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Saturday, 30 June, 2001, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Clarke offers jobs to rivals
Ken Clarke
Clarke would invite this rivals into his shadow cabinet
Conservative leadership challenger Ken Clarke says he would invite his rivals into his shadow cabinet if he wins the job.

The former chancellor has already said he would ask Michael Portillo to serve under him and has now gone one step further.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper he extends the offer for the first time to the other contenders - David Davis, Michael Ancram and Iain Duncan Smith.

I think Michael Portillo would make a rather good economic policy maker

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke's comments come as a survey suggested nearly a third of Conservative officials want him to lead their party.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Clarke said he would be "mad" not to give current shadow chancellor Michael Portillo a senior position.

"It wouldn't be difficult to have him as shadow chancellor," said Mr Clarke.

"As far as I'm aware he and I have never had any serious differences on economic policy.

"I think he'd make a rather good economic policy maker."
Michael Portillo
Portillo has the lead in MPs' support

Mr Portillo said on Friday he would be prepared "in principle" to serve under any of his rivals for the Tory crown, although there might be "policy issues to be resolved".

That will be seen as a reference to the policy on joining the euro, although Mr Portillo refuses to say whether he thinks the pro-European Mr Clarke could lead a Eurosceptic Tory party.

Mr Clarke said when he entered the leadership race that the public saw only Mr Portillo and himself as the only candidates who were now credible potential prime ministers.

But in the interview he said of the other three contenders: "They are developed people of Cabinet standing.

"I'd want to include them all in my shadow cabinet."

He has made it clear he would only return to the frontbench himself as leader.

Starter's orders

The deadline for nominations for the leadership contest closes on Thursday.

And MPs now have 10 days to decide how they cast their vote in the first ballot, to be held on the following Tuesday.

By mid-July, they are expected to whittle the field down to the two challengers who go before a vote of the 300,000 party members.

Grassroots support

The Independent newspaper found 30.4% of the 181 local Tory officials it polled would back him to succeed William Hague.

Another 23.2% supported Mr Portillo, 17.7% Mr Ancram, 14.9% Mr Davis and 12.2% Mr Duncan Smith. Three officials backed none of the five.

Other opinion polls have this week suggested the former chancellor is the favourite among Tory voters and the wider electorate.

That may prove vital when it comes when grassroots members vote in the final round but the contenders must first clear the hurdle of gaining the backing of their colleagues.

Public support

So far, Mr Portillo has attracted the most public support from Conservative MPs.

Of the 82 who have publicly declared who they are backing, 32 are for Mr Portillo, 22 for Mr Duncan Smith, 12 for Mr Clarke, nine for Mr Davis and seven for Mr Ancram.

As the behind-the-scenes wrangling to win over the remaining 84 MPs continues, most the candidates are appearing on Sunday's political programmes to appeal to the wider public and grassroots Tories.

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See also:

29 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Portillo welcomes Clarke challenge
29 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Bookies take money on Clarke
28 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Vote beckons in Tory race
27 Jun 01 | UK
Clarke faces a gut reaction
27 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Who's backing whom?
30 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Race row MP forced to apologise
28 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Clarke vows to stay a heavyweight
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