Who is the man who wants to destroy Winston Churchill’s greatest legacy, the European Convention on Human Rights, and join the UK with Belarus and Russia outside of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights? Read on.
Deckchair Dom – the early years
After leaving Oxford University, Simon Clarke worked at a solicitor’s office for a few years before starting work as a political researcher for Esher and Walton Conservative MP Dominic Raab in 2010. Clarke briefed Raab on a diverse range of topics including human resource management, anti-bullying strategy, Irish issues, food banks, industrial relations, telephone etiquette, diary management, computer software, luxury beach resorts and tide times.
In the June 2017 general election Clarke stood for, and was elected to, the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. He didn’t make much progress under Theresa May, but when Boris Johnson became PM in July 2019, ardent Brexiter Clarke’s career arc was in the ascendancy, and he was in the Cabinet by September 2021. He thrived under Johnson and then Liz Truss, but a deep personal animosity between Clarke and Rishi Sunak ensured that his star waned from November 2022 onwards.
Back in October 2021, Clarke, then chief secretary to the Treasury faked agoraphobia to dodge out of the traditional pre-budget photo op with then Chancellor Sunak.
Clear the lobbies
Fast forward to 17 January 2024 and, unlike Lee ‘30p’ Anderson, Clarke wasn’t deterred by giggling Labour MPs, and boldly marched with 11 other Conservative MPs through the Rwanda Bill “No” lobby into his post-election Conservative leadership campaign.
Brexit was The Will of the People, something, something
Surely urbane, polite, mild-mannered Clarke wouldn’t want to transform the UK into the next Myanmar or North Korea? Don’t bet against it. He’ll be up against Kemi Badenoch, Robert Jenrick and Suella Braverman when Sunak falls on his sword, and he’s got to outdo all three in the ECHR bat**** stakes. So he’ll pitch his singular vision of a quaintly British fascist totalitarian state, where he’ll sack you for striking, jail you for protesting, spy on your bank account, and encourage human slavery, but there’ll still be long shadows on cricket pitches, warm beer and old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist.
Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?
There’s nothing the Turnip Taliban like more than a Boxing Day hunt. Be careful though. If you’re going to virtue-signal to Daily Telegraph readers with fake yuletide reminiscences about blood sports it makes it more difficult to support animal rights five minutes later. Clarke suddenly wanted to save the goldfish, hoping that his constituents had a three-second memory span, but when he got rinsed on social media over his hypocrisy he tried to walk back his equine gaffe by claiming that he had never so much as mounted a stallion, let alone visited Nadhim Zahawi’s stables. Clarke is 20 hands high.
It’s always a struggle to keep onside with GB News viewers who are still fuming because the woke mob changed the label on Camp Coffee, but Simon is up to the task of burnishing his right-wing credentials, decrying food banks, Black Lives Matter, free school meals, and denying reality about HGV driver shortages caused by Brexit. His spell as housing secretary didn’t do too much for his CV though, as he only lasted 49 days, the exact lifespan of a Liz Truss lettuce, and his Marcel Morceau impersonation on BBC Breakfast didn’t do him any favours, but luckily Conservative Home are always on hand to pen a hagiography.
Net Zero 2050
Unusually for a senior Conservative, Clarke has been progressive on energy policy. In 2019 he led the campaign to enshrine Net Zero 2050 commitments within UK law. The following year he defied the High Priest of Hydrogen, his arch-crony Ben Houchen, saying that we shouldn’t use hydrogen for domestic power supplies, but should use electric heat pumps instead. In November 2022 Simon successfully tabled an amendment to the levelling up bill to reverse the moratorium on onshore wind farms. In January 2024, 14 months later, he finally realised that he’d been conned by Rishi Sunak, as not one onshore wind farm has been given planning permission since the moratorium was ‘lifted’.
These are Clarke’s green principles. If you don’t like them he has others, and in September 2022, if new prime minister Liz Truss was going to frack for victory, newly minted minister Clarke wasn’t going to stop her.
Road to Hell
No, not the warbling of the great Smoggie songster Chris Rea, but Clarke’s cynical posturing over Middlesbrough’s worst traffic issue, the “Marton Crawl”. His Facebook posts are nectar to his wealthy, retired SUV-owning support base who don’t actually have to struggle through it every day, and he’s always demanding that the council throw money at the road network, while simultaneously trying to bankrupt the very same Middlesbrough Council into declaring a Section 114 notice.
A practical solution to reduce the Marton Crawl would be the building of a Park and Ride railway station between the commuter suburbs of Nunthorpe and Guisborough. Five years ago, in 2019, Clarke, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and Redcar Council leader Mary Lanigan teamed up for a photo op to promote such a scheme. The idea was then quietly buried for five years until it was exhumed by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen as part of his January 2024 re-election campaign launch.
Money’s too tight to mention
Dark money has always been a problem within UK politics, but since 2016 the graft is more blatant than ever. Clarke’s sources of cash are typical of a modern day Conservative MP. Let’s start with £10,000 from Russian/Ukrainian British citizen™ Alexander Temerko, a subsea power cable mogul via his company Aquind Limited. Boris Johnson was comfortable with this, as it was no worse than sending our nans to near certain death in care homes in 2020. Temerko also appointed Clarke’s crony, former Stockton South MP James Wharton, as a paid consultant to Aquind Limited. James Wharton later assisted Ben Houchen’s wife Rachel with her LinkedIn profile because he cares.
All roads lead to Teesworks
In the 2019 General Election campaign, Teesside property developer Ian Waller gave Clarke £2,500, also donating £7,000 to Ben Houchen. Waller has subsequently made a profit of at least £20mn as part of the Teesworks consortium, but nobody is suggesting a quid pro quo. Clarke is fond of taking cash from property developers. Others have included Wynyard property developers Sir John Hall and Mark Antonopoulos. Northumbrian fridge magnate Gary Lydiate has given Clarke £29,000 but then again Lydiate has also donated £2,500 to dilettante Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, so there’s no accounting for taste.
So who’s paying this time?
Diggerland tycoons Anthony and Mark Bamford have sent £40,000 from Bermuda to fund the recruitment of a campaign manager for Clarke. They’re not even trying to hide the corruption now, but when you’ve spent two decades aggressively minimising UK tax liabilities by using an elaborate network of shell companies based in tax havens, you can afford to splash out on life’s little luxuries. Make sure that you show your patriotism by draping a Union Jack over that JCB when Boris Johnson shows up for an election campaign ‘Get Brexit Done’ photo op. Polling suggests that Simon will lose his seat at the General Election, which in a democracy would disqualify him from a leadership bid. But this is Brexit Britain, the Conservative Party have utter contempt for the House of Commons, and being a former MP isn’t a barrier to the top slots anymore.
It’s not that far from Northallerton to Guisborough, where the Tory leadership is heading if the Simon Clarke long shot comes off. But Ben Houchen will probably be re-elected Mayor of the Tees Valley in May, and so will remain the Queen Bee of the Teesside Tories, with unemployed former MPs Jacob ‘Lemon Top’ Young, Matt ‘Parmo Socks’ Vickers, and maybe even Simon Clarke himself hanging around the hive like drones, trying to pick up sinecures at Teesside Freeport. They’ll probably succeed, unless Keir Starmer calls in the National Audit Office.
Ben Houchen will miss his drones, buzzing away at leftie lawyers, journalists and Labour politicians who threaten the honeypot. Simon Clarke has been the busiest bee of them all, getting out of bed at 5 o’clock in the morning to accuse Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson of ‘deeply irresponsible journalism’ for asking Saltburn residents what they thought of the crustacean die-off on their beach, snitching on Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham to the House of Commons speaker, accusing Labour MPs of Talking Teesside Down™, and throwing a tantrum over an imaginary Labour plan to re-join the Customs Union, which Clarke interpreted as a threat to Ben’s precious Teesside Freeport