Ken Clarke to become UK trade envoy

Veteran Tory minister Kenneth Clarke has accepted a new role as the UK's travelling trade envoy.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

He has been a stalwart of Conservative politics for more than 40 years, holding just about every major office of state you would care to mention, including chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary and justice secretary, but never PM. Now he will focus on promoting British skills and expertise on foreign soil, largely with the explosive emerging economies such as China and Brazil. 

With China, the bulk of his energy will be used promoting healthcare expertise, a market which it is thought will come to be worth around £400bn over the next 10 years. In Brazil, the focus is likely to be on energy – the PM has already primed the pump with a recent visit to Brazil, so old Clarkey will be hoping he can build on whatever rapport Cameron managed to drum up whilst he was over there.

At 72 years of age, we’re surprised he has accepted such a job, given that it will entail a gruelling schedule of world travel, not to mention the meeting and greeting of dignitaries and important trade visitors at home. It is also a surprisingly serious role given that the recent cabinet reshuffle made it seem as though Clarke was ‘being retired’ by Cameron: he was given a role as minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office. 

This is typically given as a sort of ‘wise head’ advisory role to the PM. The reshuffle saw him lost his post as justice secretary. When asked whether he was humiliated by the move, he said: ‘At my age you do occasionally have to step down from a heavy departmental role before you suddenly realise that you can no longer quite handle it.’

Given that Clarke will be 75 by the time of the next election, and that he has contested the Tory leadership three times already, we reckon this could be his last hurrah before ducking out of politics. A last chance to shine for one of the most consistently popular Tory big beasts of recent years…

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