As a Cabinet Minister Charles dealt with numerous contentious issues from counter-terrorism measures to student tuition fees. He now lectures on politics. In speeches Charles shows how some problems seem insoluble unless you collaborate (or gain cross-party support). As he argues in The Too Difficult Box, the only way to make effective long term decisions is to remove them from short term political necessities – and agree not to attack one another.
Charles Clarke served as both Home Secretary and Education Secretary. Having left Westminster, he remains involved in politics, and retains a particular interest in education policy and on broader areas of long-term planning and strategy in public and private sectors.
A life-long politician and activist, Charles served as President of the National Union of Students and was the British representative on the Permanent Commission for the World Youth Festival (Cuba). He entered local politics in Hackney, east London before joining the office of Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, becoming Chief of Staff. A brief spell away from front-line politics as chief executive of a public affairs consultancy ended when he stood for parliament in the 1997 Labour landslide.
After entering Parliament Charles was quickly appointed a junior minister in education and then the Home Office. He joined the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio before becoming Education Secretary where, amongst other policies, he introduced the first tuition fees in the UK. He then became Home Secretary, dealing with many sensitive and controversial areas including counter-terrorism, trail by jury, ID cards and foreign prisoners. After leaving the Home Office he chose to return to the backbenches until the election of 2010.
Charles remains involved in Labour politics and regularly comments in the media on events in Westminster and beyond. His book, The Too Difficult Box refers to politics’ aversion to long-term decision-making and the necessity for a political consensus on key areas of national importance. A lesson that can just as easily apply to businesses and other organisations. Along with a number of academic and political appointments, including membership of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Charles is a non-exec director of an education technology company.
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Rt Hon Charles Clarke on public reform