Clarke to stay quiet on Europe

By staff

Shadow business secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has refused to oppose the Tory position on Europe in the run-up to European elections, it was reported today.

Mr Clarke said he was not “seeking to change or challenge” Conservative policy as it was “reasonably moderate” and did not provide any barrier to him joining the shadow cabinet.

However, when asked if he would be actively campaigning for the Tories for the June 4th elections he said he would consider invitations but “would not be the most persuasive of advocates on some of their campaigning issues”.

The comments were made while discussing various topics in an interview with the Independent, including economic recovery, his return to front-bench politics and his connection to David Cameron losing his Treasury job in 1992.

Mr Clarke said the country needs “deregulation” to produce a strong recovery from the economic downturn.

He said that although we need tighter regulations for the City it was deregulation in other areas of the economy which would best aid recovery.

“We need to put in place a stronger system of regulation of financial services that will work effectively, without destroying the genuine strengths of the City of London as a financial centre,” said Mr Clarke.

“It is quite wrong to read across from this into arguments that more regulation is required for every sector of the economy.”

He added: “Extensive and pointless regulation remains a problem across the British economy.”

Potentially the next business secretary, Mr Clarke did not have any words of comfort for those hoping for a speedy economic recovery.

He said: “Total uncertainty about the length and depth of this recession is one of the most worrying and frightening features of the present situation.”

He said if he were business secretary right now he would devote all his energies to clearing up banks’ balance sheets, enabling normal commercial credit to begin to flow again.

Mr Clarke denied he had been responsible for Mr Cameron losing his job at the Treasury, although he admitted Mr Cameron does “tease” him about it.

“In fact, he lost his job there because he was political adviser to Norman Lamont,” said Mr Clarke.

“When I arrived to replace Norman I already had two special advisers who were coming with me.

“I probably lost an excellent special advisor and he went straight to another cabinet minister.”

Mr Clarke returned to the shadow Cabinet last month after eleven years as a backbencher.