The Shadow Chancellorship

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”.


  1. Stuart Fairney
    January 16, 2009

    There is a far more obvious and competent shadow chancellor than Ken Clarke. This is a man who has been consistently right in both spotting the impending financial problems and diagnosing solutions. A man with the experience, the competence and the intellectual rigour to do the job. Sadly the leadership of the conservative party doesn’t seem to recognise what readers of this blog see clearly. And frankly, I don’t care how many times the BBC run old footage the Welsh national anthem. He is far and away the best man for the job.

    Reply: That was not the point I wanted to make. I support George as Shadow Chancellor. He has the political enegry and support of the Leader which we need for the Cameron project. I am happy to be an Economic Adviser to them.

    1. APL
      January 16, 2009

      JR: “That was not the point I wanted to make.”

      We hardly imagined it was. But I agree with Stuart, if the rumours are true and the job of shadow chancellor is up for grabs, there are far more competent people who might fill the role better than Ken Clarke (Socialist collaborator).

      And, if Cameron’s claim to fame is he has been able to ‘unite’ the Tory party (which I doubt), then promoting Clarke to any cabinet post, even one so lowly as the attending the drinks cabinet, would blow that unity a thousand feet out of the water.

      Now THAT would be playing into Gordon Browns hands.

    2. rugfish
      January 16, 2009

      I believe Mr Redwood would make a fine Chancellor but he’d make a better Economic Chairman of a committee set up to watch over all standards of the industry. “Our very own watchdog” if you like with real powers to deliver competent and rudimentary changes.

      Yes of course he must surely be eminently more capable than he’s given credit by some, but he has shown consistent workable plans as long as I have known of him as a former minister and as an MP. He is right about George Osborne too I think. George has the energy and can deliver a good strong punch when the time suits. Further, no disparagement of Kenneth Clarke who himself made a very fine Chancellor, and one worthy of note. But he would become a political bowling ball for Labour.

      The European question will never go away until it is tackled and the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP should not be positioned where he can accumulate flak for the Tory Party on that subject. Also, he has said David Cameron’s policy on Europe to create a non-federalist party, is “headbanging”, so I guess he has layen his cards on the table umpteen times about where he stands and it is undoubtedly to continue to acquiesce to “The Federation” of European States. ( Let’s not mince words with it, that is precisely what it is ).

      I could say more but I feel I should hold my tongue simply because as Mr Redwood implies, there is one called Mandelson, who would like nothing better than for the party to be squabbling with itself over Europe.

      That is his ploy. It is characterised by the darkest Machiavellian type politics, and we’d all do well to stick with who we have, letting those with a sensible voice like Mr Redwood have their say and give advice, offering to control some of it, and in doing so give the country the best way forward by not fighting amongst ourselves to see who’s hand is actually on the tiller or by tipping an able Captain such as George Osborne into the drench in the process.

    3. Cliff.
      January 16, 2009


      “The Cameron Project?”

      What exactly does that mean, are we nolonger a party run for and by it’s members? Are we going the same way as Labour with one person at the top acting as a dictator with the rest of us blindly following their lead no matter how much it goes against our core values and beliefs? Are we moving away from the traditional beliefs and values of Conservatism just to get elected?

      I have never seen Mr Cameron as anything other than a caretaker leader and have never thought he could unite the party as he is, in my opinion, too close to new Labour in his ideology. With the failings by this current government we should be far further ahead in the polls than we are and I feel much of the reason for us not performing as well as we should be in the polls is down to Mr Cameron and how he comes over to the public, something that should be setting off alarm bells given his past role in the workplace.

      I would hate to see Ken return to the shadow cabinet as Shadow Chancellor as he is too pro-EUSSR. If we do need a new person for the post, which at this time I doubt, I would prefer to see you in that role rather than anyone else as you seem to have both the financial knowledge and sound judgement for the position.

      Reply: David Cameron is doing very well and is the best leader since Thatcher in my view.

    4. Acorn
      January 16, 2009

      Understood JR but, please tell us that you and Phil Hammond (Shadow Chief Secretary: Treasury), are the best of mates and you are at his right hand 24/7. If not, you should be.

      To be fair, can you imagine being a minister, trying to get a grip of the Treasury and its 1200 employees. They have their fingers in everything the government does. You need a double first in economics and banking, just to understand the Treasury organisation chart! If Digby Jones is correct, they have half too many employees. But, which half would you get rid of?

      Many years back, during the fad for change management in industry, I visited a company that successfully managed to work out where its cost/profit centres were. It had more devisions and departments than you could shake a stick at. They could not identify the cost of production for an individual product. Everything was cross subsidising everything.

      They introduced a system of budget reconciliation sheets (they were actually employee “time sheets”) for every employee from top to bottom of the organisation. For twelve weeks, everyone had to book all their attendance (includes overtime) hours to a budget holder(s). Unfortunately, it took ten weeks just to identify the budget holders. The organisation practically came to a stop at one stage and time sheets nearly abandoned. People were claiming time on all sorts of things and their counter parties were claiming the opposite. Some were claiming time on projects which had finished months back.

      To cut a long story short, within two years, the organisation was a lot fitter and leaner. It even identified in its accounts, a bucket full of reserves and provisions for events and projects that no longer existed, if they had ever existed.

      I can’t identify the organisation as I had to sign a perpetual confidentiality agreement to get through the front door; but it was bought out subsequently.

      It still remains the most impressive piece of change management I ever witnessed.

      How do you think that would work in the Civil Service or the public sector in general? Imagine those poor buggers having to identify which piece of primary and secondary legislation is actually paying their wages. Frightening!

  2. APL
    January 16, 2009

    JR: “Let me give Conseravtives two solid reasons why we should not replace George with Ken.”

    I’ve got a few more:

    Clarke is a Socialist appeaser.

    He has spent far too much time collaborating with Tony Blair instead of opposing Blair’s rotten government.

    His reputation as a economic guru originates entirely from his period as Chancellor after the Tory party followed policies *HE* advocated – sterling shadowing the EURO. The economic benefit that followed *some time* after that policy failed, Clarke was able to claim as his doing.

    (more personal remarks against Ken removed -ed)

  3. rugfish
    January 16, 2009

    Perfectly said Mr Redwood !

    Not one thing could be added to that at all.

    Well done.

  4. Tony Makara
    January 16, 2009

    “Conservatives represent the 75% of the UK electorate who think the EU has too much power”

    Very true. That being the case the Conservative party should hold a referendum on our continued membership of the EU at a political level. There might even be an option of associate membership in which Britain can sign up to some of EU ideals that it is in accord, but still maintains the power to control its own borders, levels of migrant labour, trading practices and so on. If the Conservative party is not afraid of the British people then give us such a vote, let us decide the kind of EU future we want. Put the issue to bed once and for all.

  5. Stephen Southworth
    January 16, 2009

    A return to “No, No, No” would be welcomed by a great majority in a referendum. The majority of Euro sceptics would be happy, I suspect, to revert to a trading relationship only with the EU. If that were put to a vote, it would win by a country mile. It is such a shame that the leadership’s caution on this is apparent in the “if it (Lisbon) is not ratified, we will hold a referendum” line. What we want is “regardless of Lisbon’s status, we will hold a referendum on reverting to an EU trading relationship only”.

    The election would be in the bag, if that were the policy. In Europe, but not run by Europe. Let’s have a solid commitment to it.

  6. GHS
    January 16, 2009

    Re EU: Unfortunatley the EU does not allow a pick ‘n mix approach and to even suggest it to them is viewed as heresy. There is no benefit from the EU, all analysis I have seen says it is zero at best and that was giving the EU the benefit of the doubt evey time. In addition the calculations were done before Tony Blairs negotations of our rebate when our net contribution went from approximately £3bn pa to more than £7bn pa.
    We are either in or out and if we are in then we accept everything that corrupt, ineficient, undemocratic organisation can come up with.
    Ken Clarke is yesterday’s man and bringing him onto the Shadow Cabinet would be a retrograde and devisive step.

  7. Robert Eve
    January 16, 2009

    In your last paragraph you talk about negotiation with the EU.

    In view of the EU’s actions re The Constitution/Lisbon Treaty where they quite deliberately sidestepped the Dutch, French & Irish objections, my personal view is that negotiation would be a huge waste of time.

  8. Elizabeth Elliot-Pyle
    January 16, 2009

    I agree with other commentators that John Redwood would be an excellent shadow chancellor.

    Slightly off-topic…John, what are you going to do about the scandalous attempt by this govt to hide MPs expenses? If the conservatives en masse voted against this idea, they might win. More importantly, they would win MANY votes . The people are disgusted with this idea.
    How about writing a post, with your views?

    Reply: Yes I favour disclosure. I have some rather bigger matters to handle over this crucial weekend for our economy and society.

    1. APL
      January 18, 2009

      E. Elliot-Pyle: “How about writing a post, with your views?”

      JR: “Yes I favour disclosure.”

      May I second E, E-P suggestion for a post, I am sure it would be appreciated.

  9. Freeborn John
    January 16, 2009

    I must say the talk of bringing Ken Clarke into the shadow cabinet is very disturbing. I have already decided i will not be voting Conservative in the euro-elections in June, and I am 75% certain i will vote for the Conservatives in 2010 because of the ambigous position on Europe. But a cabinet with Ken Clarke in it is not one i want to see in Downing Street. Better that David Cameron has 5 more years in Opposition to get some backbone on the EU issue.

  10. Freeborn John
    January 16, 2009

    ed: Should have said “75% certain i will NOT vote Conservative in 2010”!

  11. mikestallard
    January 16, 2009

    Some positive remarks here:
    I admire your generosity, Mr Redwood, in supporting the shadow Chancellor. Well done!
    Ken Clarke is one of the very few politicians who has the knack, on Newsnight, of telling me, in words that I can understand, what is going on. Also, I like the fact that he smokes with pleasure and loves jazz.
    One of the best reasons for supporting the present shadow Chancellor (Gids in the Spectator: “Tamsin Lightwood”) is that Lord Mandelson (who is currently riding for another fall over his mortgage) wants to split him off from the Conservatives in revenge for being shown up with Mr Deripaska (Spectator gossip here!)

    All I beg is this: PLEASE don’t lose the next election. I do not want to die in a Saudi Old Peoples’ Home!

  12. Brigham
    January 16, 2009

    One thing I can’t forget about Ken Clarke is that he was the first one to mess up the NHS, closely followed by Virginia Bottomly. Of course neither of them were as bad as the lot in now, but the internal market was started by Ken.

    Reply: We needed sensible change in the NHS, and Ken did well in that brief.

  13. Matthew Reynolds
    January 16, 2009

    John please stop sniping at Ken Clarke ! You have allowed some critical comments about Ken that are just not true- he is not a socialist at all and words like collaborator align him with French people during The Vichy Regime who backed their evil policies. This is just stupid & over the top !

    For an intelligent man allowing some of these idiotic & offensive statements is just wrong plain & simple.

    I understand your support for George Osborne but just to be clear Ken backed the VAT reduction only if there was a concerted plan to balance the books. He is very popular with a great many people and as someone who backed him in the last three leadership elections I do wonder if we would have done quite so badly in 2001 or 2005 had that fine chap been in charge. The Liberals would have won less of the anti-government protest vote as decent fair-minded people would have had a home in a sensible Tory Party that talked about better public services rather than ranting a la Alf Garnett about immigration in a disgusting fashion.

    By all means back George Osborne – but indulging in petty & divisive rudeness is just uncalled for. Come on John leave the spin alone and stick to the substance
    Reply: I have said nothing rude about Ken nor will I. I try to edit out personal comments against anyone, and am a bit overwhelmed at the moment by the numbers of responses.

    1. Matthew Reynolds
      January 17, 2009

      I am not suggesting that you yourself have made any rude comments about our beloved former chancellor but sadly some less than civil types have written defamatory things about one of the Conservatives more popular MP’s.

      I do understand that it takes time to edit things out as your blog being excellent is thus very popular and so you have much to sift through. I am very grateful to you for publishing my remarks and I always enjoy your common-sense views & ideas.

      Please keep up the good work and thanks once again!

  14. Atlas shrugged
    January 16, 2009


    You always speak with common sense IMHO.

    Have you ever wondered if this is the reason why you are not the shadow chancellor, and will most likely not ever be The Chancellor either?

    IMO you would knock the spots off of both Ozzy and Old Hush Puppies.

    Have you ever wondered why it is that others around you seem to have common sense when it comes to almost everything else but government finances, and especially government borrowing?

    Do you believe it could have something to do with the way our current banking system has always ‘operated’ within the corridors of parliamentary power?

    In your opinion why do we not simply issue and control our own money. Instead of allowing the Central Bank to do it for us, and change us all interests for the monopoly rights to do so.

    Why is it I can not issue my own money notes or coins. If not myself, why can no other bank other then The Bank of England issue currency.

    Is this country not as free a country as it says on the tin John?

    If private and state monopoly is bad, which as a Conservative I hope you will agree with myself, that they most surly are both very bad indeed. while being potentially very much worse then that. Why is it that the most important monopoly of them all, which is the issuing of any national or international currency, is not being currently investigated by the Monopolies Commission?

    These are serious questions that really do need well researched answers, not knee jerk misinformed reactions. If you still believe that The Bank of England is a truly nationalized independent or morally controlled institution, please think again.

  15. Alan Wheatley
    January 16, 2009

    Margaret Thatcher in her excellent book, Statecraft, reports on her unsatisfactory experience of negotiating with the EU. She makes it clear that there is not much prospect of the UK ever bringing about a change of EU direction.

  16. richard lilley
    January 16, 2009

    An impeccable argument: loyal and honest. I think George Osborne is doing well and sacking him, however it is dressed up, would be a very bad move. Replacing him with Ken would be your opponents dream outcome. Electorally George has the benefit of the doubt; there is no doubt what you’re getting with the admirable Ken.

    I was pleased to see from your reply that you are happy with the role of economic adviser. I have tended to assume that the exclusion of your obvious intellectual and political talent from a front rank role also illustrated hostility to your analysis and ideas. I sincerely hope the word happy means that those you advise are engaged with both.

  17. Lord Elvis of Paisley
    January 17, 2009

    Something I blogged about just the other, but not in such an eloquent and thought-out way as yourself. Bringing back Clarke would be a disaster.

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