Clarke: Theresa May is still leading a pro-EU Conservative party

PUBLISHED: 16:03 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 11 January 2019

Ken Clarke in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Ken Clarke in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Ken Clarke says that despite the Brexit debate being dominated by Eurosceptic voices from the Tory party, it goes against the long-standing general opinion within the Conservative Party.

He said that the Conservatives are a “pro-EU” party and that the United Kingdom is “not a right wing nation”.

Clarke, who as longest-serving male MP is father of the house, told the Press Association: “We hear a lot from the Brexiteers - Sir John Redwood, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the like - but the prime minister is leading a party that is very pro-EU in the House of Commons, and in the membership around the country.

He added: “We are not a right-wing nation.”

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The former chancellor said that the failure behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal was not to have reached out to the opposition.

He said: “I think the government should have started talks with Labour a long time ago.

“Not just the pro-EU members on the back benches, but the sensible figures on the front bench too.”

His comments come amid a growth in right-wing “yellow vest” protesters targeting MPs outside the House of Commons.

Theresa May told MPs that politicians and the media should be able to “go about their work without harassment and intimidation”, after a string of incidents including Tory pro-EU MP Anna Soubry being called a “Nazi” by pro-Brexit hecklers while doing live interviews on College Green.

Clarke said: “People are entitled to disagree with politicians and their opinions, that is part of democracy.

“But threats and harassment and frightening people is intolerable.”

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The veteran politician has supported Labour MP Harriet Harman’s calls for speaker John Bercow to arrange a Westminster conference on the issue, calling for greater clarity.

He asked: “Where is the line drawn between (democracy) and threats? Where does that boundary lie?”

Clarke made reference to the protesters in Parliament earlier in the week, responding to a debate intervention from Brexiteer Mark Francois by suggesting some colleagues “should don a yellow jacket and go outside”.

However, he has since clarified that the exchange was in good faith.

When asked about the interaction, he said: “We were joking, and I spoke to him about it later.

“I was trying to make my intervention, and I thought he was shouting at me, but he was in fact shouting at the speaker.

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“I was not frightened or intimidated by Mark Francois.”

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