Ken Clarke: My ‘complacent’ generation sowed seeds of populism

LONDON — Ken Clarke was in a reflective mood.

“I’m a member of the 1990s establishment,” the veteran Conservative Party MP said, sitting at the desk of his parliamentary office in London, looking out over sweeping views of Westminster Bridge and the River Thames. “We were very pleased with ourselves for setting up the great normality.”

That world has gone, said Clarke, 78. Populism is everywhere.

“We were complacent.”

Clarke is a genuine “big beast” of Westminster, the longest serving MP — or father of the House — and perennial nominee in the “best prime minister who never was” stakes. Under Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron he served as home secretary, chancellor, health secretary and justice secretary.

“It’s not just the British where this woeful state of affairs exists” — Ken Clarke

From the backbenches, he now watches as the world he helped build crumbles around him.

“The Americans have got Trump, we’ve got Brexit and the French have got Yellow Jackets,” he said. “It’s not just the British where this woeful state of affairs exists.”

Fuelling it all are the left-behinds, he said, who did not benefit from the boom time of the 1990s and 2000s and then were forced to pay for the 2008 crash.

If Clarke was back in government he would be advocating the kind of reforms the Gilet Jaunes forced upon Emmanuel Macron — tax breaks and welfare increases to ease people’s cost of living. 

Then-British Prime Minister John Major,

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