Norman Lamont

Over at the Guardian, Nick Watt has pulled together a terrific summary of the lifelong rivalry between Ken Clarke and Michael Howard. It began 50 years ago with a row over Oswald Mosley and it’s still going strong today over prisons policy.

Clarke and Howard are, of course, members of the so-called Cambridge Mafia that graduated from 1960s student politicking to rule the roost in Whitehall as cabinet ministers.

It is a famous tale. But there is a coalition twist to the Cambridge Mafia story that is less well known.

One of the Cambridge Union presidents around this time was a young liberal activist from York called Vince Cable.

Now that the coalition is formed, Cable has surely earned his place as a “made man”. He really deserves to join the list of Cambridge Mafioso, which includes Clarke, Howard, Norman Lamont, Norman Fowler, John Gummer and Leon Brittan. (Some of them are pictured here at Clarke’s wedding.)

That said, while they mixed in the same circles, Vince was never terribly keen on joining the gang. He remarked that Clarke was “not particularly exciting back then – not the real personality he later became”. And this is what he thought of the Tory “conveyor belt”. Read more