'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Friday 20 May 2011

Deep sighs but credit where it's due. Miliband played a blinder for progressives everywhere at PMQ's yesterday.

This isn't a post attacking or defending Ken Clarke. Plenty of others have done that already. This is about the politics which played out on Wednesday.

While few would defend the stupid language Ken Clarke used, it is an undeniable truth that were he to be sacked, he would almost certainly be replaced by a figure more to the right. And I doubt if anyone in either our own party or Labour would welcome that - as ably illustrated by Ben Chu in The Independent yesterday.

So what was Ed Miliband thinking about when he called for him to be sacked at PMQ's? Clever politics, that's what.

Firstly, Miliband probably was as outraged as everyone else by Clarke's comments. But he wouldn't want Clarke replaced either. And I'm guessing he calculated that the surest way of keeping Ken in post was...to demand he was sacked. After that, Cameron could do nothing but keep Ken in position, or else look like he was caving in to Miliband.

So instead of seeing Ken replaced by a more right wing option, by calling for his sacking, in one deft move Miliband:

1. Kept Ken Clarke at Justice
2. Positioned himself and Labour to the right of the Tories on crime - which is astonishing when you consider that the move to reduce sentencing in return for an early guilty plea was a policy introduced by Labour.
3. Played well to his own party by doing exactly the right thing, both as the Leader of the Opposition and probably morally to boot.
4. Looked strong and decisive.
5. Made Cameron look defensive and even uncertain of his brief - 'I haven't heard the interview yet' was not a great line to play.

Clever stuff. So credit where credit's due. Even if I do have to type it with a sulky frown.

Doesn't mean I forgive Ken Clarke though.

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