Politics.co.uk Blog

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Exclusive: Ken Clarke speaks (for 30 seconds)

politics.co.uk is a growing and well-respected internet publication, providing insightful comment and analysis on the latest development at the heart of the political world. But even we sometimes struggle for an interview.

The Conservative party conference in Manchester should be an ideal hunting ground for shadow Cabinet members eager to vent their views. The florid Ken Clarke, in the running to step into Peter Mandelson's shoes as business secretary in the event of a Conservative general election victory, is about as colourful as they come. It was the work of a moment to arrange a timeslot to interview him.

Alas, it seemed for many lingering hours as if it were not to be. Mr Clarke darted from Radio 5 Live to News 24, from PM to Sky, like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Your correspondent hopped from foot to foot as he did so, growing ever more impatient as Ken strode through the media colossi standing in his way. After what felt like decades, the opportunity arose. One question, right in front of the main lectern of the auditorium. The opportunity of a lifetime. Well, of an afternoon.

Question: How important is experience in government - and how much is it a problem that you're the only one with any in the shadow Cabinet?

The answer began before the second half was complete - and focused solely on George Osborne, who Clarke revealed is "impatient to become chancellor".

"He's doing a lot of work now which he can't put into practice because, as it were, Gordon won't get out of the way," he began.

"I talk to these things with him. I go to meetings. Some of the things I go through with him in detail. Some of course he does with the rest of his team. I just hope my experience is useful.

"I have strong views on the subject, so I let him have the benefit of his opinions, but he's free to agree or not."

A magnificent haul of journalistic gold, you will doubtless agree. You have to, for the suggestion otherwise that this was a poor result of an hour's impatient labour would be devastating in the extreme.

"I'm sorry," Ken's minder interjected. "That's got to be it." A final chuckle from the man himself, before he flitted off once more into the Manchester sunset.

The day will come when politics.co.uk commands the instant attention of prime ministers around the world. For now, at least, we must settle for what we can get.

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