Kenneth Clarke - Member of Parliament

Member of Parliament

Clarke sought election to the House of Commons almost immediately after university. He began by fighting the Labour stronghold of Mansfield in the 1964 and 1966 elections. In June 1970, at the age of 29, he gained the East Midlands constituency of Rushcliffe, south of Nottingham, from Labour MP Tony Gardner. Labour has not come close to winning the seat since, but even Gardner's 1966 victory was partly due to the unpopularity of the Tory MP whom he defeated. Clarke was by 2005 one of the longest serving of all MPs. In the 55th Parliament, only Peter Tapsell (serving since 1959) has served longer, and Gerald Kaufman, Dennis Skinner and Michael Meacher all entered Parliament on the same day. David Winnick entered Parliament before Clarke (in 1966) but left in 1970 and only re-entered in 1979.

Kenneth Clarke was soon appointed a Government whip, and served as such from 1972 to 1974; he helped ensure Edward Heath's government win key votes on entry to the European Economic Community (now the EU) with the assistance of Labour rebels. Even though he opposed the election of Margaret Thatcher as party leader in 1975, he was appointed as her industry spokesman from 1976 to 1979, and then occupied a range of ministerial positions during her premiership.

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