Yes, I remember Kenneth Clarke


(With apologies to Edward Thomas, and in gratitude for Adlestrop ).

Yes, I remember Kenneth Clarke —
The name, because when there were none
Of note and few who shone he shone
Remarkably. He was alone.

The party hissed. Someone cleared his throat
And muttered “left” and “Europe”,
Tore down his platform. What remained
Was Kenneth Clarke — only the name.

And whisky, scotch whisky, and beer,
And lower tax, and far more work,
No whit less grand and wise and fair
Than cabinet-full of fool and berk.

Yet for those weeks a real hope sprang,
Close by, and round him, trustier,
More golden still, than all the snipes
Of Parliament and Westminster.


If you liked this, there’s more poems and sketches here, extracts from my novel here, and a selection of the best posts here. Oh, and please comment, like, share, whatever takes your fancy.



  1. I do like that. Was Kenneth Clarke all that good? I hope so. We need more worthy leaders in politics.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      Ken never really had the chance to lead, so we’ll never know. But even though he had an association with the tobacco industry that would not have played well twenty years later, he had a rare combination of common sense, popularity and conviction. In Government he was a well-liked Chancellor. Three times he stood for leader of the Conservative party, and three times his centrist, conciliatory and pro-European stance tore the leadership from him, party members voting in favour of more reactionary politicians even though very opinion poll told them Ken could have led them to Government. And as leader, even in opposition, he’d have provided a powerful moderating voice that might have had a real effect during thirteen years of massive Labour majorities. His failure – or rather, his party’s failure to see beyond their own parochial vision – must go down as one of the great missed political opportunities over here.

      Which is why I thought Adlestrop was a fitting tribute – a wistful look at what was and what might have been had not something (in this case, the Great War that took the poet’s life) intervened.

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