Ken Clarke has warned Boris Johnson he must “stop campaigning and get on with governing”, condemning the prime minister for seemingly having no detailed plans for a final Brexit deal, or for other vital issues such as social care.
The veteran former Conservative MP, who stepped down from parliament at the election having been stripped of the Tory whip shortly beforehand, said Johnson should replace advisers such as Dominic Cummings with people who were able to govern.
Clarke said that while Johnson’s 80-strong majority meant he was able to run the country more or less as he chose, Clarke told BBC Radio 5 he had seen few signs yet of any coherent policy programme.
“Governing the country is more than going around saying, ‘Oooh, 2020 is going to be a golden year, and we’re going to be global Britain,’” he said. “At the moment we’ve got a stagnant, fragile economy, an angry, discontented population. It’s a very dangerous world out there in many, many ways.”
Clarke said Johnson’s policy vagueness was particularly acute on Brexit: “I could never get out of Boris – and nobody so far could get out of Boris – what he has in mind for the eventual deal. To say they’re generalities is an understatement.
“It’s not good sitting alongside the people who’ve been mandated by 27 other governments and just saying your aim is to be global Britain. They’ll say, ‘What are we going to do about nuclear safeguarding in Euratom?’”
Johnson had no policy on social care, the most pressing domestic issue, or on skills training and education, Clarke said.
One issue, he argued, was that Johnson wasstill surrounded by all the people who ran the campaign, such as Cummings. He said: “I don’t get the impression that they’ve yet pressed the government button. They’ve now got five years, and certainly for the first two or three they can do whatever they want. Do they know what they want? Are they prepared for that?”
Clarke added: “He’d better get on with it and shunt aside all these people who won the campaign for him, quite brilliantly, and get in some policy wonks, strengthen his cabinet, have some ministers who can take through some things that will make a real difference.”
Clarke compared the situation to the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s election win in 1987, when he first joined the cabinet. “She knew exactly what she was going to do,” he said. “We had detailed intentions to go for major structural reforms. And we got going straight away.”
After stepping down as MP for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire following almost 50 years in parliament, which he had decided to do before losing the Tory whip for rebelling over Brexit, Clarke said he was still fascinated by politics: “I now find I’m watching the parliament channel.”
Asked if he expected a peerage, Clarke said: “I’m not personally expecting to get the telephone call, but there we are. I think Mr Cummings has been assuring the newspapers that a whole lot of Brexiteers are going to be put in the House of Lords to give them some more voices there. So if Mr Cummings is making the appointments, I don’t think he’ll regard me as eligible for that.”
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