'It's the Brexit Party rebadged' - Ken Clarke on losing his status as a Tory Party MP

PUBLISHED: 08:12 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:12 04 September 2019

Nicholas Soames and Ken Clarke appear on Newsnight. Photograph: BBC.

Nicholas Soames and Ken Clarke appear on Newsnight. Photograph: BBC.

Archant

Ken Clarke - a House of Commons veteran of nearly five decades - was among those to find themselves politically homeless after voting against the Government.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism

The Rushcliffe MP had the Tory whip removed, effectively expelling him from the parliamentary party, after joining opposition parties on Tuesday night to wrest control of the Commons agenda to block a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond who, until July 24, served as Chancellor was also among the 21 rebels, alongside Winston Churchill's grandson Sir Nicholas Soames and former justice secretary David Gauke.

After his sacking, Clarke said he was still a conservative but he had reservations about the party under Boris Johnson's leadership.

He told BBC's Newsnight: "I don't recognise this. It's the Brexit Party, rebadged.

"It's been taken over by a rather knockabout sort of character, who's got this bizarre crash-it-through philosophy... a cabinet which is the most right-wing cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced."

Clarke first entered the Commons in June 1970 - on the eve of Johnson's sixth birthday and when the current chief whip Mark Spencer was six months old - and served in the Cabinet for the 18 years of Margaret Thatcher and John Major's rule.

The 79-year-old has thrice stood - and thrice been defeated - for the Conservative leadership, with his stance on Europe differing from that of his Eurosceptic party.

Clarke added he was sceptical about whether Johnson was looking for a deal with the European Union ahead of the proposed Brexit date of October 31.

He told the programme: "He's obviously not trying to get a deal. I'm sure he'd prefer one if he thought he could get one past his right-wing supporters.

"But he's dug himself in, he assumes he's going to get no deal. Because he can't get the right wing of the Conservative Party, many of them now stuck in his Cabinet, to agree to it."

Sir Nicholas, who was returned alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Margaret Beckett in the 1983 general election, said he would be calling time on his parliamentary career if a snap general election was held.

He said his decision to rebel was "a pity" and not taken "lightly", but he felt "very strongly" about avoiding a no-deal.

He added: "The fact is I'm satisfied that (the prime minister) himself wants a deal, but the deal he wants is not available."

The Mid Sussex MP's views on Europe were similar to that of Clarke and he had previously lamented former Conservative leaders and their reluctance to take on the Eurosceptic wing of the party.

In an interview with ConservativeHome in 2016, he said: "If you have an Alsatian sitting in front of you, and it growls at you and bares its teeth, there are two ways of dealing with it.

"You can pat it on the head, in which case it'll bite you, or you can kick it really hard in the balls, in which case it'll run away.

"Successive prime ministers, and it's not the present prime minister alone (David Cameron), have never understood that they have to take these people on."

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a supporter

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Latest Articles

Most Read

latest issue

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Find your nearest anti-Brexit campaigning activities, talks, protests and events nationwide.