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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Clarke reveals rows with Thatcher
Kenneth Clarke
Mr Clarke has twice failed in Conservative leadership contests
Ken Clarke has lifted the lid on his arguments with Margaret Thatcher.

The ex-Cabinet minister described working with the former prime minister as "great fun" as long as you could stand the almost permanent hassle.

In some arguments, both of them could not finish a sentence because they kept interrupting each other, he told a Tory conference fringe meeting.

"I used to have terrible rows with her but all she did was promote me," joked the leadership contender.

'Combat'

Mr Clarke told the Bow Group his plans would mean less power resting with the prime minister directly.

But he still believed in having a strong prime minister, describing himself as a "combative man".

Mr Clarke recalled Lady Thatcher would speak for half the time in committee meetings and other ministers for the rest.

"I have a rather bad habit of interrupting people and I am not short of things to say myself," he confessed.

"We could have rows in which neither of us was able to finish a sentence."

'Conviction politics'

Mr Clarke invoked memories of Baroness Thatcher as he called for an end to spin in politics.

Lady Thatcher had never used focus groups or decided policies on the basis of how they would play in the next day's newspapers but on what was best for the country, he argued.

"Conviction" was needed to restore public trust in politics, he said.

Mr Clarke said he wanted to dismantle the prime minister's office created by Tony Blair - a unit Baroness Thatcher had never had.

Proper Cabinet government had to be restored and more power given to Parliament, he said.

He attacked Tony Blair's "presidential style", where key decisions were taken on sofas with unknown advisers, he argued.

Downing Street chief-of-staff Jonathan Powell, a political appointee, was more powerful than two thirds of the Cabinet, he claimed.

He vowed to halve the number of special advisers if he became prime minister and ensure they did not initiate policy.

Shadow cabinet job?

Mr Clarke said he did not know whether he would serve on the Tory front bench if he failed to win the leadership contest.

It would depend on whether he was asked, what job he was offered and whether he thought he would be "parked" on the front bench for six months before being fired.

The former chancellor said William Hague had asked him to be his deputy leader after the 1997 leadership election - but he had not been asked again since.

Mr Clarke said he had served on Michael Howard's advisory council with ex-leaders Mr Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.

"He received a bewildering range of advice but mine was very good," he joked.




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