Tony Clarke (British politician)

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Tony Clarke
Tony Clarke at Milton Malsor.jpg
Clarke, second left, with his then constituency residents in Milton Malsor village hall at the launch of their Parish Plan, January 2003
Member of Parliament
for Northampton South
In office
1 May 1997 – 5 May 2005
Preceded by Michael Morris
Succeeded by Brian Binley
Personal details
Born (1963-09-06) 6 September 1963 (age 51)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Other political
Independent from May 2007, Green Party from March 2013
Residence Northampton
Occupation Northampton Borough Councillor 2007 - 5 May 2011

Anthony Richard Clarke (born 6 September 1963, Northampton), known as Tony Clarke, is the Green Party National Spokesperson on International and Foreign Affairs; previously a British Labour Party politician, he was Member of Parliament for Northampton South from 1997-2005. Clarke was also a director of Northampton Town Football Club for 11 years 1999- 2010 and as General Manager at the club between 2005 and 2008. He served three terms (12 years) on Northampton Borough Council (2 Labour, 1 Independent) and one term (4 years) on Northamptonshire County Council (Independent) He also served as a Special Constable with Northamptonshire Police between 2003 and 2007.

On 11 March 2013, Clarke announced that he had joined the Green Party, and will campaign as an Independent Green and stand as a Green Party candidate in the 2013 local elections. He is quoted as saying: "I left the Labour Party, and then discovered that really it had left me, I have battled on as an Independent to try to make a difference for local people and have had some successes, but now it is time to truly give the power back to the people. I have chosen to campaign and as an Independent Green and proudly display the Green Party Logo on the ballot paper".[1]

Labour Councillor and former MP[edit]

Before becoming an MP, Clarke had previously been a Social Work lecturer and Labour Councillor on Northampton Borough Council. He won the parliamentary seat unexpectedly at the 1997 general election with a majority of 744 [2] over the sitting Conservative MP Michael Morris, with a campaign based on local representation. Morris, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, had a 14,000 vote majority at the 1992 election, and the seat was considered safe for the Conservatives.

At the 2001 general election, Clarke held the seat with a majority of 885 votes over the Conservative candidate Shailesh Vara. However, Conservative Brian Binley took the seat with a majority of 4,419 at the May 2005 General Election.

Clarke was regarded as a rebel and an anti-war MP. Despite his stance against the invasion of Iraq, on receiving a copy of a confidential memo between Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, and US President George W. Bush, he chose to report the leak to the police (to protect those in the theatre of war) rather than publicly expose what was said.[3][4]

Labour expulsion and independent councillor[edit]

In May 2007, he was chosen by Northampton Labour Party to stand in the supposedly 'safe Labour' Castle ward for 3 May local elections. The decision created a split between the local Labour Party and the Labour party nationally and regionally, and the reasons have never been clear. It is speculated that the regional and national party forced Clarke out and selected their own candidate Tess Scott on an all women short list against the local party's wishes and outside of the Labour Party rules. They then selected Clarke and had three candidates before telling him he could not stand. As a result, Clarke decided to stand as an Independent and fight against the official Labour Party candidate in Castle ward, a decision which resulted in his expulsion from the Labour Party. Castle was a two-member ward but unusually Labour could only field one candidate.

Eight other local Labour members were also expelled; including Clarke's running mate in the election, Peter Evans, also a previous Borough Councillor; John Dickie, a former Labour leader of the Borough Council; and a second former Labour leader of the Borough Council, Geoff Howes. Howes had also been a Mayor of the town who, not long before, had been elected by the then controlling Labour party as a Freeman of the Borough. Clarke said: "...They [Labour] have shot themselves in the foot. This...was a contributing factor to their losses...[in the May 2007 borough elections]".[5]

In a shock result for the local Labour Party although no one else, he won the Castle seat, previously a Labour stronghold, on Northampton Borough Council. Moreover, he also topped the poll with 601 votes as an Independent.[6][citation needed] Also elected, but trailing in second place, the only Labour candidate got 447 votes.[7] Out of 47 councillors on the borough council, Labour ended up with only 5 seats, the Conservatives 15, and Mr Clarke as the sole independent. The Liberal Democrats took control with 26 seats, the first time for about 80 years since the Liberals were last in control. Clarke lost his seat at the May 2011 election when the Conservatives regained control of the council.

At a Council Meeting at Northampton Guildhall on Thursday, 26 June 2008, members of the Council spent an hour discussing where Mr Clarke should sit. The Labour members had refused to sit anywhere near their former colleague. At the start of the meeting, Mr Clarke had been asked to give up his seat so that a Labour Councillor could take it. Mr Clarke refused to be bullied, and complained about not being involved in the "usual channels" discussions and pointing to an empty seat next to him saying they could sit there if they wished. Under an editorial headed "A Complete Shambles", the local paper commented that: "Neither Mr Clarke nor the Labour and Conservative Groups come out with much credit after this." The meeting was to sign off the draft accounts of the Council and had to be abandoned.[8]


In December 2008, Howes expulsion was reversed and he was reinstated two days before his appeal was due to be heard by the Labour Party's National Executive Committee (NEC). He was selected as the Labour candidate for a Northampton Borough Council by-election to be held 22 January 2009.[9] However, no official announcement was made by the local party on the status of Clarke or the other two candidates, Evans and Dickie, previously expelled. Dickie was Clarke's election agent at the 2010 General Election where Clarke came a credible fourth with 5.8% of the vote, being one of only a small handful of Independents nationally to save their deposit.[10] Dickie cites the failure was due to a professional Conservative campaign, people voting along traditional lines and the televised debates between the three main party leaders. Clarke in fact did very well to secure enough votes to keep his deposit, unlike most independents across the UK, on what was a poor night for non-aligned candidates.

2009 Northampton Borough Council by-election[edit]

In January 2009, Howes stood as a Labour candidate in a Borough Council by-election finishing a distant second to the Conservatives. Howes' selection was without the prior knowledge of the group's leader on the Council. A row subsequently erupted when Clarke appeared in Labour by-election literature, endorsing the party's candidate. This resulted in Howes and election Agent Anjona Roy also being expelled[11]

2009 Northants County Council elections[edit]

The voters in Castle ward in the centre of Northampton picked Clarke to represent them on the county council at 4 June 2009 County Council elections. Clarke now represented the Castle ward as an independent on both Northampton borough and Northamptonshire county councils. He said: "The people have spoken and I'll now take this all the way to the General Election to give the people the chance to vote independent". At the count he was observed to have been congratulated by his old Labour colleagues Dickie and Howes (see above).[12] He beat the official Labout candidate into second place in what is normally a solid Labour county council division.[13] In September 2009, the national Labour Party suspended Northampton South Constituency Labour Party. The local paper reported that the move was made after Clarke was featured in local Labour literature given out during the January by-election.[14]

2010 General Election[edit]

In August 2008, Clarke stated that he would stand against Labour as an independent at the next Parliamentary Election for Northampton South Constituency and did so on 6 May 2010. He polled fourth with 2,242 votes, behind the three main parties' candidates, and avoiding losing his deposit. His campaign cost over £8,000.[15] He lost his borough seat to Labour in 2011.[16] The boundary of the constituency changed for the 2010 election with loss of some parts of the southern and western areas to the Daventry and the new South Northamptonshire constituency. The areas lost were generally be considered Conservative, thus increasing the possibility of Labour regaining the seat. However, it remained firmly Conservative with Clarke's intervention, having an effect on the Labour vote. Clarke had earlier said: "...I think the only chance they [Labour] had of winning went out of the window when they declared internal war on half the membership [of the local Labour party] in 2005. It should be a safe Labour seat but I'll stand as an independent and I'll take on Brian Binley if they can't."

Labour's choice of official candidate was announced in November 2008 as Clyde Loakes, who was born and brought up in Northamptonshire, and who went on to become leader of Waltham Forest council in north-east London.[17] [18] Loakes was absent for much of the campaign. Northampton Borough Council member for West Hunsbury 2007-2011, Paul Varnsverry was selected in October 2008 as the Liberal Democrat's prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton South which was won by the Conservatives.[19]


  1. ^ Ex-Northampton South MP Tony Clarke joins the Green Party Northampton Chronicle & Echo 14 March 2013, accessed 14 March 2013"
  2. ^ "General Election results". Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  3. ^ Pair are guilty of Bush memo leak
  4. ^ Pair given custodial sentences
  5. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo Labour ousts the political heavyweights". Retrieved 28 September 2008. 
  6. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo Election Shock". Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  7. ^ "Northampton Borough Council Election Results 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 22 February 2008. 
  8. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo What A Farce". Retrieved 28 June 2008. 
  9. ^ "Northampton Borough Council - Statement of Persons Nominated". Retrieved 31 December 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ John Dickie column in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, 12 May 2010, p11
  11. ^ "Investigation over Northampton by-election leaflet - Northampton Chronicle & Echo". Retrieved 4 March 2009. 
  12. ^ "Tony Clark triumphs as independent - Northampton Chronicle and Echo 6 June 2009". Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  13. ^ "Northants Council Council official election results 2009". Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  14. ^ "Labour Party suspends political group - Northampton Chronicle and Echo 11 September 2009". Retrieved 11 September 2000. 
  15. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo 'Revealed: The £40,000 cost of fighting the election'". 
  16. ^ Bontoft, Wayne (5 August 2008). "Labour's search for candidate launched". Northampton Chronicle & Echo. pp. page 2. 
  17. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo Council leader is Labour candidate". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  18. ^ "Waltham Forest Guardian". Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  19. ^ "Northampton Chronicle & Echo Lib Dems choose their man". Retrieved 4 November 2008. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Morris
Member of Parliament for Northampton South
Succeeded by
Brian Binley