Kenneth Clarke for Conservative leader? ASH says he is soiled by his association with BAT

Tuesday 26 June 2001

Immediate: 26 June 2001

As Kenneth Clarke announced his candidacy for the Conservative party leadership, ASH claimed that his reputation was so badly soiled by association with BAT, for which he is paid £100,000 per year as deputy chairman, that he had lost the right to hold high office.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“British American Tobacco is one of the ugliest companies in the world and Clarke has been paid handsomely to give it a cheery and acceptable face. Clarke is one of the top operatives in the twilight world of tobacco public relations, and that is hardly a qualification for a career of public service and national leadership.”

“Each year of BAT’s global sales of cigarettes will ultimately end the lives of about 750,000 of its customers. The fact that he is happy to serve such a dreadful mass-killing enterprise as BAT should cause everybody to pause and look carefully into the man behind the blokey image and consider whether he really is suitable for high office.

ASH drew attention to BAT’s record and Clarke’s involvement in five respects:

  1. The company is currently under investigation by the DTI over documents showing BAT orchestrated and managed smuggling in Asia and Latin America.  Clarke went in front of a Parliamentary Committee and denied any wrong doing on the part of BAT – though it appears he had not even looked at the evidence. See letter to Clarke from ASH (pdf) setting out allegations
  2. BAT is involved in aggressive marketing in developing countries, especially targeting women and young people. Clarke recently returned from Vietnam where BAT has been trying to secure a foothold through joint ventures.  See report in The Observer + the section on advertising on our website
  3. 50 years of deceit and denial about smoking, addiction, passive smoking and every aspect of the product it sells.  BAT only accepted that smoking was a cause of harm in 1998 – over 40 years after it was accepted in the science community – and it remains evasive or in denial about the scale and range of risks, nature of nicotine addiction, impact of passive smoking etc. See ASH/CTFK report: Trust us: we’re the tobacco industry (pdf)
  4. A recent £3.8 million sponsorship for an International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at Nottingham University, brokered by Clarke and his friend Sir Colin Campbell, the Vice Chancellor of Nottingham University.  The sponsorship has caused widespread derision and prompted defections from the University. See ASH information on Nottingham
  5. BAT’s annual sales of 750 billion cigarettes will ultimately kill around 750,000 people per year through cancer, heart disease, TB and emphysema (based on one million cigarettes per premature smoking related death) ASH global briefing (pdf)


Contact: Clive Bates 020 7739 5902 (w) 077 6879 1237 (m) 020 8800 1336 (h)