It is time for Labour to win the next general election and give the Conservatives “a rest”, Lord Clarke, the Tory grandee, suggested on Wednesday.
Lord Clarke, who was chancellor between 1993 and 1997, said he would vote for the Tories if he was allowed to cast a ballot – a change from his refusal to endorse Boris Johnson in 2019.
But his remarks are in line with a view expressed among some senior figures, and rebutted by the Government, that the Tories should spend a period in opposition after the infighting of recent years.
Asked by LBC’s Andrew Marr for his thoughts on the prospect of Sir Keir entering Downing Street, Lord Clarke replied: “Well I’d be disappointed, because if I had a vote – which as a peer I don’t – I would have voted for the Conservatives.
“But I’d feel as I felt when Tony Blair took over. I felt very angry because I was out of office, and the government, which I thought had a very successful economic policy, had been defeated.”
Speaking specifically about Sir Tony, he added: “What I felt was that he was the person with the capability and personality to be prime minister and not disgrace the country.
“And it’s probably about time the social democrats had a turn and give us a rest.”
At the height of bitter warring in the Conservative ranks last summer, Lord Patten and Lord Heseltine both argued that an election defeat could prove beneficial in the long term.
“There are divisions within the Conservative Party, which frankly – and I don’t like the idea – a lost election might do something to heal,” Lord Heseltine said in June.
Lord Clarke said while he could take both Mr Sunak and Sir Keir seriously, neither had “charisma”, adding: “If the British reject both of them [the major parties]… then the threat to our democracy is very high. I’m cheered up by the fact we’ve got Rishi Sunak facing Keir Starmer.”
He argued that an electoral “danger” was posed to Mr Sunak by Reform UK, the Right-wing party led by Richard Tice, which is currently polling at around eight per cent amid Tory grassroots frustration.
“The centre ground is wanting to feel some confidence in the Government again, so Reform is a danger,” he said. “But don’t start making stupid point-scoring off the French speeches to try to win Nigel Farage’s voters back.”