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 Overview: Ken Clarke
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A key figure in John Major's government
A key figure in John Major's government

Ken Clarke's late entry into the race is his second - and at 61, almost certainly his last - throw for the Tory leadership, but his campaign has gathered pace at every stage.

His declaration at his campaign launch that "we have just wasted four years before suffering the most humiliating defeat in Conservative history" is typical of his combative, take-me-as-I-am style.

In the current spin doctored era, the Hush Puppy-wearing, jazz-loving beer drinker who could do with going on a diet enjoys a wide appeal. Several opinion polls have suggested the ex-chancellor to be the most popular choice for Tory leader among voters, and the party rank and file backed him when William Hague beat him to the succession in 1997.

Clarke boasts the greatest ministerial experience of the field: he served in government for the full 18 years of Tory reign from 1979 to 1997, health, education and home secretary among his jobs.

He is unrepentantly on the pro-European, One Nation wing of the Tory Party and spent the last four years on the backbenches making little secret of his disagreement with the leadership. He is by no means above pragmatism, though, as shown by the startling pact between himself and the super-sceptic John Redwood for the final round of the 1997 contest.

This time round, Clarke hopes to resolve the apparently unbridgeable Tory gulf over the euro by allowing "a free vote and freedom in debate" on the single currency.

It has proved enough to have won over the Eurosceptic Henley MP Boris Johnson to his side, and has helped him oust the early leadership frontrunner Michael Portillo from his top spot.






Audio/Video Clips
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All five candidates head-to-head on Question Time
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Ken Clarke finally ends the speculation and joins the race, June 2001
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Ken Clarke makes his mind up - but keeps his decision secret, June 2001
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The pro-euro Clarke explains why he joined Tony Blair in backing Britain in Europe, October 1999
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The former chancellor refuses to serve in Hague’s shadow cabinet, summer 1997
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