Cameron's shadow cabinet is a shot in the arm for the Tories as long as they don't shoot themselves in the foot over Europe. At a stroke, Cameron has breathed new life into the front benches, wiping away the stale Westminster atmosphere.

This is Cameron's war cabinet ahead of the general election and Clarke says he's delighted to be back on the front benches. 

Cameron's widely speculated reshuffle today gives the Tories a chance to turn the tables and wrong-foot Brown for a change, as the government has a dizzy day with another half-baked bank bail-out blitz, as if £37 billion of taxpayer's cash wasn't enough. 

And, as the country finally goes into a confirmed deep recession this week, the government will be well aware it was Clarke as chancellor who helped steer the country out of recession in the 1990s. Credited with cutting the budget deficit, interest rates, inflation and unemployment all fell on his watch, allowing Blair to ride on the back of his success. 

But Clarke's problem is himself. He's a big player, rebellious, the man who wanted to be king and he may prove to be an unwitting divisive distraction, making both Cameron and Osborne look puny. 

No doubt some will the try to drive a wedge between shadow chancellor Osborne and Clarke, They are two different beasts doing different jobs. The economy is Brown's sickly baby and Cameron and Osborne are doing a good job reflecting voter's anger. The former chancellor was brought in to square up to Mandelson. 

Clarke will wipe the floor with slippery Mandy - or at least he would if unelected Mandelson wasn't hiding away in the House of Lords. With his wealth of experience Clarke should make mincemeat out of the cunning little devil. 

Solid Euro-man Clarke won't go down well with the euroseptics and that lost him leadership after leadership contest. Despite his popularity, there's a danger Cameron's plan could backfire on him in the run up to June's European Elections. But eurosceptic views are entrenched in the Party grassroots. They can beg to differ and should be big enough not to feel threatened by Clarke's return. 

Clarke has one quality which puts him head and shoulders above the rest. He's likeable. With a love of cigars and jazz, anyone who wears Hush Puppies and supports Real Ale would get the vote of many punters regardless of his politics - though opposing the 2003 Iraq invasion also helps. 

Sure he's a bit of a rebel in the Tory ranks. But he's a nice, warm sort of guy, Voters love him and that's what matters, as long as he keeps his mouth shut on Europe. 

UPDATE Cameron has announced his full reshuffle with an insider's analysis here. The Orange Party particularly likes the idea of Eric Pickles as Party chairman. A down-to-earth Yorkshire bloke from solid Labour stock. 

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