Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Friday, September 02, 2005

You Serve In Government For Years And This Is What You Get!!!

After glancing at Gyles Brandreth's diaries of his time as a parliamentarian during the nineties today, I decided to put my investigative skills to the test. Looking through the pages of this chronicle of a government in decline, there are some insights of varying degrees of importance (usually low) which are worth taking a look at, particularly if, like me, you take particular enjoyment out of personal gossip or tales about senior politicians, no matter how old the gossip or the tales are!

Ken Clarke is a man noted for his desire to lead the Conservative Party, unless he is taking part in some elaborate wager to prove that the old saying 'third time lucky' is true. As Chancellor of the Ex-Chequer, Mr. Clarke did succeed in bringing what had been throughout the eighties a volatile economy to heel. However, on March 15th 1994, Brandreth wrote to him, sharing his concern that the Clarke Chancellorship lacked any coherent theme. In his diary, he wrote 'KC has been in government so long and is so comfortable in government, so easy with himself... if he's himself... he assumes the message'll get across'. If opinion polls canvassing the opinions of the general public are anything to go by, he has, over the years, appeared to have done that. However, you have to ask whether that kind of attitude is going to strengthen the Conservative Party's electoral prospects. On the one hand, we have a political climate at present which is unashamedly presidential, and the image of the leader is vital to the success of the party. But no political organisation can succeed without a broad and coherent theme. Ken Clarke's theme as leader of the opposition might end up being devoid of any plan for government, and nothing more than 'Look at me!'.

On Friday 22nd October 1993, Edwina Currie explains to Brandreth why she didn't want to rejoin the government front bench. Of course, now we know a little more about the lady's past, her comments twelve years ago might be taken with a pinch of salt. But she was nonetheless emphatic about Clarke. "Who'd want to be Prisons Minister? And I couldn't stand working for Ken Clarke again. He's impossible."

On Sunday 21st April 1996, Brandreth writes that David Davis (known as 'DD of the SS'), who is by now Europe Minister, is 'unhappy, already difficult, potentially more troublesome... believes he should be in the Cabinet now, now, now'. It's no secret that he's an ambitious man, and certainly by no means a criticism of him!

On Tuesday 15th June 1993, David Cameron was sacked as Chancellor Clarke's special adviser, and Brandreth describes him as someone coming 'from the Right'. That's a rather interesting perspective considering the suspicions many Conservatives have of him now as the candidate of the Soho modernisers (although perhaps not too surprising considering the transition many right-wingers, such as Portillo, who appeared to lose their faith in free markets and capitalism, went through at the end of the last decade).

There appears to be little love lost between Ken Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind when they held the chancellorship and foreign secretaryship together before the election when Rifkind squarely dismissed the idea of the EMU. Clarke was agitated in his private conversation with Brandreth, unhappy that Rifkind had gone against the government line. Perhaps that is why optimists keen on the idea of the 'old guard' regrouping in this leadership election look to be proven wrong.

And finally he may have been ignored on Newsnight's recent coverage of the leadership contest, but I am keen to include him. Dr. Liam Fox is at least twice referred to as 'giggling' in some way. Whatever conclusion you take from that is your own!

Of course, to dredge up all of this many years later is unfair and puts me firmly in league with the most scurrilous of tabloid journalists!! But you can't help think back to the past, for the past shapes our view of the future.


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