Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ken Clarke

Alex Massie gives a fitting instant tribute to the last of the big beasts:

"But what a career it has been. Forty four years an MP. Successively, Paymaster General, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State for Health, Secretary of State for Education, Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and, finally and a little sadly, Minister without Portfolio."

And this:

"Sometimes, however, you get the sense that some parts of the Tory party these days think there’s something weak or feeble about Conservatism that comes with a human – even humane – face. They are wrong about that, however. Decency is a useful, valuable commodity. It helps you earn respect and respect helps get you a hearing.

That need not be confused with a sense of intellectual frailty or a limp approach to urgent policy questions. Sometimes I think that some Tories still make this mistake too. If being liked, or at least respected by the public, is not enough it is at least a useful start.

I once saw Ken Clarke give a talk to a hostile room: hostile because of Europe, I should add, i.e. angry and not afraid to say so. He was immensely impressive. Calm, reasonable, authoritative, knowledgeable - he had (has?) the knack of what I would call persuasive explanation, namely explaining things so that the listener understands them - and understands them in the same way as the speaker, showing, for example, that this is important, whereas that is not in a way that conveys a coherent picture of the world. And all this was done, as I say, in very trying circumstances. That was what made him a success: the shoes and the jazz mean nothing.

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