Since he entered parliament in 1970, Kenneth Clarke has served under eight Conservative leaders, from Edward Heath to Theresa May. He has also stood three times, in 1997, 2001 and 2005, to be Tory leader himself during difficult periods for his party. But throughout it all he has never known a political crisis remotely like the present.
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Now aged 78, he still describes himself as “a natural optimist”. But a combination of Brexit and the Tory leadership contest are testing his positive thinking to its limits.