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CITY: KEN CLARKE FOR CHANCELLOR

KEN Clarke would make a better chancellor than George Osborne, according to our panel of City A.M. readers.

Clarke, who held the job between 1993 and 1997 and is now shadow business secretary, topped the vote with 36 per cent and pushed Osborne – the official shadow chancellor – into second place.

The City A.M./PHI Panel, which has been specially recruited to represent a cross-section of London’s financial and business community, were asked to pick their top choice from a list of six possible candidates for chancellor.

Although Osborne is likely to take the office if the Tories win the election, less than a quarter of panelists (23 per cent) thought he was the best man for the job. The findings confirm long-held fears that financiers and business professionals do not trust Osborne to run the economy.

“George Osborne is so untried while Ken is more experienced. Frankly, Ken has a lot more political and financial clout,” a senior stockbroker said.

The views of the panel will disappoint Osborne’s supporters and Tory Campaign Headquarters, but they make even worse reading for the Labour party.

Chancellor Alistair Darling, who got just seven per cent of votes, didn’t even make the top three.

He was beaten to the podium by Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable, who came a close third with 20 per cent of votes.

“Given the sample, I am naturally gratified. I think it’s because I have been very forthright, even if the City doesn’t always agree with me,” Cable told City A.M. last night.

Among those panelists that identify with the Tories, Clarke won 43 per cent of votes compared to 35 per cent for Osborne.

But the 69-year-old was also favoured by independents, scoring 38 per cent to Osborne’s 11 per cent.?That suggests David Cameron would gain more credibility in the Square Mile, Canary Wharf and Mayfair if he promoted Clarke to shadow chancellor.

And Clarke even won considerable support among Labour-leaning panelists (25 per cent) – more than Lord Mandelson and Ed Balls put together.

Darling was the top choice for those who identify with Labour, winning the support of 47 per cent. Mandelson scored 11 per cent among Labour panelists and four per cent overall.

Ed Balls, who is tipped to be promoted to chancellor if Gordon Brown clings to power, was picked by a single panelist, giving him an overall share of just 0.3 per cent.

The findings come after Brown said there would be a budget on 24 March, making an election on 6 May all but certain.