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Kenneth Clarke

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Kenneth Clarke

The Right Honourable
Kenneth Clarke
Minister without Portfolio
In office
4 September 2012 – 14 July 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Baroness Warsi
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
Secretary of State for Justice
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Jack Straw
Succeeded by Chris Grayling
Shadow Secretary of State for
Business, Innovation and Skills
In office
19 January 2009 – 11 May 2010
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Alan Duncan
Succeeded by Lord Mandelson
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
2 May 1997 – 11 June 1997
Leader John Major
Preceded by Gordon Brown
Succeeded by Peter Lilley
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
27 May 1993 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Norman Lamont
Succeeded by Gordon Brown
Home Secretary
In office
10 April 1992 – 27 May 1993
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Kenneth Baker
Succeeded by Michael Howard
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
2 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by John MacGregor
Succeeded by John Patten (Education)
Secretary of State for Health
In office
25 July 1988 – 2 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Moore (Social Services)
Succeeded by William Waldegrave
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
13 July 1987 – 25 July 1988
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Norman Tebbit
Succeeded by Tony Newton
Paymaster General
In office
2 September 1985 – 13 July 1987
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Gummer
Succeeded by Peter Brooke
Member of Parliament
for Rushcliffe
Assumed office
18 June 1970
Preceded by Antony Gardner
Majority 15,811 (29.5%)
Personal details
Born Kenneth Harry Clarke
(1940-07-02) 2 July 1940
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Gillian née Edwards
Children 2
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Kenneth Harry Clarke CHPCQCMP (born 2 July 1940) is a British Conservative politician who has represented Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire as Member of Parliament since 1970.

Clarke, one of the UK's best-known and popular politicians, was dubbed by the press with the affectionate nickname of "Big Beast". He served in various British Cabinets as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Education Secretary, Health Secretary and Minister without Portfolio. He has been the President of the Tory Reform Group since 1997.

Clarke contested the Conservative Party leadership three times – in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – being defeated each time. Opinion polls indicated he was more popular with the general public than with his Party, whose generally Euro-sceptic stance did not chime with his pro-European views. Notably, he is President of the Conservative Europe Group, Co-President of the pro-EU body British Influence and Vice-President of the European Movement UK.[1]

Clarke's time as a Cabinet Minister is the fifth-longest in the modern era, having spent over 20 years serving under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron.[2]

Following his return to Parliament at the 2010 general election, Clarke became joint-second longest-serving MP (with three others).

Early life

Clarke was born in 1940 at West Bridgford, near Nottingham and was christened with same name as his father, Kenneth Clarke, a Nottinghamshire mining electrician and later a watchmaker and jeweller.[3] He received a grammar school education at Nottingham High School,[4] before going up to Cambridge University to read Law at Gonville and Caius College, where he graduated with a Upper Second honours degree.

Clarke had initially held Labour sympathies, his grandfather having been a Communist, but while at Cambridge he joined the Conservative Party. As Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA), he invited former British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley to speak for two years in succession, prompting some Jewish students (including his future successor at the Home Office Michael Howard) to resign from CUCA in protest.[5] Howard then defeated Clarke in one election for the presidency of the Cambridge Union Society, but Clarke subsequently became President of the Cambridge Union a year later, being elected on 6 March 1963 by a majority of 56 votes. He opposed the admission of women to the Union, and is quoted as saying upon his election: "the fact that Oxford has admitted them does not impress me at all. Cambridge should wait a year to see what happens before any decision is taken on admitting them".[6] In an early-1990s documentary, journalist Michael Cockerell played to Clarke some tape recordings of him speaking at the Cambridge Union as a young man, and he displayed amusement at hearing his then stereotypical upper class accent. Clarke is deemed one of the Cambridge Mafia, a group of prominent Conservative politicians who were educated at Cambridge in the 1960s.

After leaving Cambridge, Clarke was called to the Bar in 1963 at Gray's Inn and "took silk" (was promoted to Queen's Counsel) in 1980.[7]

Member of Parliament

Clarke sought election to the House of Commons almost immediately after leaving university. His political career began by contesting the Labour stronghold of Mansfield in the 1964 and 1966 elections. In June 1970, at the age of 29, he won the East Midlands constituency of Rushcliffe, south of Nottingham, from Labour MP Tony Gardner.

Clarke was soon appointed a Government Whip, and served as such from 1972 to 1974; he helped ensure Edward Heath's government won key votes on entry to the European Economic Community (later evolving as the EU) with the assistance of Labour rebels. Even though he opposed the election of Margaret Thatcher as Conservative Party Leader in 1975, he was appointed as her Industry Spokesman from 1976 to 1979, and then occupied a range of ministerial positions during her premiership.

He is the subject of a portrait in oil commissioned by Parliament.[8][9]

Ministerial positions

Clarke first served as junior Transport Minister, then Minister of State for Health (1982–85). He joined the Cabinet as Paymaster-General and Employment Minister (1985–87) (his Secretary of State, Lord Young, sat in the Lords), and served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister of the DTI (1987–88) with responsibility for Inner Cities. While in that position, Clarke announced the sale to British Aerospace of the Rover Group, a new name for British Leyland, which had been nationalised in 1975 by the Government of Harold Wilson.[10]

Despite being an ardent pro-tobacco advocate, he was appointed Health Secretary in 1988, in which office he introduced the controversial "internal market" concept to the NHS.[11] Many years later Clarke claimed that he had persuaded Thatcher to introduce internal competition in the NHS as an alternative to her preference for introducing a system of compulsory health insurance, which he opposed.[12] Just over two years later he was appointed Education Secretary in the final weeks of Thatcher's Government, following Norman Tebbit's unwillingness to return to Cabinet. He was the first Cabinet Minister to advise Thatcher to resign after her inadequate first-round performance in the November 1990 leadership contest; she referred to him ironically in her memoirs as a candid friend: "his manner was robust in the brutalist style he has cultivated: the candid friend".[13]

Clarke came to work with John Major very closely, and quickly emerged as a central figure in his government. After continuing as Education Secretary (1990–92), where he introduced a number of reforms, he was appointed as Home Secretary in the wake of the Conservatives' unexpected victory at the 1992 general election. In May 1993, seven months after the impact of "Black Wednesday" had terminally damaged Norman Lamont's credibility as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Major sacked Lamont and appointed Clarke in his place.

Insignia of C.H.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

At first, Clarke was seen as the dominant figure in Cabinet, and at the October 1993 Conservative Party Conference he defended Major from his critics by pronouncing "any enemy of John Major is an enemy of mine."

In the party leadership of contest 1995, when John Major beat John Redwood, Clarke kept faith in Major and commented: "I don't think the Conservative Party could win an election in 1,000 years on this ultra right-wing programme".[14]

Clarke enjoyed an increasingly successful record as Chancellor, as the economy recovered from the recession of the early 1990s and a new monetary policy was put into effect after Black Wednesday. He reduced the basic rate of income tax from 25% to 23%, reduced UK Government spending as a percentage of GDP, and reduced the budget deficit from £50.8 billion in 1993 to £15.5 billion in 1997. Clarke's successor, the Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown, continued these policies, which eliminated the deficit by 1998 and allowed Brown to record a budget surplus for the following four years. Interest rates, inflation and unemployment all fell during Clarke's tenure at HM Treasury. Clarke's success was such that Brown felt he had to pledge to keep to Clarke's spending plans and these limits remained in place for the first two years of the Labour Government that was elected in 1997.[11]

Differences of opinion within the Cabinet on European policy, on which Clarke was one of the leading pro-Europeans, complicated his tenure as Chancellor. Whereas other ministers such as Malcolm Rifkind wished to imply that British Euro membership was unlikely, Clarke fought successfully to maintain the possibility that Britain might join a single currency under a Conservative Government, but conceded that such a move could only take place with the mandate of a referendum. When Tory Party Chairman, Brian Mawhinney, a prominent Eurosceptic, was understood to have briefed against him on one occasion, Clarke memorably declared: "tell your kids to get their scooters off my lawn" – an allusion to Harold Wilson's rebuke of Trades Union leader Hugh Scanlon in the late 1960s.


After the Conservatives entered Opposition in 1997, Clarke contested the leadership of the Party for the first time. In 1997, the electorate solely being Tory Members of Parliament, he topped the poll in the first and second rounds. In the third and final round he formed an alliance with Eurosceptic John Redwood, who would have become Shadow Chancellor and Clarke's deputy, were he to have won the contest. However, Thatcher endorsed Clarke's rival William Hague, who proceeded to win the election comfortably. The contest was criticised for not involving the rank-and-file members of the Party, where surveys showed Clarke to be more popular. Clarke rejected the offer from Hague of a Shadow Cabinet role, opting instead to return to the backbenches.

Clarke contested the party leadership for a second time in 2001. Despite opinion polls again showing he was the most popular Conservative politician with the British public,[11] he lost in a final round among the rank-and-file membership, a new procedure introduced by Hague, to a much less experienced, but strongly Eurosceptic rival, Iain Duncan Smith. This loss, by a margin of 62% to 38%, was attributed to the former Chancellor's strong pro-European views being increasingly out-of-step with the party members' Euroscepticism.[11] His campaign was managed by Andrew Tyrie.

Clarke opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After choosing not to stand for the leadership after Duncan Smith departed in 2003 in the interests of party unity, he returned to fight the 2005 leadership election. He still retained huge popularity among voters, with 40% of the public believing he would be the best leader.[15] He was accused by Norman Tebbit of being "lazy" whilst leadership rival Sir Malcolm Rifkind suggested that Clarke's pro-European views could have divided the Conservative Party had Clarke won.[16] In the event, Clarke was eliminated in the first round of voting by Conservative MPs. Eventual winner David Cameron appointed Clarke to head a Democracy Task Force as part of his extensive 18-month policy review in December 2005, exploring issues such as the reform of the House of Lords and party funding. Clarke is President of the liberal, pro-European Ginger Group within the Conservative Party, Tory Reform Group.

In 2006, he described Cameron's plans for a British Bill of Rights as "xenophobic and legal nonsense".[17]

Promotion to the Shadow Cabinet

Clarke was promoted to Shadow Business Secretary in opposition to then-Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson. David Cameron described Clarke as about the only one able to challenge Mandelson and Brown's economic credibility. Two days later it was revealed that Clarke had warned in a speech a month earlier that President Barack Obama could see David Cameron as a "right-wing nationalist" if the Conservatives maintained Eurosceptic policies and that Obama would "start looking at whoever is in Germany or France if we start being isolationist".[18] The Financial Times said "Clarke has in effect agreed to disagree with the Tories' official Eurosceptic line".[19]

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary

Clarke speaking in 2013

On 12 May 2010, Clarke's appointment as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in the Coalition Government formed between the Conservative and Liberal Democrats parties.[20] James Macintyre, political editor of Prospect Magazine, argued that in this ministerial role he had instigated a process of radical reform.[21]

In June 2010, Clarke signalled an end to short prison sentences after warning it was "virtually impossible" to rehabilitate any inmate in less than 12 months. In his first major speech after taking office, Clarke indicated a major shift in penal policy by saying prison was not effective in many cases. This could result in more offenders being handed community sentences. Clarke, who described the current prison population of 85,000 as "astonishing", received immediate criticism from some colleagues in a Party renowned for its tough stance on law and order. He signalled that fathers who fail to pay child maintenance, disqualified drivers and criminals fighting asylum refusals could be among the first to benefit and should not be sent to prison.[22]

Clarke announced in February 2011 that the Government intended to scrutinise the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and national parliaments. This followed calls from a large number of Conservative UK Parliamentary backbench MPs to leave the ECHR because of their constituents' discontent with its rulings. MPs in 2011 voted to maintain a ban on voting by prisoners despite an ECHR ruling that it was illegal. Many MPs were outraged by the UK Supreme Court's ruling that the ECHR would uphold the right of sex offenders to appeal against having to register with the police for the rest of their lives.[23]

In May 2011, controversy related to Clarke's reported views on rape resurfaced after an interview on the radio station BBC 5 Live, where he discussed a proposal to further reduce the sentences of criminals, including rapists, who pleaded guilty pre-trial.[24]

In 2011 and 2012, Clarke faced criticism for his Justice and Security Bill, in particular those aspects of it that allow secret trials when "national security" is at stake.[25][26] The Economist stated: "the origins of the proposed legislation lie in civil cases brought by former Guantánamo detainees, the best-known of whom was Binyam Mohamed, alleging that government intelligence and security agencies (MI6 and MI5) were complicit in their rendition and torture".[27][28] Prominent civil liberties and human rights campaigners argued: "the worst excesses of the war on terror have been revealed by open courts and a free media. Yet the Justice and Security Green Paper seeks to place Government above the law and would undermine such crucial scrutiny."[29]

Minister without Portfolio

Following the 2012 Cabinet reshuffle, Clarke was moved from Justice Secretary to Minister without Portfolio. It was also announced that he would assume the role of roving Trade Envoy with responsibility for promoting British business and trade interests abroad, a position which he enjoyed.

In the 2014 Cabinet reshuffle, after more than 20 years serving as a Minister, it was announced that Clarke had stepped down from government, to return to the backbenches.[30] Clarke was honoured with appointment as a Companion of Honour, upon the Prime Minister's recommendation, in July 2014.[31]

Expenses scandal

On 12 May 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that Clarke had "flipped" his Council Tax. He had told the Parliamentary authorities that his main home was in the Rushcliffe constituency, enabling him to claim a second-home allowance on his London residence, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill for Council Tax due on that property. However, he told Rushcliffe Borough Council in Nottinghamshire that he spent so little time at his constituency address that his wife Gillian should qualify for a 25% Council Tax (single person's) discount, saving the former Chancellor around £650 per year. Land Registry records showed that Clarke no longer had a mortgage on his Nottinghamshire home where he has lived since 1987. Instead he held a mortgage on his London property, which was being charged to the taxpayer at £480 per month.[32]

Corporate and other work

Whilst serving as a backbench MP and as a Shadow Cabinet Minister, Clarke accepted a number of non-executive directorships:

  • Deputy Chairman and a director of British American Tobacco (BAT) (1998–2007), for which Clarke faced allegations relating to activities of BAT in lobbying the developing world to reject stronger health warnings on cigarette packets and evidence that that corporation had been involved in smuggling and targeting children with advertisements.[33][34]
  • Deputy Chairman of Alliance Unichem
  • Chairman (non-executive) of Unichem
  • Director of Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust
  • Member from June 2007 of the Advisory Board of Centaurus Capital, a London based hedge fund management company.[35]
  • Clarke is a member of the advisory board of Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership,[36] a Canadian farmland investment fund.
  • Director (non-executive) of Independent News and Media (UK).[37]
  • Participant at the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group in 1993, 1998, 2006–2008 and 2012.[38][39][40][41][42]

Media work

Also as a backbencher, Clarke declared engagement in non-political media work:

Personal life

In 1964, Clarke married Gillian Edwards, a Cambridge contemporary.[44] They have two children — a son and a daughter.[11] His enthusiasm for cigars, jazz and motor racing is well known,[11] and he enjoys birdwatching as well as reading political history. He is also popularly recognised for his affection to suede Hush Puppies, a brand of shoes, becoming a "trademark" of his from early ministerial days.[45]

Clarke is also a sports enthusiast, being a supporter of Nottingham Forest and a former President of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. He is President of Radcliffe Olympic F.C. and a keen follower of Formula One motorsport. He was involved with tobacco giant British American Tobacco's Formula One team British American Racing and has attended Grands Prix in support of the BAR team. BAR was sold to Honda in 2005. He also appeared on the podium of the 2012 British Grand Prix to present the first-place trophy to Mark Webber.

He attended the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final and recounts having been influential in persuading the linesman, Tofiq Bahramov (from Azerbaijan), to award a goal to Geoff Hurst when the England striker had seen his shot hit the crossbar of opponents West Germany, leaving doubt as to whether the ball had crossed the line. Clarke's position in the Wembley crowd was right behind the linesman at the time, and he shouted at the official to award a goal.[46]

Clarke is a lover of Real Ale and has been an active member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).[47]


  1. ^ "Structure of the European Movement UK". 
  2. ^ Parkinson, Justin (13 June 2013). "Chasing Churchill: Ken Clarke climbs ministerial long-service chart". BBC News. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP - GOV.UK".  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Anthony, Andrew (27 March 2005). "Howard's way". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  6. ^ "News in Brief" The Times (London). Thursday, 7 March 1963. (55643), col B, p. 5.
  7. ^ "Kenneth Clarke". Conservative Party. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Murphy, Joe (13 January 2014). "Exclusive: MPs splash out £250,000 of public money on vanity portraits".  
  10. ^ Hansard: "Rover Group (Privatisation)" debate, 29 Mar 1988
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Contender: Kenneth Clarke". BBC News. 2 August 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Thatcher, Margaret (1993). The Downing Street Years. New York: HarperCollins. p. 914.  
  14. ^ Macintyre, Donald; Brown, Colin (27 June 1995). "PM assails 'malcontent' Redwood". The Independent (London). 
  15. ^ "Clarke is voter favourite — poll". BBC News. 5 September 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  16. ^ "Tories round on candidate Clarke". BBC News. 4 September 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  17. ^ "Clarke slams Cameron rights plan". BBC News. 27 June 2006. Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  18. ^ Winnett, Robert (21 January 2009). "Ken Clarke warns Barack Obama could see David Cameron as right wing nationalist". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  19. ^ "Interactive graphics – A Conservative Who's Who". Financial Times (London). Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  20. ^ "Election 2010 – Live coverage – General Election 2010". BBC News. May 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  21. ^ Macintyre, James (2010). "Public service innovators". Ethos. Hook, Hants: Serco. 
  22. ^ Whitehead, Tom (30 June 2010). "David Cameron insists short prison sentences to stay". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  23. ^ Stratton, Allegra (21 February 2011). "Kenneth Clarke offers hope to Tory critics of human rights court". The Guardian (London). p. 8. 
  24. ^ "In full: Ken Clarke interview on rape sentencing". BBC News. 18 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Rozenberg, Joshua (16 November 2011). "The justice and security green paper is an attack on liberty". (London). Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "'"Ken Clarke's justice bill passed despite 'attacks. BBC News. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  27. ^ "A question of balance". The Economist (London). 2 June 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  28. ^ Cobain, Ian (9 April 2012). "Special report: Rendition ordeal that raises new questions about secret trials". The Guardian (London). p. 1. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  29. ^  
  30. ^ "Ken Clarke given trade envoy role". BBC News. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  31. ^ "Kenneth Clarke appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour". Prime Minister's Office. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  32. ^ Rayner, Gordon (12 May 2009). "'"MPs expenses: Ken Clarke's council tax 'flip. The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  33. ^ British American Tobacco.
  34. ^  
  35. ^ "Hedge fund Centaurus appoints Ken Clarke as adviser". Reuters. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  36. ^ "Agcapita Partners LP". Farmland Investment Partnership. Retrieved 19 October 2009. 
  37. ^ "Kenneth Clarke MP". TheyWorkForYou. 
  38. ^ "Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards — Complaint against Mr Kenneth Clarke".  
  39. ^ "Register of Members' Interests". United Kingdom Parliament. 
  40. ^ "His secret's out: how Georgie met Kissinger". London Evening Standard. 15 August 2008. p. 14. Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson and former mandarin Lord Kerr were also among the select group of British figures at the gathering of politicians and tycoons. 
  41. ^ Duffy, Jonathan (3 June 2004). "Bilderberg: The ultimate conspiracy theory". BBC News. Retrieved 24 September 2008. The group, which includes luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and former UK chancellor Kenneth Clarke, does not even have a website. 
  42. ^ "Kenneth Clarke: Full register of members' interests". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 5–8 June 2008, to Chantilly, Virginia, USA, to attend Bilderberg Conference. Hotel accommodation paid for by the conference sponsors. (I paid my travel costs.) (Registered 12 June 2008) 
  43. ^ "Register of Members' Interests". 
  44. ^ "Is there more to Ken the Bloke? - Telegraph".  
  45. ^ Naughton, Philippe (14 May 2010). "Ken Clarke sheds Hush Puppies for new job". The Times (London). 
  46. ^ "Quizballs quiz 55 – questions & answers". Quizballs. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  47. ^ Hall, Sarah (6 August 2002). "Campaign to include women in real ale round". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 September 2008. 

External links

  • Profile: Kenneth Clarke BBC News, 15 February 2005
  • Smoke and mirrors, The Guardian, 23 August 2005
  • Conservative Leadership Watch BBC News, 30 September 2005
  • Lost leaders: Kenneth Clarke, Henry Smith, New Statesman, 5 March 2010
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Antony Gardner
Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe
Political offices
Preceded by
John Gummer
Paymaster General
Succeeded by
Peter Brooke
Preceded by
Norman Tebbit
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Tony Newton
Preceded by
John Moore
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
William Waldegrave
Preceded by
John MacGregor
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
John Patten
Preceded by
Kenneth Baker
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Michael Howard
Preceded by
Norman Lamont
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Gordon Brown
Second Lord of the Treasury
Preceded by
Gordon Brown
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Peter Lilley
Preceded by
Alan Duncan
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Succeeded by
The Lord Mandelson
Preceded by
Jack Straw
Secretary of State for Justice
Succeeded by
Chris Grayling
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
Preceded by
The Baroness Warsi
Minister without Portfolio
Succeeded by
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