Minister Without Portfolio Kenneth Clarke. Photo: Wikimedia
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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.

 

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FTSE 100 plunges after Theresa May signals hard Brexit ahead

The Prime Minister is to lay out her Brexit plan later today. 

The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 plummeted this morning after the Prime Minister signalled Brexit will mean leaving the single market.

Theresa May is expected to rule out "partial membership" or any other kind of "half-in, half-out" deal with the EU in a speech later today.

The FTSE 100, the index of the UK's 100 biggest companies, and the FTSE 250 both fell more than 0.3 per cent immediately after opening. 

The worst performers included the housebuilder Barratt Developments, consumer goods tester Intertek and the mining company BHP.

Stock markets have been buoyant since Brexit, in part because many of Britain's biggest companies are international and benefit from a devalued pound. 

However, while markets fell, the pound crept up against the dollar, to $1.21. 

Critics of the Prime Minister say she is sacrificing the economy to prioritise immigration controls.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady warned: "If we leave the single market, working people will end up paying the price. It'd be bad for jobs, for work rights & for our living standards."

According to the Office for National Statistics, inflation rose from 1.2 per cent in November to 1.6 per cent in December. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.