Open main menu

David Clark, Baron Clark of Windermere

David George Clark, Baron Clark of Windermere[1] PC DL (born 19 October 1939 in Castle Douglas, Scotland) is a British Labour politician, former cabinet minister and author.

The Lord Clark of Windermere

Official portrait of Lord Clark of Windermere crop 2.jpg
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
2 May 1997 – 27 July 1998
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byRoger Freeman
Succeeded byJack Cunningham
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
18 July 1992 – 2 May 1997
LeaderJohn Smith
Margaret Beckett (Acting)
Tony Blair
Preceded byMartin O'Neill
Succeeded byJohn Major
Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
13 July 1987 – 18 July 1992
LeaderNeil Kinnock
Preceded byRoger Freeman
Succeeded byJack Cunningham
Member of Parliament
for South Shields
In office
3 May 1979 – 7 June 2001
Preceded byArthur Blenkinsop
Succeeded byDavid Miliband
Member of Parliament
for Colne Valley
In office
18 June 1970 – 28 February 1974
Preceded byRichard Wainwright
Succeeded byRichard Wainwright
Personal details
Born (1939-10-19) 19 October 1939 (age 79)
Castle Douglas, United Kingdom
Political partyLabour
Alma materVictoria University of Manchester
University of Sheffield


Education and early careerEdit

He attended Bowness Elementary School and Windermere Grammar School in Cumbria. After leaving school, he worked as a forester and then as a Laboratory Assistant in a textile mill before becoming a student teacher in 1959.

He attended the University of Manchester as a mature student from 1960, gaining a BA in Economics, then later an M.Sc. He was President of the Students' Union. In 1978 he gained a PhD from the University of Sheffield.

He was a lecturer in Government and Administration at the University of Salford from 1965 to 1970 and a Tutor at University of Manchester from 1967 to 1970.


He joined the Labour Party in 1959 and the Co-operative Party two years later. He stood unsuccessfully for Manchester Withington at the 1966 General Election, but was defeated by the incumbent Conservative, Sir Robert Cary.

He was first elected as a member of parliament (MP) for Colne Valley which he represented from 1970 to 1974. After losing in the February 1974 general election, he became a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Huddersfield Polytechnic (now the University of Huddersfield) until 1979 when he returned to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for South Shields in Tyne and Wear. He held until he stood down at the 2001 general election.

Shadow cabinetEdit

Clark was regularly elected to the Shadow Cabinet while the Labour Party was in opposition. He held a number of Shadow portfolios, including Agriculture Fisheries & Food (1972–74), Defence (1980–81), Food Agricultural and Rural Affairs (1987–92), and Shadow Defence Secretary (1992–97). Although Clark was not a strong supporter of New Labour, he did support Tony Blair's bid for the party leadership in 1994.


Clark's long-standing position as a member of Labour's frontbench team meant Tony Blair was obliged to appoint him to the Cabinet when the party was elected to government in May 1997. However, he was not given a senior or middle-ranking position, and instead was given the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with responsibility for producing a White Paper on Freedom of Information which was published in July 1998 and ultimately led to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[2]

He opposed moves to water-down the freedom of information proposals from what had been proposed by Labour in Opposition, and this led to his sacking. At the time, he said that he believed his sacking was also because of his insistence on living in the North-East and "missing out on the London cocktail circuit". Additionally, Blair's sacking of Clark and another "old Labour" figure, Gavin Strang, was part of a plan by Blair to bring two Liberal Democrats into the Cabinet, a plan thwarted by John Prescott and others (though it is highly likely the Liberal Democrats would not have accepted the plan anyway had it become public).[3]

Heavily involved and interested in Bosnia, Clark was forced to apologise for not declaring a 1993 meeting with Radovan Karadžić in the Register of Members' Interests, as he "thought it had been a United Nations-funded trip".

Speaker's electionEdit

Two years later, on 23 October 2000, he stood for the job of Speaker of the House of Commons in succession to Betty Boothroyd but was unsuccessful (192 votes in favour, 257 against) and his backbench colleague, Michael Martin was elected.

2001 general election and resignationEdit

Clark sought reselection by the South Shields Constituency Labour Party to contest the 2001 general election for the seat. However, control of the constituency Party had swung in favour of a vocal group of critics, led by a faction within South Tyneside Council, who feared Clark actually intended to stand down when the General Election was called, thus enabling the Labour Party's National Executive Committee to parachute a favoured candidate into the Constituency[citation needed], historically a safe Labour seat. During the reselection contest Clark vigorously denied the claims and told the Shields Gazette newspaper advising he had every intention of contesting the general election[citation needed]. In the event, Clark won reselection but only with the support of regional trade union barons.

When Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the date of the general election in 2001, Clark immediately stood down and the Labour Party NEC moved swiftly, New Labour rising star David Miliband was selected to fight the seat. Miliband, an Oxford graduate from London was seen locally as a parachute candidate.[citation needed]

Within weeks of the Labour Party winning the 2001 general election, Clark was given a life peerage as Baron Clark of Windermere, of Windermere in the County of Cumbria and now sits in the House of Lords. He was also appointed the paid post of Chairman of the Forestry Commission.

House of LordsEdit

Lord Clark of Windermere's ongoing political interests include Bosnia, open spaces, hunting and bloodsports (to which he is opposed), defence, and the environment.

He was awarded Freedom of the Borough of South Shields in February 1999, and is a long-standing fan of Carlisle United Football Club, of which he is a Director. He has served as a Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria. Clark was Chair of the Atlantic Council of the UK (1998–2003), and has been Leader of the North Atlantic Assembly since 2001, having been a member since 1980. He was a member of the Executive of the National Trust from 1980 until 1994. He was Chair of the Forestry Commission from 2004 to 2009; a non-executive director of the Homeowners Friendly Society, the Thales Group, and the UK Friendly Insurance Services. He is a trustee of the Vindolanda Trust, the History of Parliament Trust, and the Gravetye Trust, and a patron of the UK Defence Forum. He currently chairs the Lake District National Park Partnership.

Personal lifeEdit

He married Christine Kirkby, in 1970 and they have one daughter, Catherine. He lives in Windermere, and lists his recreations as gardening, fell walking, reading, and watching football. He is a director of Carlisle United Football Club.



  1. ^ House of Lords (2 July 2001). "Minutes of Proceedings". Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  2. ^ Ashbrook, Kate (2 May 2013). "South Shields by-election: why the seat's tradition of public freedom is at stake". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ White, Michael (29 November 1999). "Blair's plan for coalition revealed in stolen diary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. ^

External linksEdit