LONDON The Conservatives would seek to limit government intervention in business should they win the May 6 election, the party's business spokesman told the Financial Times.
The Conservatives are seeking to end 13 years of Labour rule and have won the backing of several business leaders during a campaign battle with Labour over plans to fix a fragile economy.
In an interview published in the FT's Wednesday edition, Ken Clarke said the Conservatives were against protectionist measures that could harm competition.
"The fact that we have got into such calamitous trouble because of bank failure, bad regulation and government reckless spending does not mean we start throwing out all the things that made us a competitive economy before," said Clarke.
"I'm on the whole against protectionist reactions to any kind of financial crisis."
The election is shaping up to become the tightest race since 1992, with the latest opinion polls showing no party has a big enough margin to be sure of winning an overall majority in parliament.
Clarke, a former chancellor who has been touted as a contender for the role if the Conservatives win the election, said Labour's pledge to extend government's powers to scrutinise foreign takeovers of UK companies was "populist nonsense."
He criticised Labour's plans to require two-thirds of shareholders to back corporate takeovers in future, saying this would "tend to protect weak management."
He said the Conservatives would press ahead with the privatisation of the Royal Mail postal service.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley)