Charles Clarke read mathematics and economics at Cambridge University, where he also served as sabbatical President of the Cambridge Students Union.
In 1973-74, he became a part-time teacher of mathematics at Willesden High School, Brent London. From 1974-77 he was Treasurer, then President, of the National Union of Students. In 1977-8 he was the UK representative on the preparatory Committee for the World Youth Festival in Cuba. From 1978-80 he worked for Hackney People in Partnership, which was part of the Government’s urban renewal programme. In 1980 he was elected Labour councillor for Chatham ward in the London Borough of Hackney and later became vice chair of economic development and then chair of the housing committee. From 1980-83 he worked as a part-time researcher for Neil Kinnock MP, then Opposition Spokesman on Education. During this period he taught mathematics on the Fresh Horizons course at the City Literary Institute in London, and assisted in organising the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Save our Cities Conference. From 1983-92 he was political adviser and then Chief of Staff to the Labour Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Neil Kinnock MP. From 1992-7, he established and ran a public affairs management consultancy, Quality Public Affairs, which advised organizations how best to make their case.
In 1997 he was elected Labour MP for Norwich South, which he remained until 2010. In 1997-98 he was a member of the Treasury Select Committee, and then in 1998 he became Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for School Standards. In 1999 he was appointed Minister of State at the Home Office, with particular responsibility for the police. After the 2001 General Election, he joined the cabinet as Labour Party Chair and Minister without portfolio. He was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Skills in 2002, and then Home Secretary in 2004, leaving the Home Office in 2006 to return to the backbenches. In 2010, he was appointed Visiting Professor to the School of Political, Social and International Studies at the University of East Anglia and since 2010, Clarke has also been Visiting Professor of Politics and Faith in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University.
The Rt Hon Charles Clarke is a member of the Vision for science and mathematics education 5-19 project committee.