By Monitor

SUGGESTIONS that the Iraq crisis and the opposition to it in the Labour Party might lead to the formation of a centre–right coalition in Britain have generally been dismissed as fanciful. Perhaps so. But the interview given by Kenneth Clarke on BBC radio's Today programme on Thursday morning showed that such a coalition would not necessarily, as is assumed, be of the centre–right and made up of Blair loyalists from Labour and willing Conservatives. Mr Clarke sounded more like the Labour MPs who rebelled against the government in the recent House of Commons vote – in which, of course, he also voted against the government and Mr Duncan Smith's position. Starting from a consideration of international law which, he said, Britain has worked so hard to establish, he insisted that it would be wrong to follow blindly the Washington hawks into war. Mr Clarke is unquestionably his own man. If he is really interested in leading the Conservative Party in the near future, he is going about it in an extremely original way. Still a strong European and in favour of membership of the single currency and thus aligned with Tony Blair, he is nonetheless closer to the Labour left on Iraq than to the government or his own leader. Possibly he just doesn't care any more, or is it that he reckons the British people are getting tired of machine politics and would like to see someone who trusts his instincts in charge?


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