I still meet Conservatives who say they would like Ken Clarke to replace George Osborne as Shadow Chancellor. How foolish they are. Peter Mandelson would like nothing better. The Labour spin machine is trying to sow discord in Tory ranks.
Let me give Conseravtives two solid reasons why we should not replace George with Ken. It was George who rallied Conservatives behind his proposals for capital tax reduction in the Autumn of 2007 and put Gordon off holding an early election when he was higher in the polls. In recent weeks George rightly led the Conservatives in Parliament to oppose the expensive and stupid VAT reduction, at a time when Ken said he thought it was a good idea. We need an Opposition which opposes the errors of this government’s economic policy, and shows the right judgement when the government does something as dangerous as the VAT reduction, boosting its borrowing too high, without stimulating the economy.
Labour are living in the 1990s if they think the united Eurosceptical Conservative party can be divided on European issues again. Conservatives represent the 75% of the UK electorate who think the EU has too much power and is too bureaucratic, leaving the federalist Lib Dems and Labour to fight over the other 25%.
It was good to hear William Hague reminding us that the Conservatives are against the extensive powers the EU has or is seeking in matters of defence, foreign affairs, immigration and criminal justice. I would also advise him to drop the line about the advantages of membership. We want him to negotiate a much better deal for us, so there is no need to suggest we like the present one at all. I want to hear him say “Conservatives accept the judgement of the British people in a referendum that they wish to trade with the EU and help shape a genuinely free market. In other matters we wish to have our own democratic right to decide for ourselves whether to reach agreement with our EU partners or not. We want a vibrant democracy in these islands, friendly trading relationships with the continent and common laws or regulations only where it makes sense for us as well. Overall we need much less tax, bureaucracy and regulation from Brusssels”.