Show Hide image

Lost leaders: Kenneth Clarke

The great leader the Tories never had, now back in the shadow cabinet.

Ken Clarke has been one of the mainstays of British parliamentary politics since taking the East Midlands' Rushcliffe seat in 1970.

Born in 1940 near Nottingham, Clarke went on to study law at Cambridge. While there, he was given a degree of insight into his future political career when he lost the election for presidency of the Cambridge Union to the future Tory leader Michael Howard. He went on to win it the following year, however.

Clarke was an almost permanent ministerial appointment in both Margaret Thatcher's and John Major's governments, serving in a range of cabinet positions from 1979 to 1997, latterly as chancellor.

When the Conservatives entered the opposition in 1997 and Major resigned, Clarke competed in the leadership race. Despite his popularity amongst voters, Clarke lost out to William Hague. This pattern was repeated in 2001 and 2005, when Clarke lost out to Iain Duncan-Smith and David Cameron respectively. He saved himself the ignominy of losing to Howard again in 2003, as he refused to stand in order to preserve party unity.

Despite past criticism of Cameron, Clarke was appointed to the shadow cabinet in January 2009 as shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills.

Previous: Neil Kinnock

Next: Al Gore

Back to list