Ken Clarke: Voters need to get serious


Tory big beast warns markets will think electorate is ‘ridiculous’ if it ushers in a hung parliament tomorrow

FINANCIAL markets will think voters are “slightly ridiculous” if tomorrow’s general election results in a hung parliament, Ken Clarke said yesterday.

In an exclusive interview with City A.M., the shadow business secretary said: “My message to voters is this: get serious… you really ought to make a choice between the two credible governments on offer.”

The former chancellor, who said the financial crisis demanded “a strong government with the authority to take some difficult decisions”, warned that markets would punish voters if no party wins an overall majority.

“The idea of negotiations with Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists, Ulstermen and so on fills me with horror. I think our creditors outside the United Kingdom would regard the electorate as slightly ridiculous if they plunge us into such a problem,” he said.

Clarke warned there would be a “political crisis” if the Tories were forced into coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats or minority parties.

He said: “We’d have an economic crisis coupled with a political crisis. The bond markets are going to be open from 1am. If that isn’t a warning signal to the public, I don’t know what is.”

Clarke said he respected Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who “is probably more of a Conservative than he is a Liberal Democrat sometimes”, but warned his party would descend into internal warfare over who to prop up in the event of a hung parliament.

“Their followers are largely people who don’t want to be involved in government of any kind, with either of the political parties. They would be unable to agree among themselves who they might support,” he said.

He added: “They have a laughable constitution in which a Liberal assembly would have to be held to approve any arrangement. I wouldn’t ask a Liberal assembly what day of the week it is, and I certainly wouldn’t give it a powerful position of control over the formation of the government in an economic crisis.”

Clarke has consistently warned a hung parliament will spook bond and currency markets, pushing up the cost of government borrowing and depressing sterling.

“I remember the Lib-Lab pact [of 1974] and it was a farce. At the end of it, we were in another position of huge government debt ,” he said.

Today’s YouGov poll for the Sun puts the Tories on 35 per cent, with Labour on 30 and the Lib Dems on 24. If repeated tomorrow, that would make Labour the largest party in a hung parliament.