Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

C-Charge Confusion Mr Clarke Gets It Wrong - Again

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

C-Charge Confusion Mr Clarke Gets It Wrong - Again

Article excerpt

Selecting pupils IF THERE were any Tories who nursed doubts about the wisdom of passing over Kenneth Clarke as party leader for the third time this September, those doubts will have been dispelled by his outburst yesterday.

He condemned David Cameron's approach to Europe in an interview on BBC television, criticising his decision to withdraw Tory MEPs from affiliation with the European People's Party in the European parliament as a new "slightly headbanging ... position". He went on to warn that Mr Cameron risked becoming a more extreme Eurosceptic than any of his predecessors.

This extraordinarily ill-judged barrage of criticism goes to prove what Mr Clarke's critics had maintained all along - that the man, for all his urbanity and intelligence, is too obsessed by Europe to have had any hope of uniting the Conservatives. If he can do this much damage in his position as a former leadership contender and head of a policy task force on Parliament and democracy, it is sobering to think what he could have done to divide the party if he were at its head. Mr Cameron's first few days as leader had been extraordinarily successful - until Mr Clarke presented grateful Labour spin-doctors with the gift of resurrecting Tory divisions over Europe. Apart from a few political obsessives, not may people in Britain had heard about the European People's Party until Mr Cameron withdrew the Tories from it.

Even fewer cared. What does make an impact in the country, however, is the idea that the Conservatives are so divided on this issue that they cannot function as a rational whole. It was that perception that helped destroy the Tories in two elections. Mr Clarke, in the course of a couple of minutes, single-handedly brought those suspicions back to life. It was arrogance of an unforgivable kind.

Mr Clarke is a bad loser.

THE ROW which we report today over the admissions policy of an excellent London state school throws into sharp relief an issue of profound concern - the autonomy of schools. Coopers' Company and Coborn School in Upminster receives about four applications for every place. Virtually all its pupils achieve five decent GCSEs. …

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