Clarke: ‘We are not a right-wing na­tion’

Nottingham Post - - NEWS - By GEMMA TOULSON [email protected]­plc.com @gem­ma­toul­son

THE United King­dom is “not a rightwing na­tion”, vet­eran Tory Ken Clarke said, as MPS face an in­crease in heck­ling from anti-brexit pro­test­ers in and around West­min­ster.

Mr Clarke, who is Fa­ther of the House, said the on­go­ing Brexit de­bate is be­ing dom­i­nated by Euroscep­tic voices, which he says go against the gen­eral opin­ion within the Con­ser­va­tive Party.

The MP for Rush­cliffe said: “We hear a lot from the Brex­i­teers – Sir John Red­wood, Ja­cob Rees-mogg and the like – but the Prime Min­is­ter is lead­ing a party that is very pro-eu in the House of Com­mons, and in the mem­ber­ship around the coun­try.

“We are not a right-wing na­tion.” Mr Clarke was re­spond­ing to claims from shadow Brexit sec­re­tary Sir Keir Starmer that “at no point have the Gov­ern­ment reached out across the House” on Brexit.

The for­mer chan­cel­lor added: “I think the Gov­ern­ment should have started talks with Labour a long time ago.

“Not just the pro-eu mem­bers on the back benches, but the sen­si­ble fig­ures on the front bench too.”

His com­ments come amid a growth in right-wing “yel­low vest” pro­test­ers tar­get­ing MPS out­side the House of Com­mons.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May told MPS on Wed­nes­day that politi­cians and the me­dia should be able to “go about their work with­out harass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion”, after a string of in­ci­dents in­clud­ing Tory pro-eu MP Anna Soubry be­ing called a “Nazi” by pro-brexit heck­lers while do­ing live in­ter­views on Col­lege Green on Mon­day.

Mr Clarke told the Press As­so­ci­a­tion: “Peo­ple are en­ti­tled to dis­agree with politi­cians and their opin­ions – that is part of democ­racy.

“But threats and harass­ment and fright­en­ing peo­ple is in­tol­er­a­ble.”

Mr Clarke has sup­ported Labour MP Har­riet Har­man’s calls for Speaker John Ber­cow to ar­range a West­min­ster con­fer­ence on the is­sue, call­ing for greater clar­ity.

He asked: “Where is the line drawn be­tween (democ­racy) and threats? Where does that bound­ary lie?”

Mr Clarke made ref­er­ence to the pro­test­ers in Par­lia­ment this week, re­spond­ing to a de­bate in­ter­ven­tion from Brex­i­teer Mark Fran­cois by sug­gest­ing some col­leagues “should don a yel­low jacket and go out­side”.

How­ever, he has since clar­i­fied that the ex­change was in good faith.

When asked about the in­ter­ac­tion, he said: “We were jok­ing, and I spoke to him about it later.

“I was try­ing to make my in­ter­ven­tion, and I thought he was shout­ing at me, but he was in fact shout­ing at the Speaker.

“I was not fright­ened or in­tim­i­dated by Mark Fran­cois.”

Pro­test­ers gather on the pave­ment out­side the Houses of Par­lia­ment this week.

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