September 28, 2005


Kenneth Clarke is all smoke and no fire (Mark Steyn, 27/09/2005, Daily Telegraph)

The cynical argument in favour of a Clarke leadership victory is that he'd be the final nail in the Tory coffin and open up space for a new party on the Right and a long-overdue realignment in British politics. But it never works out like that, does it? More likely, Ken's men would lose just slightly not too badly enough to linger on ineffectually and diminish British conservatism for another half-decade.

I'd say this is a time for strategy, not tactics, and it's in that department that Mr Clarke fails to meet the minimum qualifications for even the squishiest "conservative" leader.

On Europe, the Conservatives ought to be committed not just to bland assurances not to worry, no need to frighten the horses, old chap, everything's on the back boiler now, but to an explicit reassertion of national sovereignty: over-Europeanisation as represented by, for example, the Convention on Human Rights is an obstacle to the effective defence of the realm, and if Tories won't stand up for national security, what are they for?

Likewise, Mr Clarke is one of the Tory heavyweights most explicitly opposed to the war in Iraq. In some ways, that's admirable: one can be opposed to the Iraq war or in favour of it, but to be - as my colleague Boris Johnson and so many other Tories are - allegedly in favour of it while opposed to Mr Blair's grounds for it puts you in the John Kerry circle of hell reserved for eternally self-twisting pretzels.

So, given that we're in it and thus we have to win it, is an anti-war leader really what a conservative party needs to regain its credibility in this area? I don't subscribe to the view that Blair is Churchill, but Clarke's misplaced faith in the stability and reasonableness of dictatorships qualifies him as a passable Lord Halifax.

"Social conservatism"? Include him out. Liam Fox may be het up about abortion, but on this issue, as on many others, Mr Clarke's attitude remains one of benign neglect. Yet Dr Fox surely has a point when he draws attention to Britain's 180,000 annual abortions.

It would be statistically improbable to have an American presidential election fought, as the German election just was, between two childless candidates. You can't breed at the lethargic rate of most Europeans and then bitch and whine about letting the Turks in: demographically, they're the kids you couldn't be bothered having.

A conservative party ought to be natalist, and ought to support policies - like a flat tax - that help restore the societal architecture vandalised by careless governmental social engineering. As much as Europe and Islamism, social and fiscal policy are now a matter of national survival.

Most Tories don't want to hear this kind of talk.

Tony Blair isn't Churchill in this equation--Mr. Clarke is as wedded to the Second Way as Winston was. Mr. Blair is a Thatcherite.

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Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 28, 2005 2:57 PM