Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ken Clarke - principled and right on Europe.

Writing a tribute to Ken Clarke in the Daily Telegraph today  Iain Martin says "...he was wrong about European integration and the EU, on an epic scale."

This is the reverse of the truth. Ken Clarke has been the voice of sanity on Europe throughout his career. Where all too many Tories live in some phoney golden past in which Britain stands alone again, Ken has seen it and told it as it really is. The modern world is interdependent and you either build firm alliances or you sink. No European country eschews cooperation and only the uniquely rich Switzerland and Norway can afford to. Britain is bigger than these two States put together - and some - and central to the building of a modern cooperative Europe. 

The supreme folly of those who peddle the Europhobic line has challenged Ken for decades and he has fought them with style. He has always had right on his side and his Eurorealism has been consistent and admirable. It was the Conservative Party, especially under Heath, who pushed for Britain as a member of the EU (and its predecessors). Ken Clarke has been the inheritor of their vision. I hope that he will continue to fly the European flag - and his Party would do well to listen to him not to scorn. Britain's new Foreign Secretary is on record as wanting to leave the EU. Whether Hammond is playing internal Party politics in his Eurosceptism I don't know - he is seen as a possible leadership contender so he probably is. That alone shows the difference between the world of the Hammonds and the world of Ken.

Ken Clarke has not been wholly unpragmatic in politics - he wouldn't have succeeded as much as he has if he had been. But when it comes to what he truly believes in - especially over Europe - he has been consistent and honourable. There are not many in politics today with beliefs and values that are true and not created for personal advantage. We will miss the man who at times stood alone surrounded by colleagues always ready to stab him in the back. Well they've got their man at last - and the Government is much morally weaker for Ken's departure. 


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