definition of Wikipedia
|The Right Honourable
|Member of Parliament
for Kensington and Chelsea
1 May 1997 – 5 September 1999
|Preceded by||Constituency Created|
|Succeeded by||Michael Portillo|
|Member of Parliament
for Plymouth Sutton
28 February 1974 – 9 April 1992
|Preceded by||David Owen|
|Succeeded by||Gary Streeter|
|Born||13 April 1928
|Died||5 September 1999
Saltwood Castle, Kent
Alan Kenneth Mackenzie Clark (13 April 1928 – 5 September 1999) was a British Conservative MP and diarist. He served as a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher's governments at the Departments of Employment, Trade, and Defence, and became a privy counsellor in 1991. He was the author of several books of military history, including his controversial work The Donkeys (1961), which is considered to have inspired the musical satire, Oh, What a Lovely War!.
Clark became known for his flamboyance, wit, and irreverence. Norman Lamont called him "the most politically incorrect, outspoken, iconoclastic and reckless politician of our times". He is particularly remembered for his three-volume diary, a candid account of political life under Thatcher, and a moving description of the weeks preceding his death, when he continued to write until he could no longer focus on the page.
Clark was a passionate supporter of animal rights, joining activists in demonstrations at Dover against live export, and outside the House of Commons in support of Animal Liberation Front hunger-striker Barry Horne. When he died after radiation therapy for a brain tumour, his family said Clark wanted it to be stated that he had "gone to join Tom and the other dogs."
Clark was born at 55 Lancaster Gate, London, the elder son of art historian, Kenneth Clark and his wife Elizabeth Winifred Martin. At the age of six he went as a day boy to Egerton House, a preparatory school in Marylebone, and from there at the age of nine went on to board at St Cyprian's School, Eastbourne. Clark was one of the seventy boys rescued when the school building were destroyed by fire in May 1939, and relocated with the school to Midhurst. In September 1940, with the Luftwaffe threatening the south-east, the Clarks moved their son to a safer location at Cheltenham College Junior School. From there he went to Eton College in January 1942. In February 1946 while at Eton he joined the Territorial training regiment of the Household Cavalry based at Windsor, but was discharged in August when he had left Eton. He then went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Modern History under Hugh Trevor-Roper, obtaining a second-class honours degree. After Oxford he wrote articles for the motoring press before he went on to read for the bar. He was called to the bar in 1955 but did not practise. Instead, he became a military historian.
Clark's first book, The Donkeys (1961), was a revisionist history of the British Expeditionary Force's campaigns at the beginning of World War I. The book covers Western Front operations during 1915, including the offensives at Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge and Loos, and ending with the dismissal of Sir John French as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, and his replacement by Douglas Haig. Clark describes the battle scenes and criticises the actions of almost all the generals involved in the heavy loss of life that occurred. However much of the book is based on the political manoeuvres behind the scenes as commanders jostled for influence, and as Sir John French had difficulties dealing with his French allies and with Kitchener. Haig's own diaries are used to demonstrate how Haig positioned himself to take over command. Clark does not reflect on Haig's performance as Commander-in-Chief nor on the battles of 1916 and 1917.
The book's title was drawn from the expression "Lions led by donkeys" which has been widely used to compare British soldiers with their commanders. In 1921 Princess Evelyn Blücher published her memoirs, which attributed the phrase to the German GHQ in 1918. Clark was unable to find the origin of the expression and prefaced the book with a supposed dialogue between two generals and attributed it to the memoirs of Falkenhayn. Clark was equivocal about the source for the dialogue for many years although in 2007, a friend Euan Graham recalled a conversation in the mid sixties when Clark on being challenged as to the dialogue's provenance looked sheepish and said "well I invented it". This invention has provided a major opportunity for critics of "The Donkeys" to condemn the work.
Clark's choice of subject was strongly influenced by Lord Lee of Fareham, a family friend who had never forgotten what he saw as the shambles of the BEF. In developing his work, Clark became close friends with historian Basil Liddell Hart, who acted as his mentor. Liddell Hart read the drafts and was concerned by Clark's "intermittent carelessness". He produced several lists of corrections which were incorporated, and wrote "It is a fine piece of writing , and often brilliantly penetrating". However, even before publication, Clark's work was coming under attack from supporters of Haig, including his son and historians John Terraine, Robert Blake and Hugh Trevor-Roper, former tutor to Clark, who was married to Haig's daughter. On publication, The Donkeys received very supportive comments from Lord Beaverbrook, who recommended the work to Winston Churchill, and The Times printed a positive review. However, John Terraine and A.J.P. Taylor wrote damning reviews, and Michael Howard wrote "As history it is worthless" and criticised "slovenly scholarship". Howard however commended its readability and noted that descriptions of battles and battlefields are "sometimes masterly". Field Marshal Montgomery later told Clark it was "A Dreadful Tale: You have done a good job in exposing the total failure of the generalship". The book was considered to be the inspiration for the popular pacifist musical Oh! What a Lovely War, and Clark, after legal wrangles, was awarded some royalties.
The book became popular with the reading public as provocative and entertaining and reflected the public attitudes at the time. In more recent years, as the pendulum has moved in favour of Haig and the British generals, the work has been criticised by some historians for being one-sided in its treatment of World War One generals. Brian Bond, in editing a 1991 collection of essays on First World War history, expressed the collective desire of the authors to move beyond "popular stereotypes of The Donkeys," while also acknowledging that serious leadership mistakes were made and that the authors would do little to rehabilitate the reputations of, for instance, the senior commanders on The Somme. War Museum historian Peter Simkins complained that it was frustratingly difficult to counter Clark's prevailing view. Professor Richard Holmes made a similar complaint writing "Alan Clark's The Donkeys, for all its verve and amusing narrative, added a streak of pure deception to the writings of the First World War. Its title is based on 'Lions led by Donkeys'. Sadly for historical accuracy, there is no evidence whatever for this; none. Not a jot or scintilla. The real problem is that such histories have sold well and continue to do so. They reinforce historical myth by delivering to the reader exactly what they expect to read". Clark's work was described as "contemptible" by the Marquess of Anglesey who regarded Clark as the most arrogant and least respectable writer of the War. In this case, there was "form" as Anglesey's history of the British Cavalry had been reviewed by Clark with the comments "cavalry are nearly always a disaster, a waste of space and resources."
Journalist Gary Mead, in conjunction with Professor Hew Strachan of Oxford University, and Dr. A. R Morton of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, criticised Clark's use of passages written by Haig to demonstrate Haig's own 'incompetence' in his book, The Good Soldier. He wrote, "Alan Clark['s] .....own 1961 anti-Haig book, The Donkeys, shamelessley wrenched Haig's words out of context". Graham Stewart, Clark's researcher for The Tories noted "Alan wasn't against quoting people selectively to make them look bad" Bond maintained that Clark criticised British Generalship, most of all Haig, for its 'obsession' with cavalry, which was obsolete in industrial warfare. Bond and John Bourne write that cavalry had rarely been used on the Western Front in the First World War, or indeed in the decade leading up to the war. By 1915-1916, the Cavalry Corps was reduced from five to three divisions, and soon constituted less than three percent of the British Army. Moreover, other authors have pointed out this criticism is unjust, considering there was no other form of mobile force around; mechanisation was still in its infancy. Haig compensated for this by increasing the firepower of cavalry units and using them frequently as dismounted infantry.
Clark produced several more studies of the First World War and the Second World War, including Barbarossa — after Operation Barbarossa — a history of the Eastern Front in the Second World War, before becoming involved in politics.
Clark became MP for Plymouth Sutton at the February 1974 general election. During his first five years in parliament, the Conservative Party was in opposition. Although he was personally liked by Margaret Thatcher, for whom he had great admiration, he was never promoted to the cabinet, remaining in mid-ranking ministerial positions during the 1980s.
Clark received his first ministerial posting as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment in 1983, where he was responsible for moving the approval of regulations relating to equal pay in the House of Commons. His speech in 1983 followed a wine-tasting dinner with his friend of many years standing, Christopher Selmes. Irritated by what he regarded as a bureaucratically written civil-service speech, he galloped through the script, skipping over pages of text. The then-opposition MP Clare Short stood up on a point of order and, after acknowledging that MPs cannot formally accuse each other of being drunk in the House of Commons, accused him of being "incapable", a euphemism for drunk. Although the Government benches were furious at the accusation, Clark later admitted in his diaries that the wine-tasting had affected him. To date, he is the only Member of Parliament to have been accused in the House of Commons of being drunk at the dispatch box.
In 1986 he was promoted to Minister of Trade at the Department of Trade and Industry. It was during this time that he became involved with the issue of export licences to Iraq. In 1989, he became Minister for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence.
Clark left Parliament in 1992 following Margaret Thatcher's fall from power. His admission during the Matrix Churchill trial that he had been "economical with the actualité" in answer to parliamentary questions over export licences to Iraq, caused the collapse of the trial and the establishment of the Scott Inquiry, which helped undermine John Major's government.
Clark was an outspoken maverick with strong views on British unionism, racial difference, social class, and in support of animal rights. It is evident that he was a High Tory, nationalist and a protectionist and at the least, always put the British interest above all others, which included strong Euroscepticism. He referred to Enoch Powell as 'The Prophet'. Clark once declared: "It is natural to be proud of your race and your country", and in a departmental meeting, allegedly referred to Africa as "Bongo Bongo land". When called to account, however, by then Prime Minister John Major, Clark denied the comment had any racist overtones, claiming it had simply been a reference to the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo.
Clark pointed out that the media and the government failed to pick out the racism towards white people even though he met John Tyndall, chairman of the National Front and founder of the British National Party, and considered him 'a bit of a blockhead'.
While involved in the Matrix Churchill trial he was cited in a divorce case in South Africa, in which it was revealed he had had affairs with Valerie Harkess, the wife of a South African barrister (and part-time junior judge), and her daughters Josephine and Alison. After sensationalist tabloid headlines, Clark's wife Jane remarked upon what Clark had called "the coven" with the line: 'Well, what do you expect when you sleep with below stairs types?', and referred to her husband as an 'S, H, one, T'.
Clark published the first volume of his political and personal diaries in 1993, which caused a minor embarrassment at the time with their candid descriptions of senior Conservative politicians such as Michael Heseltine, Douglas Hurd, and Kenneth Clarke. He quoted Michael Jopling — referring to Heseltine, deputy PM at the time — as saying "The trouble with Michael is that he had to buy his own furniture" and judged it "Snobby but cutting".  His account of Thatcher's downfall in 1990 has been described as the most vivid that we have and is now accepted by most contemporary political historians as the definitive account. Two subsequent volumes of his diaries cover the earlier and later parts of Clark's parliamentary career. The diaries reveal recurring worries about Japanese militarism but his real views are often not clear because he enjoyed making 'tongue in cheek' remarks to the discomfiture of those he believed to be fools, as in his sympathy for a British version of National Socialism.
Clark died in 1999 of a brain tumour which he was convinced was caused by his heavy cellular phone use. His diary account of his slow death has been lauded as moving and explicit. He is buried in the grounds of Saltwood Castle. After his death, the Kensington and Chelsea constituency was won by Michael Portillo.
Shortly afterwards it was reported in The Tablet that Clark was received into the Catholic Church two months before he died (as his father had been) but chose to keep the matter private. Clark's biographer Ion Trewin denied the story, saying that Clark told Westminster Cathedral's Father Michael Seed that he did not wish to become Catholic if his dogs could not also go to heaven.
In 2004, John Hurt portrayed Clark, and Jenny Agutter his wife, in the BBC's The Alan Clark Diaries, re-igniting some of the controversies surrounding their original publication and once again brought his name into the UK press and media. An authorised biography of Alan Clark by Ion Trewin, the editor of his diaries, was published in September 2009.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Alan Clark|
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton
Feb 1974 – 1992
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Kensington and Chelsea
1997 – 1999
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