Tory heavyweight Ken Clarke calls for business back in St Albans speech

A CROWD of business-savvy residents crammed into the Old Albanian Rugby Club last week to hear Tory grandee Ken Clarke speak. With a career in government spanning three decades, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current Shadow Secretary of State for

A CROWD of business-savvy residents crammed into the Old Albanian Rugby Club last week to hear Tory grandee Ken Clarke speak.

With a career in government spanning three decades, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current Shadow Secretary of State for Business Mr Clarke shared his extensive experiences with a sold-out audience at the St Albans venue on Friday.

After a slap-up meal of roast leg of lamb, Mr Clarke, a lover of real ale and member of St Albans's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), took centre stage and spoke to the crowd about everything from the "dismal" state of the country's economy to the "business friendly" policies of the Conservative party.

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When asked why St Albans residents should vote Conservative, 69-year-old Mr Clarke, who was introduced to the stage by MP for St Albans Anne Main, blamed Labour for the "current mess that this country is in" and said that only the Conservatives were capable of getting the UK back on track.

But Mr Clarke, who first became an MP at the age of 29, warned that the UK was in for a rocky ride: "There aren't many people who take a gloomier view of this country's current economic situation than I do and I am confident that it will take some years for us to get back to normality."

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Mr Clarke, who referred to himself as "the most laid back member of the Shadow Cabinet", said that the main difference between the Conservatives and Labour was that David Cameron's party was "reluctant to raise taxes and would do its utmost to avoid them."

He added: "The most worrying thing about the recession is the uncertainty of it and the first priority of any government should always be to tackle debt head-on.

"No matter what though, the Conservatives would avoid business taxation like the plague and we would be the most business-friendly government that this country has had since the war."

Opinion polls

Challenged by a member of the audience who brought up the Conservatives' recent fall in opinion polls, Mr Clarke dismissed such polls as "statistically erroneous" and said that the suggestion that a party needed to be ahead in opinion polls to win a general election was "a load of rubbish".

Mr Clarke, who also said that he was "utterly convinced" that the UK would not take the Euro on in the foreseeable future, ended his time in St Albans with a question and answer session, which gave his audience ample opportunity to quiz him on more precise policies of the Conservative party.

One of the guests was Dave Mackinnon, managing director of St Albans-based company Exchange Comms, who said he enjoyed the business summit and added: "Ken Clarke is a national figure and because we are heading towards a general election, I thought it would be a good idea to learn a bit more about his stance on things."

Experienced

He added: "I thought Mr Clarke came over quite well and, because he's an extremely experienced politician, he handled some difficult questions from the audience impressively. I also enjoyed the venue and we were very well looked after."

St Albans District Chamber of Commerce president Graham Lane, who helped organise the event, also enjoyed the day: "It was a great event and judging by the positive feedback we've already received, I think all the guests enjoyed it. Ken was a very direct and open speaker and we did well to get him on the stage in St Albans.

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