Cameron is lucky that the Tory party rejected its most popular MP’s third attempt to become leader in 2005. Many believe that Kenneth Clarke would have been a bolder leader, whose opposition to ideological tax cuts would have provided the “Clause Four moment” that Cameron believes unnecessary. The two men are not natural allies, and Clarke rejected appeals from Cameron to hold back from running. A passionate pro-European, Clarke remains a threat because a principled resignation from such a prominent figure would spark a crisis
for the leader.
The other danger with Clarke is that he is never afraid to speak his mind, as he has done already on the Tories’ flagship policy of inheritance tax cuts. He declared that it would not be a “priority”, before he was reined in by party officials (frequently infuriated in any case by this unspun man in the Hush Puppies, whose mobile phone is almost always switched off). Clarke is probably too old for another tilt at the leadership, but if Cameron dares to drop him from the cabinet once in government, having used his popularity in the campaign – or if the party loses the election because it has not changed enough – he remains one to watch.