Kenneth Clarke - Early Life

Early Life

Kenneth Clarke's father (also named Kenneth) worked as a mining electrician and then a watchmaker and jeweller. He was born in West Bridgford, near Nottingham in 1940 and was educated at Langley Mill Boys' School, Derbyshire, Highbury Primary School, Nottingham and Nottingham High School (then a direct grant grammar school). He went on to Cambridge University, where he read law at Gonville and Caius College and graduated with a 2:1 honours degree. Clarke originally had Labour sympathies, his grandfather having been a Communist. However while at Cambridge, he joined the Conservative Party, and was chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association. Controversially, he invited 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. Howard then defeated Clarke in one election for the presidency of the Cambridge Union Society, although Clarke was elected President of the Union a year later. In an early 1990s documentary, journalist Michael Cockerell played to Clarke some tape recordings of himself speaking at the Cambridge Union as a young man; Clarke displayed amusement at his own stereotypically upper class accent. Clarke was counted one of the Cambridge Mafia, a group of prominent Conservative politicians who were educated at Cambridge in the 1960s. On leaving Cambridge, Clarke was called to the Bar in 1963 by Gray's Inn and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1980.

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