Ken Clarke, no sooner has thrown his fedora in the ring but he is schlepping over to the European Parliament to do some canvassing. Sort of. You see, he has agreed to be the guest speaker at the gala dinner of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. Next Tuesday at the agreeable venue of Maison des Tanneurs in Strasbourg to be precise. So what you might say. Well it appears that his addition to the agenda is late - it does not appear on the Chamber website advertising the event. Not only that the topic for discussion for the evening is also absent, but I understand that it will be to discuss the affects of the upcoming REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation. Of course the Directive has significant ramifications for the tobacco industry (what with the thousands of toxic chemicals present in cigarettes), so the dinner and event is being sponsored by British American Tobacco, who pay Ken £100,000 per year. However given that he wasn’t lined up earlier and his presence has only just been announced I think we can safely say that he is only coming to lobby the 28 Tory MEPs on the leadership ballot. Again one might say why bother – until you realise the sense in lobbying these irrelevancies. You see the plan is to have an 1,100 constitutional college which will elect the new leader. Thus this will include people from across the country. In some parts of the country, primarily Scotland and Wales there will be a large number of voters, who will not be represented at Westminster, thus out of the easy Commons lobbying. However in both cases they are represented by MEPs. So even in the darkest grimmest parts of our islands there are elected Tories. Its just that the sit in Brussels. They do however have regular and extensive contacts back home with the members of the electoral college that are hard to get at from Westminster.
So now we have a pro-EU Tory leadership candidate being paid by a Tobacco firm to lobby both for the leadership of the Tory party. Ain’t life grand. Oh I am trying to wangle an invite to the dinner – I will tell you how it goes.
Update It appears that Ken may have cancelled his trip