||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
|The Right Honourable
15 December 2004 – 5 May 2006
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||David Blunkett|
|Succeeded by||John Reid|
|Secretary of State for Education and Skills|
24 October 2002 – 15 December 2004
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Estelle Morris|
|Succeeded by||Ruth Kelly|
|Minister without Portfolio|
9 June 2001 – 24 October 2002
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Peter Mandelson|
|Succeeded by||John Reid|
|Member of Parliament
for Norwich South
1 May 1997 – 6 May 2010
|Preceded by||John Garrett|
|Succeeded by||Simon Wright|
21 September 1950 |
Hammersmith, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||King's College, Cambridge|
Charles Rodway Clarke (born 21 September 1950) is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Norwich South from 1997 until 2010, and served as Home Secretary from December 2004 until May 2006.
The son of Civil Service Permanent Secretary Sir Richard Clarke, Charles Clarke was born in London. He attended the fee-paying Highgate School where he was Head Boy. He then read Mathematics and Economics at King's College, Cambridge, where he also served as the President of the Cambridge Students' Union. A member of the Broad Left faction, he was President of the National Union of Students from 1975 to 1977. Clarke had joined the Labour Party by then and was active in the Clause Four group. Clarke was the British representative on the Permanent Commission for the World Youth Festival (Cuba) from 1977 to 1978
He was elected as a local councillor in the London Borough of Hackney, being Chair of its Housing Committee and Vice-Chair of economic development from 1980 to 1986. He worked as a researcher, and later Chief of Staff, for Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock from February 1981 to 1992. His long association with Kinnock and with the general election defeat in 1992 was expected to handicap him in his career. But Clarke bounced back. He spent the mid-1990s away from national politics, working in the private sector – from 1992 to 1997, he was chief executive of Quality Public Affairs, a public affairs management consultancy – and subsequently emerged as a high flyer under the Labour leadership of Tony Blair.
Member of Parliament
Elected to the British House of Commons in the Labour landslide of 1997, Clarke served just over a year on the back benches before joining the government as a junior education minister in July 1998. He moved to the Home Office in 1999 and joined the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Party Chair after the 2001 general election.
He returned to Education as Secretary of State on 24 October 2002 after the resignation of Estelle Morris. As Education Secretary, he defended Oxbridge, encouraged the establishment of specialist secondary schools, and (allegedly) suggested that the state should not fund "unproductive" humanities research. His view of universities could be seen as either impressively bold or overly instrumental. In 2003, he boiled down the point of all higher education to one simple sentence when he announced: "Universities exist to enable the British economy and society to deal with the challenges posed by the increasingly rapid process of global change". He also oversaw the introduction of Bills to enable universities in parts of Britain to charge top-up fees, despite a Labour manifesto commitment not to introduce such fees.
He was swiftly at the centre of attention for his advocacy of proposals for countering terrorism. Critics suggest that his reforms to the judicial system undermine centuries of British legal precedent dating back to the 1215 Magna Carta, particularly the right to a fair trial and trial by jury. He was also criticised for the Identity Cards Act 2006, seen by some as serious infringement of privacy, but Clarke insisted that identity cards were necessary to combat terrorism.
During the 2005 British Presidency of the European Union, Clarke pressed other member states to pass a directive to require communications data to be stored for law enforcement purposes. The directive was criticised as infringing civil liberties and privacy, and critics also noted that the directive had been approved very quickly.
Foreign prisoners scandal
On 25 April 2006 it emerged that 1,023 foreign prisoners had been freed without being considered for deportation. Among the offenders, five had been convicted of committing sex offences on children, seven had served time for other sex offences, 57 for violent offences and two for manslaughter. There were also 41 burglars, 20 drug importers, 54 convicted of assault and 27 of indecent assault. Former Home Secretary David Blunkett commented that "Heads should roll" over the scandal, despite the fact that many of the releases occurred during his period as Home Secretary. The Home Office later stated that 288 were released from prison between August 2005 and March 2006, which implied that prisoners continued to be released after the matter had been brought to the attention of the government.
Out of government
The foreign prisoners scandal led many to call for Clarke's resignation, not only from the opposition; Clarke reportedly offered to resign, but Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, refused to accept. However, in the wake of a poor Labour performance in the local council elections of 4 May 2006, Clarke was dismissed in the biggest cabinet upheaval in the history of the Blair governments, to be replaced by Defence Secretary John Reid . Having reputedly turned down the offer of Defence Secretary by Tony Blair, Clarke became a backbencher.
At the end of June 2006, he did a series of interviews in which he criticised John Reid for claiming that the Home Office was "unfit for purpose", and that the Prime Minister ought to have defended him to enable him to continue seeing through the reforms he had initiated when first appointed to the post. However, he did state that although Tony Blair had lost his sense of purpose, he wanted to see Blair continue as PM.
In September 2006 Clarke took up a consultancy post with a leading London law firm, leading to speculation he anticipated not returning to frontline politics.
Labour leadership controversy
On 8 September 2006, Clarke gave an interview to the Evening Standard in which he criticised the 'presumption' that Gordon Brown would succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister, helping trigger further disputes about the Labour leadership. Clarke said of Brown's reaction to the leadership crisis, "A lot of people are very upset and cross about that. It was absolutely stupid – a stupid, stupid thing to do." He named Alan Milburn as a politician who had the stature to be Prime Minister instead of Brown.
Clarke with Alan Milburn set up The 2020 Vision website to discuss the direction of the Labour party after Tony Blair ceased being prime minister. Some observers saw this as a way for Gordon Brown's political opponents to create an axis against him. The website has since closed.
On 23 March 2008, Clarke published a list of 35 Labour held constituencies vulnerable to other parties if fewer than 7,500 voters switched parties away from Labour. This was interpreted by many as an attempt to force a leadership change on the Labour party.
On 4 September 2008, Clarke once again attacked Gordon Brown's performance as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, claiming that he only had "months" to improve or else should face a leadership contest. However, when asked whether he would stand as a "Stalking horse" to draw out stronger candidates, he confirmed that he would not.
Life after Parliament
On 20 September 2010, it was announced that Clarke had been appointed Visiting Professor to the School of Political, Social and International Studies at the University of East Anglia. The appointment is part-time and for an initial period of three years. Since November 2010, Clarke has also been Visiting Professor of Politics and Faith in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. He is a Council Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Starting 14 October 2010, Clarke has occasionally joined Michael Portillo on the sofa at This Week as the guest political pundit following the departure of Diane Abbott to take up her post as Shadow Minister for Public Health.
Too difficult box
In 2011, Clarke expounded his ideas for his new "too difficult box" political concept in a series of lectures at the University of East Anglia. In 2014, he launched the book The 'Too Difficult' Box: The Big Issues Politicians Can't Crack.
Clarke married Carol Pearson in Hackney, London, in 1984. They have two sons, both born in Hackney: Christopher Richard Clarke (born 1987) and Matthew Jack Clarke (born 1990). Previously resident in Norwich, they now live in Cambridge.
Clarke speaks Cuban Spanish (a legacy of his student links with Cuba), French, and German.
In 2004 he became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society to acknowledge its contribution to education and in memory of his father, who had been a statistician.
Clarke is an avid supporter of Norwich City Football club
- Assinder, Nick (25 April 2006). "Clarke under intense pressure". BBC News. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- "Clarke insists 'I will not quit'". BBC News. 25 April 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- Pierce, Andrew (12 September 2006). "Consultant post for Chancellors top critic". The Times (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- Sylvester, Rachel; Thomson, Alice; Helm, Toby (9 September 2006). "Clarke attack on Brown 'the deluded control freak'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- Assinder, Nick (28 February 2007). "Milburn and Clarke: A threat to Brown?". BBC News. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- The Times (PDF) (London) http://extras.timesonline.co.uk/doomsdaymemo.pdf. Retrieved 26 March 2010. Missing or empty
- "Clarke issues fresh Brown warning". BBC News. 4 September 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- "Clarke 'ashamed' to be Labour MP". BBC News. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- "Clarke warns of poll 'hammering'". BBC News. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
- Dixon, Laura (7 May 2010). "Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, loses Norwich South". The Times (London). Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Don't go left, warns Charles Clarke". BBC News. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Charles Clarke takes up university post". BBC News. 20 September 2010. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Former Home Secretary to join university". University of East Anglia – Communications Office. 20 September 2010. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Charles Clarke becomes Visiting Professor of Politics and Faith". Lancaster University Press Office. November 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
- Levy, Geoffrey (10 June 2011). "Tony's cronies and snouts in the trough: How one-time Labour bigwigs are raking it in thanks to the private sector". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Charles Clarke - The Too Difficult Box: The Big Issues Politicians Can't Crack
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- The Role of Courts in a Democracy: A Debate Video of Charles Clarke in a Public Debate for the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, Oxford, 2011
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Charles Clarke
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Norwich South
|President of the National Union of Students
|Minister without Portfolio
|Secretary of State for Education and Skills