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Clare Short

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Prime Minister  Tony Blair
Name  Clare Short
Succeeded by  The Baroness Amos
Role  British Politician

Leader  Tony Blair
Spouse  Alex Lyon (m. 1981–1993)
Preceded by  Joan Lestor
Clare Short httpsfileslistcoukimages20090713claresh

Preceded by  Lynda Chalker (as Minister for Overseas Development)
Succeeded by  Alastair Goodlad (as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development)
Books  An Honourable Deception?
Education  Keele University, University of Leeds
Similar People  Brian Eno, Keir Hardie, Omid Djalili

Other political affiliations  Labour Party

Senior british politician clare short on nuclear disarmament in the 21st century

Clare Short (born 15 February 1946) is a British politician, and a member of the Labour Party. She was the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood from 1983 to 2010; for most of this period she was a Labour Party MP, but she resigned the party whip in 2006 and served the remainder of her term as an Independent. She stood down as a member of parliament at the 2010 general election. Short was Secretary of State for International Development in the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair from 3 May 1997 until her resignation from that post on 12 May 2003. Shortly before her retirement from Parliament in 2010, she was strongly rebuked by her own party when she announced her support for a hung parliament, a situation which subsequently occurred at the 2010 General Election.


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Early life

Clare Short Clare Short at the Iraq war inquiry live Global The

Clare Short was born in Birmingham, England in 1946 to Irish Catholic parents from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. She would later be supportive of peaceful Sinn Féin initiatives, although she was never a supporter of IRA violence, some of the worst of which was inflicted in a 1974 bombing of her home city of Birmingham.

Short was briefly married to a fellow student at 18 after she had a child at 17. Their son was given up for adoption, and did not make contact with his birth mother until 1996. She discovered that her son, Toby, was a Conservative supporter who worked as a solicitor in the City of London, and that she was a grandmother of his three children. Her second marriage, to former Labour minister Alex Lyon, ended when he died from Alzheimer's disease in 1993. Short is a cousin of Canadian actor Martin Short; their fathers were brothers.

With a degree in political science from the University of Leeds, she became a civil servant in the Home Office. Working as Private Secretary to the Conservative minister Mark Carlisle gave her the idea that she "could do better" than many of the MPs she dealt with, and in the 1983 UK general election she became MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, the area where she grew up.

Member of Parliament

At the start of her career she was firmly on the left wing of the party. She gained some notoriety shortly after her election in 1983 when she implied the government's Employment minister Alan Clark was drunk at the despatch box. Clark's colleagues on the government benches in turn accused Short of using un-Parliamentary language and the Deputy Speaker, Ernest Armstrong, asked her to withdraw her accusation. Clark later admitted in his diaries that Short had been correct in her assessment.

In 1986 she gained attention for campaigning against Page 3 photographs of topless models in The Sun and other British tabloid newspapers. For this she was nicknamed by The Sun "killjoy Clare." One paper bought and published alleged photographs of Short in her nightwear from her first husband. She stated they were pictures of somebody else's body with her face superimposed.

She supported John Prescott in the Labour deputy-leadership election in 1988 (against Eric Heffer and the incumbent Roy Hattersley), leaving the Socialist Campaign Group, along with Margaret Beckett, as a result of Tony Benn's decision to challenge Neil Kinnock for the leadership. She supported Margaret Beckett for the Labour leadership in 1994 against Tony Blair and John Prescott. She also called for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.

She rose through the ranks of the Labour Front Bench, despite twice resigning from it – over the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1988, and over the Gulf War in 1990. She became Shadow Minister for Women, and then Shadow Transport Secretary. At the 1995 Labour conference, Short denounced Liz Davies as "unsuitable" after Davies had been selected as a Parliamentary candidate by a constituency Labour Party in Leeds North-East. This was seen as an attempt to win the favour of the right wing of the party, especially Tony Blair. However, in 1996, Short was moved to the Overseas Development portfolio, a move which she saw as a demotion. Short has also called for the legalisation of cannabis.

Secretary of State for International Development

After the 1997 UK general election the Overseas Development Administration was given full departmental status as the Department for International Development, with Short as the first cabinet-level Secretary of State for International Development. She retained this post throughout the first term of the Labour government, and beyond the 2001 UK general election into the second.

On her appointment to the DfID, journalists asked Short whether she would be "good" (in other words, not cause embarrassment to the government). She replied "I'm going to try to be good but I can't help it, I have to be me." A few months later, the island of Montserrat (one of the United Kingdom's few remaining overseas territories) was devastated by a volcano eruption which rendered half the island uninhabitable; when the 4,500 islanders asked for more help from the DfID, Short was reported to have remarked "they will be asking for golden elephants next" and refused to visit the island. This remark caused great offence to the Montserratians and others; Labour MP Bernie Grant said that "She sounds like a mouthpiece for an old 19th century colonial and Conservative government."

Land reform in Zimbabwe

On 6 November 1997 Short sent a letter to Kumbirai Kangai, Minister of Agriculture in Zimbabwe, in which she stated that "we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe." She went on to write "We are a new government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were colonised, not colonisers." In the same letter she did, however, offer qualified support for land reform: "We do recognise the very real issues you face over land reform... we would be prepared to support a programme of land reform that was part of a poverty eradication strategy, but not on any other basis." This letter caused a rift with the Zimbabwean government, which asserted that the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 had contained a continuing pledge from the United Kingdom government to assist in land reform.

Position on the arms trade

In December 1997, Short signed Britain into the Ottawa Convention, banning the production, handling and use of anti-personnel mines.

In 2001, she wrote that the "ready availability of small arms has a direct and negative impact upon levels of crime and conflict in developing countries. We (the DFID) are supporting various peace building and disarmament initiatives." The following year she claimed that Britain was "committed to combating small arms availability and misuse."

Kosovo bombing

Short approved of the NATO bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state television, in which sixteen media workers were killed and sixteen others wounded, because the station was, as she put it, "a source of propaganda".


On 9 March 2003 Short repeatedly called Tony Blair "reckless" in a BBC radio interview and threatened to resign from the Cabinet in the event of the British government going to war with Iraq without a clear mandate from the United Nations. This looked set to be a reprise of her previous resignation as party spokesperson during the Gulf War of 1991 as a protest against the Labour Party's stance, although in 1999 she had publicly supported the NATO attack on Serbia. However, on 18 March she announced that she would remain in the Cabinet and support the government's resolution in the House of Commons.

Short remained in the Cabinet for two months after her decision to back the 2003 Iraq War. She resigned on 12 May. Her lengthy letter of resignation said in part: "In both the run-up to the war and now, I think the UK is making grave errors in providing cover for the US mistakes rather than helping an old friend... American power alone cannot make America safe... But undermining international law and the authority of the UN creates the risk of instability, bitterness and growing terrorism that will threaten the future for all of us."

Bugging of the UN

On 26 February 2004 Short alleged on the BBC Today radio programme that British spies regularly intercept UN communications, including those of Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General. The claim was made the day after the unexplained dropping of whistleblowing charges against former GCHQ translator Katharine Gun. Reacting to Short's statement, Tony Blair said "I really do regard what Clare Short has said this morning as totally irresponsible, and entirely consistent [with Short's character]." Blair also claimed that Short had put British security, particularly the security of its spies, at risk. The same day, on the BBC's Newsnight programme, Short called Blair's response "pompous" and said that Britain had no need to spy on Kofi Annan. Blair did not explicitly deny the claims but Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary, wrote that in his experience he would be surprised if the claims were true.

A few days later (on 29 February 2004) Short appeared on ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme. She revealed that she had been written to by Britain's senior civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull. Turnbull's confidential letter (which Short showed to Dimbleby, and which was quoted on the programme) formally admonished her for discussing intelligence matters in the media, and threatened "further action" if she did not desist from giving interviews on the issue. Turnbull wrote that she had made claims "which damage the interests of the United Kingdom", and that he was "extremely disappointed". The "further action" referred to in the letter has been interpreted as threatening either the removal of Short's status as a Privy Counsellor or to legal action under the Official Secrets Act. Either course of action would be without recent precedent; the last time a Privy Counsellor's status was revoked was in 1921 when Sir Edgar Speyer was accused of collaborating with the Germans during the First World War. However, on 1 March 2004, Tony Blair's official spokesman refused to rule out such a step. The Privy Counsellorship of another Labour MP, Elliot Morley, was revoked on 14 June 2011.

However, in the same interview on the Jonathan Dimbleby programme, Short backtracked on her claim about British agents bugging Annan. She admitted that the transcripts she saw of Annan's private conversations might have related to Africa and not to Iraq. Asked whether she could confirm that the transcripts related to Iraq, she said: "I can't, but there might well have been ... I cannot remember a specific transcript in relation, it doesn't mean it wasn't there." Short also admitted that her original claim, on the Today programme, that Britain had eavesdropped on Annan may have been inaccurate. Asked whether the material could have passed to the British by the Americans, she said: "It could. But it normally indicates that. But I can't remember that."


Clare Short's book, An Honourable Deception?: New Labour, Iraq, and the Misuse of Power, was released by Free Press in November 2004. It is an account of her career in New Labour, most notably her relationship with Tony Blair, the relationship between Blair and Gordon Brown and the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In December 2004, Short was reportedly critical of US efforts to dispense aid to countries devastated by a tsunami caused by a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean. She was quoted as stating that the formation of a group of countries led by the United States for this purpose was a challenge to the role of the United Nations, which she believed was uniquely qualified for the task.

Announced retirement

On 12 September 2006, Short announced that she would not be standing at the next general election. In a brief statement, Short said she was "ashamed" of Tony Blair's government and backed proportional representation, which she hoped would be achieved through a hung parliament. The Labour Party Chief Whip referred the matter to the Labour Party National Executive Committee to consider disciplinary action. On Friday 20 October, Short resigned the Labour whip and announced that she would sit as an Independent Labour MP. Short received a written reprimand from Labour's Chief Whip shortly before the news of her resignation of the party whip was announced.

After Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Short said that the change offered "a new beginning", and hinted that she might re-join the parliamentary Labour party if Brown changed the policies that had caused her to leave.

Chilcot Inquiry

On 2 February 2010, Short appeared before the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq. During this she repeatedly criticised Tony Blair, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith and others in the UK Government for allegedly deceiving her and other MPs in an attempt to obtain consent for the invasion of Iraq.

Statements on Israel

Short has condemned Israel as being guilty of "bloody, brutal and systematic annexation of land, destruction of homes and the deliberate creation of an apartheid system." She has also stated that "the EU and Britain are colluding in this operation and the building of a new apartheid regime" because they give Israel privileged trade access. Short has expressed support for a boycott of Israel, stating at the 2007 United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace that "The boycott worked for South Africa, it is time to do it again". She also told the conference that Israel is "much worse than the original apartheid state" and that Israel "undermines the international community's reaction to global warming".

Regarding the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Short stated that "Israel is out of control and our Government and the US is giving them a green light to continue" and that "Britain clearly now just backs President (George W.) Bush in whatever he does, in automatically backing Israel in breaching international law, in disproportionate attacks on Lebanon and attacks on Gaza".

Relationship with Hezbollah-affiliate al-Manar Television

According to The Guardian, Short accepted £1,580 worth of flights, hotel accommodation, food and travel expenses from Hezbollah-affiliate al-Manar Television in Lebanon in 2008. Al-Manar was described by the US government as terrorist entity in 2006.

Chairwoman of the EITI

On 1 March 2011 she was elected as Chairwoman of the EITI (the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) at the EITI Global Conference in Paris.

Policy work with Cities Alliance

Since 2006, Short was a member of the Cities Alliance Policy Advisory Board and subsequently chaired the Policy Advisory Forum, described as a "platform for public discussion, debate and knowledge sharing" on urban poverty and the role of cities.

Birmingham Mayor candidate

In January 2011 Short expressed an interest in becoming the Mayor of Birmingham, pending the outcome of a referendum on the creation of a directly-elected mayoralty in the city. Ultimately the proposal was defeated at the public vote in May 2012.

The Ebor Lectures – 2008 Series

On 21 May 2008, Short gave a lecture as part of the Ebor Lectures 2008 Series entitled "Apocalypse Now – Global Equity and Sustainable Living, the Preconditions for Human Survival". The lecture took place at York Minster and Short was introduced by the Dean of York, the Very Revd. Keith Jones.

In her lecture, Short emphasised the need for the end of our current 'throw away' society. She considered the changing conception of the world since the 1960s and emphasised the need for us to consider the consequences of today's environmental concerns for the generations of the future. Short also introduced the subject of Transition Towns, speaking about the first of such towns in Totnes, Devon, UK. These towns aim to create a "community" for the future which "addresses the twin challenges of diminishing oil and gas supplies and climate change, and creates the kind of community that we would all want to be part of." Short was particularly excited about the prospect of a Transition Town movement in Birmingham where her constituency is located.


In June 2009 Short received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Ulster in recognition of her services to international development.


  • Short, Clare (2004). An Honourable Deception? New Labour, Iraq, and the Misuse of Power. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-6392-8. 
  • Short, Clare (speech, 2001) Making Globalisation Work for the Poor: A Role for the United Nations Department for International Development, ISBN 1-86192-335-X
  • Short, Clare (1999). Debt Relief for Poverty Reduction. Department for International Development. ISBN 1-86192-100-4. 
  • edited by Short, Clare, K. Tunks, D. Hutchinson (1991) Dear Clare...This Is What Women Feel About Page 3 Radius, ISBN 0-09-174915-8
  • Styles

  • Miss Clare Short (1946–1981)
  • Mrs Clare Lyon (1981–)
  • Clare Short MP (1983–1997)
  • The Rt. Hon. Clare Short MP (1997–2010)
  • The Rt. Hon. Clare Short (2010–)
  • References

    Clare Short Wikipedia