Ken Clarke shouldn’t underestimate how strongly the city economists polled by Reuters last week want to see him serve as Britain’s finance minister next term.
The Conservative shadow business secretary and one time ex-Chancellor gleaned a few laughs from Thursday’s BBC Question Time audience when asked about the poll, saying: “There’s a limit to how much of a glutton for punishment you’re going to be.”
But economists would dearly like to see the 69-year-old’s appetite for punishment return soon. No-one came close in the Reuters poll to touching Clarke for popularity. Some 16 out of 29 economists picked him as their first choice for Chancellor.
This was more than twice the number of economists who want to install second-placed Vince Cable, the experienced Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman whose quick wit has made him a public favourite.
For Clarke to serve, Conservative leader David Cameron would first have to dump the party’s likely choice for finance minister George Osborne – a decision that would mean Cameron had gone “slightly off the rails”, according to Clarke.