Sceptics dominate debate – Clarke
THE United Kingdom is “not a right-wing nation”, veteran Tory Ken Clarke said, as MPs face an increase in heckling from antiBrexit protesters in and around Westminster.
Mr Clarke, who as longestserving male MP 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 in Nottingham 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 said: “People are entitled to disagree with politicians and their opinions, that is part of democracy.
“But threats and harassment and frightening people is intolerable.”
The veteran politician 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.