Ken Clarke: “George wants me in to keep an eye on Vince, and Vince wants me in to keep an eye on George”

Former chancellor talks about the “comic shambles” of the reshuffle

Former chancellor Ken Clarke has issued a warning that it will be a “long haul” till economic recovery is acheived.

Speaking to supporters of the Tory Reform Group at the Carlton Club last night, Clarke underlined the seriousness of the economic situation.

“Two parties have come together to sort out the economic mess. We’ve got a deficit the size of Greece, we’ve got a real job on our hands”

“I don’t want to bring too much gloom, but it will be a long haul”

He praised the performance of prime minister David Cameron as Tory leader, coping “with the right [of the party] acting up again”. “The party has accidentally drifted to the right”, he warned.

Clarke, who was stripped of his role as justice secretary after the reshuffle, joked about his new position as minister without portfolio.

“I deny any suggestion that I got the job of minister without portfolio because I’ve had all the rest of them”.

He described his job as “slotting into the bewildering range of things that the government is doing”, describing the agenda as an “alphabet soup”.

Clarke dismissed rumours of any feuds between him and the prime minister over the direction of the reshuffle.

“This has been my umpteenth reshuffle”, he said, “I’m pleased with the move. I told David at the beginning that I was only going to serve a couple of years as justice secretary”.

Media reports that he was “fighting for his job” in the run up to the reshuffle were misplaced, he said, as “I had been on holiday the whole time”!

He also joked about why he was still in place as a minister, helping guide economic policy.

“George wants me in to keep an eye on Vince, and Vince wants me in to keep an eye on George”.

He praised Chris Grayling, his successor as justice secretary, sidelining any suggestions of a lurch to the right at the ministry of justice as “the rhetoric may change but the substance will stay the same”.

P.S It’d appear our quotes have caused a stir, with the former chancellor hitting back:

“They give the opposite impression to the serious points I clearly made.  It is slightly altered little phrases taken from different jokes and put together. I made the case for a successful coalition and stated there was no ideological divide within it on economic policy.  On the economy I stressed that we were in for the long haul and that the Chancellor’s approach is the right one.  I also said in passing that the reshuffle should not be interpreted as a shift to the right.  Even I am surprised at distortions on this sort of scale.”

A classic non-denial denial…!

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