Ken Clarke says David Cameron aide lied to keep him off TV

Written by David Singleton on 3 October 2016 in Diary

Tory grandee’s new book reveals how a No 10 press officer lied to BBC in a bid to keep him off the airwaves.

Ken Clarke has never been afraid to speak his mind about his colleagues. Earlier this year, he was filmed calling Theresa May ‘a bloody difficult woman’ and declaring that Andrea Leadsom had been saying ‘extremely stupid things’.

Now the Tory grandee has trained his sights on David Cameron, with his new book claiming that the former prime minister went a bit too far in trying to control his cabinet ministers.

The blistering assessment of Cameron’s regime comes in Clarke’s memoir, Kind of Blue, which is being serialised in the Times. He writes:

“David… believed in constant political campaigning as the daily style of politics and in exerting control-freak discipline over his colleagues, with steady injunctions about the use of set policy lines and slogans on all public occasions, of the kind which has given a talking clock style to many politicians.”

And what happened to those who refused to play ball?

Clarke outlines how he was almost ousted from an appearance on Question Time in 2014, when he was still a minister without portfolio in the government.

“At the last minute I was told by Downing Street that this had been cancelled because the programme had accidentally booked two Conservative ministers. I rang the producer to find out what had gone wrong.

“She had been told by the Downing Street press office that I was ill and unable to attend. The press officers had kindly offered to help the programme by finding somebody else to take my place.

“This was a silly and childish incident and I was reinstated on the programme and took part in the normal way. I was, however, particularly annoyed about being plotted against and deceived, and my personal attachment to continued office in the government was undoubtedly diminished.”

You can read the full extract here.

Cameron's former director of communications Craig Oilver has said that he does not "recognise" Clarke's claim. 

But speaking the Channel 4 News, he also defended the Cameron spin operation more generally. “The reality of being in a modern government is that you have to be able to fill the vacuum or it will be filled for you,” he said.


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