Blue Monday indeed! I awoke this morning only to discover Ken Clarke’s face on the front page of the BBC News website. The occasion for this is, it seems, David Cameron’s striking decision to mark yet another government bail-out of the banking system — plus the inauguration of the new, glamorous, wildly popular 47-year old US president — by begging a tired, serially unsuccessful and far from popular 68-year old parliamentary colleague to accept the role of business secretary within the Conservative shadow cabinet.
The enormity of this mistake has very little to do with Clarke’s well-rehearsed Europhile enthusiasms. For one thing, Clarke’s no more out of step with mainstream party sentiment on this than he is on plenty of other issues. At the same time, the leadership itself is now so oblivious of mainstream party sentiment, where it isn’t simply aware of it and hence contemptuous of it, that Clarke’s weirder eccentricities (dreaming of a coalition with the LibDems, for instance) hardly register. Continue reading