Rt Hon Kenneth Harry Clarke, QC, MP, (born 2 July 1940) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He is MP for Rushcliffe, near Nottingham. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 until 1997, and a minister throughout all 18 years of Conservative rule from 1979 to 1997. He has contested the leadership of the party three times (in 1997, 2001 and 2005), being defeated each time.
Born in Nottingham, England in 1940, Clarke was educated at Nottingham High School (then a "direct grant" school) and went on to study law at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he graduated with a 2:1. He had joined the Conservatives while at university, where he was chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association. As a student, he controversially invited the former British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley to speak for a second year in succession, leading some Jewish students (including his future successor at the Home Office Michael Howard) to resign from CUCA in protest. Clarke was defeated for the presidency of the Cambridge Union Society by Howard, although he was subsequently elected President of the Union a year later. In an early 1990s documentary journalist Michael Cockerell played Clarke tape recordings of himself speaking at the Cambridge Union as a young man; Clarke displayed amusement at the stereotypically upper class accent with which he spoke at the time.
On leaving Cambridge, Clarke was called to the Bar in 1963.
Ken Clarke's principal interests are jazz, birdwatching, reading political history and watching most kinds of sport (he is a big fan of Nottingham Forest). He attended the 1966 World Cup final and claims (with a little jest) to have been influential in persuading the man known vernacularly as "the Russian linesman" Tofik Bakhramov (who was actually from Azerbaijan), to award a goal to Geoff Hurst when the England striker had seen his shot hit the crossbar of opponents West Germany and bounce down, leaving doubt as to whether the ball had crossed the line. Clarke's position in the Wembley crowd was right behind the linesman at the time, and he shouted at the official to award a goal. Clarke makes this claim in jest as Bakhramov understood no English at all.
Clarke is a former President of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and a keen follower of Formula one motorsport. As a director of the tobacco giant BAT he was involved with their Formula One team British American Racing and has attended Grands Prix in support of the BAR team. BAR was sold to Honda in 2005.
Clarke is a lover of Real Ale and has been a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
He married Gillian Edwards, also a Cambridge graduate, in November 1964. They have two children - a son, and a daughter.
He sits on the Adivsory Board of Centaurus Capital, a London based hedge fund management company.
He is a Director (non-executive) of Independent News and Media (UK).