Minister Without Portfolio Kenneth Clarke. Photo: Wikimedia
Show Hide image

Ken Clarke’s spectacularly unhelpful interview

The Minister Without Portfolio took a swipe at the Prime Minister.

Tory grandee Ken Clarke turned up on the BBC’s World at One at lunchtime to have a concerted dig at David Cameron.

He pronounced it "unwise" for the Prime Minister to have made a statement yesterday apologising for hiring Andy Coulson, after the former aide was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones when he was editor of the News of the World.

Clarke asserted: “It’s clear that nobody took legal advice,” adding "I doubt whether it ever crossed David's mind" to seek legal counsel. In fact, Cameron had consulted the Attorney General, gaining the best legal advice in the nation.

Upon being told this, Clarke simply muttered "I seem to be agreeing with the judge", alluding to the criticism heaped on Cameron by the judge in the phone hacking trial in court yesterday.

Mr Justice Saunders questioned the Prime Minister for making a "full and frank" apology while the jury was still deliberating on two further charges on Coulson. He said:
 

I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdicts" the judge, John Saunders, said in court.

"My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done. Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge."

If Clarke’s comments on the hacking verdict were not barbed enough, he then proceeded to take a swipe at Cameron for his tough stance against Jean-Claude Juncker, the leading candidate for the European Commission presidency.

Clarke said:

I’m one of the few people that has met Jean-Claude Juncker. Nobody knows exactly what he is supposed to have done wrong. The idea he’s an arch-federalist is slightly exaggerated. He’s not an arch-villain.”

Speculation is rife in Westminster that Clarke knows his head will roll in the imminent reshuffle. The Minister Without Portfolio came under fire from Labour earlier this year when it emerged that he had cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds despite not attending to any specific brief in government.

It emerged that the 73-year-old, who has spent 24 years in ministerial office in total, still had his own spin doctor, up to three officials working for him and went on nine foreign trips in less than a year.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496