Ken Clarke ‘Laid Back’ About PM’s Reshuffle
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has brushed off claims he is resisting a move as part of David Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle next month.
It had been reported that Mr Clarke was warning an attempt to parachute a right-wing Tory into his post would “retoxify” the party and that he was determined to stay put.
But the veteran Tory, 72, released a statement on Monday, insisting that he is “totally laid back” about his fate in the impending shake-up.
“I have never had any conversations of any kind with the Prime Minister or anyone acting on his behalf about a reshuffle,” he said.
“I am totally laid back about a reshuffle and am waiting to see whether or not it affects me.”
Moving the Justice Secretary could be key to renewing the line-up because other major roles such as Chancellor, Foreign and Home Secretary are unlikely to change.
It would also allow Mr Cameron to appease the Tory right, which has been angered by some of Mr Clarke’s policies on law and order and want a tougher approach.
But a Tory MP quoted by The Daily Telegraph said: “Ken does not want to leave the Ministry of Justice and has let the PM know this. He feels absolutely fighting fit and is only halfway through his big reforms.
“He might have been a bit down in the dumps last year but he’s had a new lease of life since Christmas and feels he has more to offer.”
However, another Tory quoted by the paper insisted: “Ken must accept he has had his day and it is time to move on. We must send out to voters a coherent and tough message on law and order.”
Mr Clarke is the Tories’ most experienced Cabinet minister and has been education, home and health secretary as well as chancellor in previous governments.
Senior Lib Dems will not want to lose the Justice Secretary, who has been dubbed the “sixth Lib Dem in the coalition” because of his more liberal views.
“The last thing we want to see is him being given the boot to make way for a hang ‘em and flog ‘em old-style Tory,” sources quoted in The Independent said.
Mr Cameron is reported to have been considering moving Mr Clarke to Leader of the Commons, which is a senior position but usually given to politicians at the end of their careers.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling and Police Minister Nick Herbert have both been tipped for promotion.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson have also been linked to Mr Clarke’s job.
The Prime Minister is also expected to create a new party chairman, moving Baroness Warsi.
He is under pressure to strip Chancellor George Osborne of his role as political strategist so that he can concentrate on the economy.