Chris Clarke (politician)

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Sir Christopher James Clarke OBE FRSA 24 March 1941 – 15 December 2009), usually known as Chris Clarke, was a British Liberal Democrat politician, leader of Somerset County Council and of his party's group in the Local Government Association.


Originally from Essex, where he was educated at Westcliff High School for Boys, Clarke first entered politics as an SDP councillor in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, before moving to Somerset where he worked for the shoe manufacturer Clarks. He was elected to Mendip District Council, rising to become its leader for four years. He was also elected to Somerset County Council, serving as member for the City of Wells from 1985 to 2005 and leading the county council from 1993 to 2001. He was then leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Local Government Association from 2001 to 2005.[1][2][3][4][5]

In 2005 Clarke moved from Somerset to Gloucestershire to marry Liz, settling at Tibberton and standing unsuccessfully for Gloucestershire County Council.[5] He went on to become Chairman of the South West Region of Arts Council England and of the NHS South Gloucestershire Trust Board,[6] a Specialist Adviser to the Department for Communities and Local Government, and implementation manager at the Improvement and Development Agency.[7] He was also a board member of the Stroud Theatre and the Somerset Arts Partnership and worked as a consultant as Director of Word on the Street Ltd.[5]

On 15 October 2007, Clarke intervened in a Liberal Democrat Party leadership crisis, appearing on BBC TV's World at One with Menzies Campbell's deputy Vince Cable. Cable conceded that Campbell's position was "certainly under discussion", adding "I don't think it's under threat", but Clarke advised Campbell to "go with dignity and go back to being foreign affairs spokesman, where the world listens to you."[8] Later the same day came an announcement by the party that Campbell would step down as leader.[9][10]

In May 2009, in defence of a former Somerset County Council colleague accused by its chief executive of bullying, Clarke offered to give evidence to the Adjudication Panel for England to the effect that there was a 'culture of bullying' within the county council.[11] The affair was debated in the House of Commons on 21 April 2009.[12]

Following his death in December 2009, his obituary in the Western Daily Press noted that Clarke "was famous for his dry sense of humour",[5] while his LGA colleague Richard Kemp said of him

We will remember Chris as a great liberal, a hard working councillor and a person whose dry humour brought life to many an interminable meeting on arcane matters of local government finance and administration.[2]


In June 2000, Clarke was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire "for services to Local Government and to the community in South West England".[13] In the Birthday Honours List of June 2005 he received a knighthood "for services to Local Government".[14]


  1. ^ Tributes paid Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 17 December 2009 by Firstonline
  2. ^ a b Sir Chris Clarke Archived 13 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, editorial dated 16 December 2009 at
  3. ^ Sir Chris Clarke OBE has died Archived 13 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine dated 16 December 2009 at
  4. ^ Thoughts on Modern Councillor[permanent dead link] at
  5. ^ a b c d 'Dedidated to Helping', Obituary in Western Daily Press dated 29 December 2009, p. 14, cols 1–3
  6. ^ Sir Chris Clarke Archived 13 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine at
  7. ^ Tony Hallett, Public sector IT chiefs back shared services push Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 8 May 2006, at
  8. ^ Michael White, Michael White's Political Blog for 15 October 2007 at
  9. ^ Sir Ming warned as Lib Dems hunt poll boost The Daily Telegraph
  10. ^ Lib Dem leader may face challenge as poll ratings drop The Guardian
  11. ^ 'Culture of bullying' at Somerset council' Archived 13 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine dated 7 May 2009, at
  12. ^ Hansard for 21 April 2009 : Column 210 Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ London Gazette, Issue 55879 of 19 June 2000, Supplement No. 1, p. B10 at
  14. ^ London Gazette, Issue 57665 of 11 June 2005, Supplement No. 1, p. B1 at