Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Kenneth Clarke

Kenneth Harry Clarke (born July 2, 1940) is a moderate, pro-Europe UK 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 was called to the bar in 1963 and married Gillian Edwards in November 1964. He had joined the Conservatives while at university, where he was chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association for an eight week term. He first gained notoriety in this post when he invited the fascist leader Oswald Mosley to speak, twice. This forced some Jewish students, including his future succesor at the Home Office, Michael Howard to resign in protest at the seeming anti-semitism of Mosley's two invitations. This almost certainly led to Clarke's surprise defeat for the presidency of the Cambridge Union by, Michael Howard. It is not, however, Mosley's anti-semitism that made a mark on Ken Clarke, but his ground breaking advocacy of a European Union. Mosley was the first politician of any standing to call for British participation in building up a federal state, and his call for Europe a Nation has found echoes in much of Clarke's rhetoric.

Parliament and Cabinet

He was an unsuccessful candidate in elections in Mansfield in 1964 and 1966. 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) and then after Major won the General Election he was Home secretary (1992-1993). When Norman Lamont was kicked in the aftermath of 'Black Wednesday' Clarke became Chancellor of the Exchequer in May 1993.


His twice challenged 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. After the sacking of Iain Duncan Smith by the Parliamentary Conservative Party in 2003, he announced he would be supporting Michael Howard as leader.

External Links