Tory grandee Ken Clarke opens up about wife's death

18 May 2022, 21:28

By Sophie Barnett

Former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke has opened up about the "difficult" time of losing his wife of 51 years in an exclusive LBC interview.

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Mr Clarke became a widower in the summer of 2015, when he sadly lost his wife Gillian - his biggest supporter - to cancer.

Speaking to LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the Tory grandee opened up about becoming a widow and learning to live by himself again after decades of partnership.

"It never crossed my mind that with my lifestyle I was going to outlive my wife," he told Andrew.

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"She sadly had an illness and died, and you suddenly find yourself living on your own for the first time for over 50 years."

Mr Clarke, whose political career spans more than half a century - including 46 years as Conservative MP for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire - said it has been a "tough time" for him and his family.

His wife Gillian was there to support him through it his political career, which saw him take the role of Chancellor, Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor, Justice Secretary, Education Secretary, and Health Secretary.

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He told Andrew they were looking forward to doing more travelling and enjoying their old age together - but their time was cut short.

"It was difficult - of course it was," he explained.

"But I've got lots of friends, I can't cook a thing, all I can do is toast, but I've got no idea where I put the toaster. So I eat out a lot, I eat with friends, lots of friends who look after me both in Nottingham and in London.

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Ken Clarke and his wife Gillian in 1990.
Ken Clarke and his wife Gillian in 1990. Picture: Alamy

"I remain as gregarious as ever and I've not become an isolated, loner of an old man. I know people who are like that but I'm fine."

Mr Clarke said he began to suffer health problems of his own, which is why he decided to retire from the House of Commons in 2019.

He told Andrew: "It wasn't proper for me to stand, as I couldn't do the job that I used to."

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Mr Clarke and his wife met at Cambridge University and married in 1964.

She was described as the Tory veteran's "rock".

The couple had two children together - a son and a daughter.

In an interview shortly after her death, Mr Clarke said she was "the love of my life".