Claire Darke

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Claire Darke
Claire Darke Mayor.jpg
Darke as the Mayor of Wolverhampton, with portrait of Elizabeth II in the background.
Alma materUniversity of Wolverhampton
University of Warwick
Known forCouncillor of Wolverhampton City Council
Artist of Wolves in Wolves
Political partyLabour Party

Claire Darke is a British Labour Party politician, who serves as the Mayor of Wolverhampton and Councillor for Park Ward in Wolverhampton.[1][2] She was first elected in 2008 as a Liberal Democrat.

Early life[edit]

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, she moved to Woking, Surrey at an early age. She went to a local comprehensive school and emerged with little in the way of qualifications.[3][4]

She did not get a job when she first left school – opting instead to stay at home to assist her mother in nursing an elderly grandmother. When she did find employment, she undertook a string of different jobs until eventually training and qualifying as a nurse.

Around this time she met and married Paul Darke. Being newly married and living in a small flat with her father-in-law was not ideal and with house prices in Surrey being so high, they looked further afield for somewhere to live – eventually moving to Bilston after Claire got a job as a live-in warden of a sheltered housing scheme for elderly people. She admits to finding the strong Black Country dialect a challenge to understand as she settled in to life in the region.[5]

She then got in-house training at Bilston Community College and completed a Diploma in Higher Education (DiPHE) at the then Wolverhampton Polytechnic. This allowed her to progress onto a degree course as a mature student.

She graduated from the University of Wolverhampton in 1992 with a BA (Hons) in English and Spanish.[6] After undertaking further studies, including Deaf Studies, this led to her undertaking a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) at University of Warwick. She has lived in Wolverhampton for over 40 years.[7]


Darke first stood for election as an independent in Park ward in the 2007 Wolverhampton City Council elections in response to the decision to close down the local swimming pool Compton Baths.[8] Although she only received 110 votes, the incumbent lost the seat by 136 votes. Her son also appeared on Newsround to bring attention to the issue.

Impressed by her campaign, and being the only political party to support her campaign, she was chosen as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats (UK) in the 2008 Wolverhampton City Council election.[9] She won with 42% of the vote, and increased the Liberal Democrat majority. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives formed an alliance to take control of Wolverhampton Council which lasted until 2010.

In December 2010, Darke resigned from the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition of Wolverhampton City Council, because 'the ideological driven policies of the Conservatives to slash and burn our great city's services must not be tolerated'.[10] She was supported by chairmen of the Wolverhampton South West and East Lib Dem parties.[11]

This caused the Wolverhampton Labour Group to take control, with a majority of 1.[12] This was the first City Council in the UK where a local coalition failed and disillusionment with the coalition was apparent after the 2010 United Kingdom general election and formation of the national Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.[13][14] She remained a Liberal Democrat, independent of the coalition until joining the Labour Party in March 2011 where she said that the Liberal Democrats 'had become 'at one' with Conservative ideology and no longer represent the ideals of the party I originally joined'.[15]

As a Labour Party Candidate, she gained 59% of the vote in the following 2012 Wolverhampton City Council election.[16][17] In the 2016 Wolverhampton City Council election, she was re-elected with 58.4% of the vote.[18]

Political Roles[edit]

Her first role in Wolverhampton Council was as Wolverhampton's Equalities Champion.[19] After the role of Equalities Champion, she was the Chair of Wolverhampton City Council's Health Scrutiny Panel,[20] where she undertook a Scrutiny Review of Infant Mortality.[21] She also was Chair of the Petitions Committee.[22]

She was then the Cabinet Member for Education which saw Wolverhampton's Adult Education service rated as 'Outstanding' by Ofsted.[23][24] She oversaw extra teacher training and over £2 million invested in improving schools.[25][26] In 2017, she approved of the creation of a new learning quarter in Wolverhampton.[27]

She became Deputy Mayor in May 2018, and was appointed Mayor of Wolverhampton on 15 May 2019.[28][2] Her chosen themes are recognising the contribution of women and prevention of suicide and self harm.[29] In her opening address, she stated that she is the 161st mayor of Wolverhampton, but only the 10th woman.[5][30] In her role, she has created the University of Wolverhampton Alumni Mayoral Scholarship Fund – a new venture to support local people into higher education, and also supported the Wolverhampton Suicide Prevention Stakeholders Forum.[6]

Political views[edit]

Darke has written extensively on abortion and is a self-declared feminist.[31] In 'Swimming against the Tide: Feminist Dissent on the Issue of Abortion' which is a pivotal book in shaping discourse around anti-abortion feminism, she wrote a chapter titled 'Abortion and Disability: Is That Different?' where she states:

Feminism is, by its very nature, about the validation of difference and Otherness - the female as 'the first step on the road along abnormality'. All I am doing is arguing that we go down that road a little further and pick up a few more allies and friends; if for no other reason than the fact that half of the disabled community are our sisters.[32]

Darke is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party. She was one of the first councillors in the West Midlands to support Corbyn's successful run in the 2015 Labour Party (UK) leadership election,[33] and continued to support his leadership in the 2016 Labour Party (UK) leadership election.[34]

She supports the campaign to save the British Department Store, Beatties[35]. As Cabinet Member for Education, she underlined the importance of Music as part of a young person's education[36] and criticised the Conservative Government's austerity measures and cuts to education.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Darke was selected to design and decorate a Wolf sculpture as part of the local arts project Wolves in Wolves.[38][39][40] The wolf design is dedicated to all those from Wolverhampton who died in World War One.[41][42] She is also a volunteer and treasurer for The Wolverhampton Society.[43] She was formerly the Secretary of the Wolverhampton Civil and Historical Society, where she helped get more blue plaques for the city and its surroundings,[44][45] including one for Wolverhampton's first female doctor, Dr Ina Lochhead McNeill.[46][47][48]


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  2. ^ a b Keen, Liam. "New Wolverhampton mayor hails 'great opportunity to celebrate city'". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
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  4. ^ Thandi, Gurdip (2019-05-17). "New mayor looking for 'girl power' in year of office". birminghammail. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  5. ^ a b Council - Wed, 15th May 2019 - 6:00 pm - City of Wolverhampton Council Webcasting, retrieved 2019-06-08
  6. ^ a b "May 2019 - University alumna becomes city mayor - University of Wolverhampton". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  7. ^ Large, Heather. "We're backing Beatties: We need YOUR help to save iconic Wolverhampton store". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
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  16. ^ Live, Birmingham (2012-05-04). "Wolverhampton City Council 2012 election results". birminghammail. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
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  19. ^ Darke, Claire. "Wolverhampton City Council - PROGRESS REPORT – EQUALITIES CHAMPION" (PDF). Wolverhampton City Council.
  20. ^ Wolverhampton City Council (20 November 2014). "Health Scrutiny Panel Minutes - 20 November 2014" (PDF). Wolverhampton City Council.
  21. ^ Wolverhampton City Council. "scrutiny review group report". Wolverhampton City Council.
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  23. ^ "Wolverhampton council praised for 'outstanding' adult education". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
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  30. ^ "Councillor Claire Darke set to become Mayor of City of Wolverhampton | City Of Wolverhampton Council". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  31. ^ Kennedy, Angela. (1997). Swimming against the tide : feminist dissent on the issue of abortion. Open Air. ISBN 1851822674. OCLC 632660387.
  32. ^ Swimming against the tide : feminist dissent on the issue of abortion. Kennedy, Angela, 1963-. Dublin, Ireland: Open Air. 1997. pp. 67–74. ISBN 1851822674. OCLC 37216006.CS1 maint: others (link)
  33. ^ "Look Left: #JezWeCan Gets Fresh Boost". HuffPost UK. 2015-07-18. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  34. ^ Elkes, Neil (2016-06-30). "'I didn't call for Corbyn to go' says Birmingham councillor named on Labour website". birminghammail. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  35. ^ Large, Heather. "We're backing Beatties: We need YOUR help to save iconic Wolverhampton store". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  36. ^ "Star Lloyd-Webber is VIP Wolverhampton youth orchestra concert guest". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  37. ^ "Education cuts will 'see £432 loss for every pupil' in Wolverhampton". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  38. ^ "Wolves in Wolves artists revealed | City Of Wolverhampton Council". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  39. ^ Gewin' On (2018-05-28), Wolves in Wolves - The Fallen (Claire Darke), retrieved 2019-05-09
  40. ^ Darke, Paul (2017-07-27), Claire Darke Project Video for Wolves in Wolves (Wolverhampton) WinW2017, retrieved 2019-05-09
  41. ^ "The Fallen by Claire Darke - Wolves in Wolves | Wolf sculptures in Wolverhampton". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  42. ^ Wootton, Doug. "Wolves in Wolves sculptures hit city centre for Armed Forces Day". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  43. ^ "Home". The Wolverhampton Society. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  44. ^ Lockley, Mike (2016-05-15). "Dandy's Desperate Dan and Korky The Cat cartoonist to get blue plaque in Langley". birminghammail. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  45. ^ Simpson, Geoff, 1947- author. A history of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association : commemorating the few. ISBN 9781473852433. OCLC 903357164.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
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  47. ^ Thompson, Adam (2013-09-16). "Plaque honours women doctors". Express & Star.
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