I attended a small and intimate dinner with Charles Clarke, MP for Norwich South and former Home Secretary last night. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it that much given his recent negative portrayal in the media. But I felt he deserved a chance to air his views. Personable, and quite frank, and was reassured that he’s not a whingeing backbencher.
As a moderniser, it seems that Clarke thinks reform is nowhere near a high enough priority for the Brown government. He spoke of the need to get NHS stakeholders on side for example in reforming the health service, and whether we need to introduce some sort of health insurance to co-exist alongside free at the point of use healthcare. I found myself nodding in agreement at views on healthcare needing to be more pro-active – people taking responsibility to look after themselves (!).
Clarke was also fully in favour of a fully-elected House of Lords, and passionate about finding ways to get young people on the property ladder. He asked each and every one of us what our living situations were – nearly all private rented.
Charles’ table manners leave a lot to be desired – he’s clearly a man who enjoys his food. So much so, in fact, that he took the Turkish dip from the middle of the table and started eating it with a teaspoon. Perhaps I was the only one who notices such things, but in any case this slightly eccentric, misinterpreted former Cabinet Minister probably has a lot to offer progressive politics.
NB. Charles Clarke was a councillor in Queensbridge Ward, Hackney - the VERY SAME ward I lived in when I got my first permanent flat in London. I wonder if my own residency of Dalston will bring me such political luck?