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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Heseltine: Bring back Clarke
Heseltine, Blair, Clarke
Both Mr Heseltine and Tony Blair have praised Mr Clarke
Former Tory deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine has called for former chancellor Kenneth Clarke to be brought into the shadow cabinet.

The veteran politician described Mr Clarke as "the biggest Tory around", saying his exclusion symbolised the Conservatives' split over Europe.

You should... have freedom of expression and bring back the centrist element of the Tory Party

Michael Heseltine
William Hague defeated Mr Clarke in the final round in the battle for the Tory leadership after the last general election. Since then, Mr Clarke has remained on the backbenches.

Mr Heseltine, who is standing down at the next election, spoke out in an interview in The Spectator magazine with its editor Boris Johnson, who is to succeed him as Conservative candidate for Henley.

Mr Clarke's pro-Europe views are well-known.

'Xenophobia' under attack

Mr Heseltine said: "The real schism in the Tory party is Europe, symbolised by the fact that Ken Clarke is the biggest Tory around and is not in the shadow cabinet.

"In the last 24 hours, a senior civil servant and a senior journalist have told me that 'You, the opposition, have created a Tory party in which there is no place for us', and these are people who have been down-the-line Tories all their lives."

He said the image created by the Tory policy on Europe appeared as nationalist xenophobia.

"When you add to that the issues of race and immigration they all seem of a kind," he said.

"You should do what Wilson did in 1975," Mr Heseltine continued, "have freedom of expression and bring back the centrist element of the Tory Party."

He said he did not believe there were votes to be won on any scale over Europe, insisting that the European process was now as "irreversible and unstoppable as anything in politics ever is".

Mr Johnson paraphrased Mr Heseltine's view as saying that "one day Britain will be to Europe as Wessex is to Britain: just folded in, forgotten, a fossilised relic of a former division, nothing but the quaintly named province of a single state."

Mr Heseltine later reaffirmed his view at a book launch, saying: "I think it is extraordinary that Ken Clarke is not a leading member of the Tory front bench, incomparably the biggest personality around in the context."

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