Kenneth Clarke

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Kenneth Clarke

The Right Honourable Kenneth Harry Clarke QC, PC (born July 2, 1940) is a pro-Europe Conservative Party MP for Rushcliffe, near Nottingham. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 until 1997. He is noted for his scruffy clothes, especially footwear; his love of jazz and for being a birdwatcher. He is president of the Tory Reform Group.


Early life

Born in Nottingham, Clarke was educated at the Nottingham High School (then a "direct grant" school) and went on to study law at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He had joined the Conservatives while at university, where he was chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association. He controversially invited the fascist leader Oswald Mosley to speak, leading some Jewish students (including his future successor at the Home Office Michael Howard) to resign in protest at the seeming acceptance of anti-semitism. Clarke was defeated for the presidency of the Cambridge Union Society by Howard, although he was eventually elected President of the Union a year later. On leaving Cambridge, Clarke was called to the bar in 1963. He married Gillian Edwards in November 1964.

Parliament and Cabinet

Clarke was an unsuccessful candidate in Mansfield in the 1964 and 1966 elections. In 1970 he was elected MP for the East Midlands constituency of Rushcliffe. He soon established himself, as a whip from 1972 to 1974 and as industry spokesman from 1976 to 1979. Despite his opposition during the election of Margaret Thatcher he did well under her premiership. His first post in government was as a junior transport minister and he was made a QC in 1980. He moved through a number of jobs, Minister for Health (1982-1985), Paymaster General and Employment Minister (1985-1987), and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister at the DTI (1987-1988) before snagging himself a decent post in 1988 as Health secretary, introducing the 'internal market' concept. He advised Thatcher to resign after her inadequate first round victory and supported Douglas Hurd in the next round.

Despite the victory of John Major he was kept in cabinet as Education secretary (1990-1992). After Major won the General Election in April 1992 he appointed Clarke Home Secretary. In May 1993, seven months after the impact of 'Black Wednesday' had terminally damaged the credibility of Norman Lamont as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Major insisted that Lamont resign that office and appointed Clarke in his place. Clarke had a moderately successful record as Chancellor as the economy recovered from the recession of the early 1990s, but found that the government received little credit after the defeat of its policy on Black Wednesday.

Clarke coined one memorable phrase as Chancellor. As the 'Eurosceptic' members of the Cabinet began to issue briefs against him Clarke declared 'Tell your kids to get their mopeds off my lawn' (a reference to Harold Wilson's rebuke of trade union leader Hugh Scanlon).

Position since 1997

He has twice stood for the leadership of his party. In 1997 he was defeated in the third round, a vote that was often criticised as it held exclusively among Members of Parliament and did not go to ordinary members of the party where he was believed to be more popular. In 2001 he lost in the final round to an inexperienced rival Iain Duncan Smith. This loss, by a margin of 62% to 38% among the ordinary membership was attributed to his strong Pro-European views which were increasingly out of step with the Euroscepticism amongst his party.

He has established himself outside of Parliament with a number of non-executive directorships and media work, including Deputy Chairmanship of British American Tobacco ( (1998-present). After the sacking of Iain Duncan Smith by the Parliamentary Conservative Party in 2003, he announced he would be supporting Michael Howard, and accepted nomination as part of a panel of party grandees to advise the Leader, though again declined a Shadow Cabinet post. When Michael Howard stepped down after losing the 2005 general election, Clarke indicated he would again consider standing for position of party leader. Although out of office he has continued to attend some conferences of the Bilderberg Group.

External links

Preceded by:
John Gummer
Succeeded by:
Peter Brooke
Preceded by:
Norman Tebbit
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by:
Tony Newton
Preceded by:
Secretary of State for Social Services
John Moore
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by:
William Waldegrave
Preceded by:
John MacGregor
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by:
John Patten
Preceded by:
Kenneth Baker
Home Secretary
Succeeded by:
Michael Howard
Preceded by:
Norman Lamont
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by:
Gordon Brown

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