Ken is one of those mock Tories who adore Conservative votes but hate conservative policies, never mind principles.
He chooses to convey the image of a convivial bloke who likes nothing more than spending an evening in front of the telly, slippers on his feet, a fag in his mouth, a can of lager grafted into his palm. What’s worse is that the image is true to life.
This doesn’t quite go with his much publicised affection for Europe, or wouldn’t if ‘Europe’ in his vocabulary signified a cultural entity, not a political one. As things stand, it’s a perfect fit. Culturally, Ken would be prepared to wear Union Jack shorts in public. Politically, he loves the EU.
This love doesn’t just dare speak its name – Ken is prepared to scream it off the rooftops or into BBC mikes, whichever is on offer. This morning it’s Radio Four that obligingly provided a vent for his outpourings.
Ken began by acknowledging that the government wouldn’t be re-elected if the vote were held today. He didn’t say which party the coalition would lose to, but that doesn’t need saying for it can only be Labour. In other words, in Ken’s political judgment, the government of which he is a member would lose an election to a party that a mere two years ago led the country to the edge of a precipice. And it still remains to be seen whether it was to the edge or over it.
Such a political hara-kiri takes some doing, and the horrible thing is that Ken is probably right. In two short years the British public has decided that Labour would be the lesser evil after all. Ken’s observation seems trustworthy, but what about his analysis? How did the Tories manage first not to score an outright victory over the worst government in British history, and then make the people feel nostalgic for it? Simple. Dave, according to Ken, runs a ‘strong government’, and strong governments ‘do unpopular things’.
Ken ought to know – after all he served in the government of Mrs Thatcher, as she was then. Now that government definitely was strong, and it certainly did unpopular things. Yet it managed to win a few election by increasing margins.
Something here doesn’t add up. Either British people congenitally oppose a strong government that does unpopular things, or they don’t. If they do, then Mrs Thatcher wouldn’t have won those elections. So they don’t. Hence, if the people are prepared to kick out Ken’s fellow mock Tories, then the British don’t necessarily perceive this government as strong – and only a strong government can get away with doing unpopular things.
Such a government would call a referendum on EU membership – it would be prepared to take any consequences to stop the on-going constitutional sabotage destroying Britain as a sovereign state. Moreover, this would be one of the few popular things the government would have done: the People’s Pledge campaign is showing that 89.9 percent are in favour of an in-or-out referendum.
Yet according to Ken, ‘It is the demand of a few right-wing journalists and a few extreme nationalist politicians.’ This means that individuals falling into these two disagreeable groups make up close to 90 percent of the population. The figure sounds improbable, though I’m man enough to admit that I haven’t done my own calculations.
Looking for arguments against the referendum, Ken and his ilk rely on the proven fait accompli stratagem, which they use as an all-purpose weapon against sanity. ‘Like it or not,’ they say or imply, ‘we are in the EU. Leaving it now would [insert your own disaster]. It’s no use arguing whether we should or shouldn’t have joined. We did; our bed is made, now we must lie in it.’
The same argument also sees the light of day whenever the subject of the welfare state comes up, and someone shows, figures in hands, that it’s simply no longer sustainable – financially, morally, socially, culturally or in any other way you care to name. ‘Yes,’ acknowledge Ken’s ideological brethren, ‘you may be right. But the welfare state exists, it incorporates millions. Cutting them off now would produce a social catastrophe.’ In other words, what’s done can’t be undone, so we must do more of it.
The intellectual rigour of such ratiocination neatly complements Ken’s affection for soap operas and lager. It’s there to remind us all that any manifestly idiotic, ideologically motivated initiative of any government must be fought tooth and nail, with civil disobedience if necessary. For once it’s in place, it’ll stay there.
‘I can’t think of anything sillier to do,’ says Ken about the possibility of a referendum. ‘It would settle nothing’. Oh yes it would. It would settle the issue of Britain’s independence. And, as a bonus, it might drag Ken Clarke out of government and plonk him where he belongs: in front of Coronation Street.