Opinion: Just not cricket as Clarke spins Cameron

As a record number of us caught the rare sight of England beating the Aussies at cricket last Sunday, the cameraman trained his sights from the usual fancy dress nutters to Tory leadership hopeful Kenneth Clarke.

The former Chancellor was sitting in the pavilion with his feet up smoking a fat cigar and downing a few beers. His supporters would have been delighted because here we had some of the best PR footage of the summer. Surprisingly, Ken Clarke doesn't have a spin-doctor and the image genuinely reflected this remarkable Tory MP and summed up why he is so popular with the people.

He's just an 'ordinary bloke' doing what the rest of us do.

When Clarke was chancellor he also did what the rest of us do. He bought duty-free on foreign trips even though it meant he had to leave the VIP area to buy it. This is not to say Ken Clarke is completely unspun. Indeed the man is very much aware of his image and does everything he can to cultivate it. This is all fine, except things are likely to go wrong for the leadership wannabe.

Back when he was running the Treasury, I worked for Gordon Brown in opposition and couldn't believe how lazy Clarke was. The whole of his press office had just one mobile phone between them and no one even had a pager. Is it any wonder then that Brown regularly ran rings around him and his team?

More often than not Ken was away birdwatching in the middle of nowhere as the Shadow Chancellor launched one of his many attacks.

At least with Clarke now firmly in the leadership battle, the race will liven up a little. It also means that the 'dirty tricks' have started in earnest. A top Tory told me this week that the thing that distinguishes all the main contenders is that a section of the party hates each of them.

Clarke is hated because he loves Europe and no one believes that his announcement last week that he was wrong about the wonders of the euro was anything but a naked bid to win votes.

There is no doubt that friends of the frontrunner David Davis fear Clarke most, which is why recently they have been briefing hacks with anti-Clarke stories. That's why we saw Andrew Pierce writing in The Times about how the former Chancellor has made £1m from supporting the tobacco lobby.

Clarke's supporters are at it too. We are told in The Independent that 'Cameron is under pressure to pull out of the race in favour of Clarke.' Told by whom? Clarke supporters of course, who fear that Cameron may actually get more votes than their man.

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