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Alan Clark


Another pleasure of Christmas is, lets face it, receiving a nice present or two. One of mine was the third – and final – volume of Alan Clark’s diaries. Clark was a minor politician (the high point of his career was fairly lowly ministerial rank under Mrs. Thatcher) but a major diarist. The three volumes – especially the second (chronologically, but the first to appear) – will be read (in the UK, at least) for generations both for their insight into late 20th Century British Conservative politics and for Clark himself, fluent, clever, brimming with opinions and attitudes (some of which were ill-considered at best, repugnant at worst), neurotic (the hypochondria!), a man for life’s pleasures (9th October, 1991: “Drank too much. Randy in the night. Illish in the morning”.) and a fascinating blend of arrogance and self-doubt.

Here he is on Easter Monday, 1997:

“Am I relaxed, confident, beautifully turned out, one of the few ‘real’ Conservatives, historian, authoritative, high-profile media figure: to be returned smoothly to the new ‘difficult’, ‘interesting’, etc. House of Commons?

Or am I shaky, nervous of crowds, with incipient prostate, bowel and basal cancers; demi-deaf in one (right) ear, completely non-functionally impotent with a limited lifespan and an enormous crowd of ill-wishers waiting for me to fall over?”

This entry (from February 28th, 1991) also caught my attention:

“The Gulf War is over. Too soon, I think. Bush has ordered a ceasefire. Now a long and messy interlude with Saddam stalling and dodging and quite likely to start shooting again. The Foreign Office has no idea what it wants. Never seems to have given any thought to the post-war pattern, the western military presence, commitments – OBJECTIVES.”


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