People: Clarke faces the music over new tobacco job

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The Independent Online
It looked as though Kenneth Clarke had never had it so good. Having shrugged off his defeat by William Hague for the leadership of the Conservative Party, the cigar-loving former Chancellor yesterday picked up a lucrative directorship with a tobacco conglomerate, made his debut as a disc jockey and starred in an Oxford Union debate.

But, after emerging as Nottinghamshire's answer to Chris Evans and Zoe Ball, the day began to spin out of control as Mr Clarke came under withering fire for accepting a seat on the board of the cigarette giant, British American Tobacco (BAT).

"As a former Health Secretary, Clarke should be ashamed of himself," said Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health. "Clarke's move again reveals the last government's cosy links with the tobacco industry."

Before being attacked for accepting his third highly paid job in the City after leaving the Treasury, the former Chancellor had moved effortlessly from spinning reports about the "booming" British economy to spinning jazz records as a part-time DJ. "Jazz is a serious business - so serious, I'm prepared to do it free and for love," he said.

But, as Mr Clarke was preparing to play for the love of it, he also announced he had secured the nice little earner with the tobacco company. BAT refused to disclose his salary, but it could run into six figures. Mr Clarke is also non-executive chairman of UniChem, the chemists group, for which he is paid a salary of pounds 120,000 for between one-and-a-half and two days a week.

As Home Secretary, Mr Clarke (above) once appointed Sir Patrick Sheehy, then chairman of BAT, to investigate police pay and promotion. Sir Patrick left the company two years ago, but Mr Clarke will join the board as non- executive deputy chairman, the company said. He is also non-executive director of Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust, the UK's oldest fund manager, where he earns pounds 18,000 for one day a month attending a board meeting.

An habitue of jazz clubs such as Ronnie Scott's since the Sixties, Mr Clarke last night was offering local listeners a wide range of jazz music "from King Oliver to Ornette Coleman".

To round off his day, as his recorded jazz show went out, Mr Clarke headed off for the Oxford Union, to join John Redwood and Alan Duncan in a censure debate on the Blair government.

The perfect end to a profitable, but controversial, day.