Kenneth Clarke

Kenneth was born in 1940. He was educated at Nottingham High School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He is married, with two children.

He is a barrister-at-law, having been called to the Bar by Gray`s Inn in l963 and becoming QC in 1980. He has practised on the Midland Circuit, based in Birmingham.

He was elected MP for Rushcliffe at the l970 General Election, gaining the seat from Labour. Despite no longer sitting on the front bench, Kenneth Clarke remains one of the Conservative Party’s most senior and important figures. Famed for his love of cigars, jazz and classic cars, the clubbable former chancellor is seen as a true big hitter who is still well regarded in the country. When he stood for the party leadership in 2001, opinion polls suggested he was most popular Conservative politician with the British people.

Mr Clarke is one of the most ardent supporters of Europe and the euro among current MPs. However, he has also been more critical of Europe in recent times, saying he does not think Britain could join the euro with “complete security and confidence” for 10 years.

Since becoming an MP in 1970, Mr Clarke has risen steadily up the Conservative ladder. Within two years of his election he was an assistant whip, rising to whip and then becoming a junior spokesman on the opposition benches. When Margaret Thatcher led the party to victory in 1979 she appointed Mr Clarke to the post of junior transport minister.

Over the next 10 years, he served as a junior minister in the departments of health, employment and trade and industry. As health secretary, he was given the job of driving through controversial and far-reaching reforms of the NHS, including the internal market.

When John Major became leader he moved Mr Clarke to education and later the Home Office.

After the events of Black Wednesday, the resignation of Norman Lamont and the decision to leave the ERM, Mr Clarke was made chancellor. It was as chancellor in the Major years that much of Mr Clarke’s reputation and standing rests. His period in charge of the Treasury saw interest rates, inflation and unemployment all falling, leading to a steady and healthy economy.