A Westcountry MP who was one of the most notorious womanisers in British politics was top of the list for Government promotion according to newly-released papers.
The late Conservative minister Alan Clark conducted a string of affairs, fantasised about his female civil servants and confessed himself to be in love with his Labour opponent in the 1983 general election.
But a memo discovered in Margaret Thatcher’s papers shows the Tory high command seems to have taken his sexual peccadillos with remarkable equanimity.
In a note in August 1982 discussing which backbenchers might be promoted to the Government, Ian Gow, Mrs Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary, put The Plymouth Sutton MP’s name top of the list.
Mr Gow wrote: “I really think that we cannot allow this absurd girl to prevent his advancement.”
The identity of the “absurd girl” and the precise hindrance she posed to Clark’s career are not immediately clear from the papers, which were released today, but there are a number of candidates.
At the time he was having an affair with Valerie Harkess, the wife of a South African judge, and later her two daughters, referred to collectively by Clark as “the coven”. The affair became public knowledge in 1994 after Clark had left the Commons, and he was cited in the Harkess divorce case.
It was unlikely to have been Frances Holland, the Labour candidate for Plymouth Sutton in 1983, of whom Clark wrote: “I’m madly in love with Frances Holland. I suspect she’s not as thin and gawky as she seems. Her hair is always lovely and shiny. Perhaps I can distract her at the count on Thursday and kiss her in one of those big janitors’ cupboards off the Lower Guildhall.”
Clark’s biographer Ion Trewin, said: “Ian Gow and Alan were close friends, so it is no surprise to have Gow now recommending Alan to the PM. Who was the girl? I cannot be certain, but one of the Harkess daughters seems most likely.”
Clark, who had a number of ministerial jobs, finishing as Minister for Defence Procurement, famously thought Mrs Thatcher the most sexually attractive woman in politics, praising her “eyes, wrists ... ankles!”