Veteran Tory MP and former Cabinet Minister, Ken Clarke, has an autobiography out later this week and highlights have been running in The Times. Today, in an extract focused upon his leadership elections (he ran three times for Tory leader). He makes a particularly interesting observation relating to the 2001 contest. This race featured Clarke, Michael Ancram, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Portillo. IDS would ultimately win that race and was then knifed by his own party before the 2005 General Election as they tried to avoid another slaughter at the polls.
Clarke thought the 2001 race would ultimately be a run off between Michael Portillo and himself. He notes there and been various news stories about Portillo’s private life (Portillo had previously shared ‘gay experiences’ in his youth) and comments:
‘…if Portillo and I had got through to the final stage, the Conservative Party would have been required to choose between two of its more unpalatable prejudices. The outcome would have been determined by whether the party was more Europhobic than homophobic or vice versa. Faced with he choice at that time, they would almost certainly have plumped for me.’
It’s a fascinating and revealing comment. Ultimately, Clarke thought that despite the Europhobia of the then Tory Party, that would be outweighed by how homophobic the party was. Ultimately they would choose a former Maastricht Eurosceptic rebel (IDS) and then replace him by one of John Major’s ‘bastard’ eurosceptics (Howard) before ultimately electing David Cameron who would go on to extol the virtues of same-sex marriage.
Yet, as the Tory Party gears up for Theresa May’s address tomorrow, there is irony that ultimately, Cameron – who’s secured his leadership by reaching out to the Eurosceptics – would be forced from office by the issue of Europe. Yet, as May seeks to assert a new administration, it remains to be seen whether her brand of Conservatism will also signal a reset on social issues.
Perhaps one such test is the Digital Economy Bill, introduced under Cameron and proceeding under May. This piece of legislation continues the attacks on the porn industry, with ill thought-out and draconian laws passed amidst little public scrutiny. This time, age verification is the issue of debate and Girl on the Net has blogged an excellent piece exploring this issue.
Groucho Marx is purported to have said ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that will have me as a member’. It is rather sad that Clarke would have readily embraced the leadership of a party that by his own account, was so utterly homophobic.