as a diarist than he would ever have donernas a career poHtieian.rnThe first vohime of his diaries, coveringrn1983 to 1991 and published in 1993,rnwas promptly described by the Times asrn”one of the great works in the genre” forrnits “Pooterish self-assessment, for MrrnToad’s enthusiasm for new things, for Byron’srncaddishness, for its deadly candour.”rnIt was not just the Times reviewerrnwho delighted in this candid, bitchy, gossipy,rnsnobbish, hypochondriacal, politicallyrnincorrect tour de force, or who comparedrnClark with Boswell and Pepys.rnEven those who detested his politics hadrnto admit that there was something engagingrnand fascinating about the right-wingrnroue. Writing in the Independent, thernleft-of-center Robert Harris described thernDiaries as “the most compelling accountrnof modern politics I have ever read,”rnwhile in the Evening Standard, left-wingrnjournalist Matthew Norman confessedrnthat “[Clark] proved beyond dispute thatrnthe Devil really does have all the bestrntunes.” And so the subsequent volume,rnwhich covers the years 1972-1982, hadrnbeen eagerly awaited.rnInto Politics, therefore, should havernbeen more of a hit than it has so far provedrnto be. All the essential ingredients arernhere—the illicit liaisons, the petty concernsrnabout money and health (in Aprilrn1979, after a day of gloomy pondering onrnthe forthcoming election, Clark finished,rnludicrously, “Key factor, though, is eliminahonrnof dandruff), the perceptive insights,rnthe sly humor, the choice anecdotes,rnand minute, insulting descriptionsrnof famous or soon-to-be-famous people:rn”Geoffrey Howe affects a curiouslyrnopaque, cafe-au-lait complexion. A combination,rnpresumably, of sun lamp andrnTV studio foundation cream.” (His Junern1982 description of Princess Margaretrnwas even more cruel: “fat, ugly, dwarflikc,rnlecherous and revoltingly tastelessly behaved.”)rnIt seems at least possible diat the reasonrnfor the book’s cool reception lies in somernof the political content, since Into Politicsrnis much more about polities than the firstrninstallment (which was really concernedrnwith personalities). Also, .some of Clark’srnpolitical views indubitably fall well outsidern”respectable” —or even sensible —rnideological parameters.rnWriting in the journal of the Tory ReformrnGroup, the ostensibly Tory NickrnKent fumed, “Alan Clark was a most unattractivernman. Apart from being a gutterrnracist and serial abuser of women, he wasrnthe most mendacious of politicians.”rnThe Diaries, he added, would be “invaluable”rnfor the “unashamed political s – – trnwho just wants to get on.” Coming as itrndoes from one of Kenneth Clarke’s pro-rnEuro faction, this is probably recommendationrnenough for many of his party. Butrnbecause such visceral Tories do not generallyrnwrite book reviews in the Londonrnpress, the book has been treated withrngreater indifference than it merits.rnThe “gutter racism” decried by Kentrnmay be the reason why some commentatorsrnappear to find Clark suddenly ratherrndiscomfiting. Here is a man of high intelligence,rnwit, humor, and sophisticationrnsaying the unsayable in such a wayrnthat it cannot be brushed off as a joke.rnMore than once, fed up with the ToryrnPart)-, he thought of defecting to the NationalrnEront, at that time a serious thirdpartvrnchallenger (the party imploded afterrnMargaret Thatcher’s 1979 electionrnvictory). Such thoughts certainly arern”gutter racism” by modern, far-left (i.e.,rnmainstream) standards, but Clark compoundedrnhis thoughterime (and, sadly,rnnullified much of what else he had tornsay) by referring kindly to the Nazis.rnImpelled by a mixture of boyish sincerity,rnvanity (he wanted to be talkedrnabout, and what was said about him was arnsecondary consideration), and humor,rnAlan Clark returned again and again tornthe theme. He was certainly being seriousrnwhen he told the Times’ Frank Johnsonrnover a 1981 lunch, “I am a Nazi. I reallyrn[believe] it to be the ideal system, andrn. . . it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxonrnraces and for the world that it was extinguished.”rnRewatching Cabaret, Clark refusedrnto swallow the prescribed moralisticrndose about “tolerance” and why it isrn”OK to be gay” and liked best the “wonderful,rnuplifting scene in the beer garden,rnwhen the young SA boy leads the singingrnoiTomorrow Belongs To Me.” But he admittedrnthat he was acting “partiy to provoke”rnwhen, at a Downing Street dinnerrnin 1981, he teased a German guest, talkingrnabout Hitler being “ahead of hisrntime” and of “the genetic need for racialrnpurity.” (The disputatious diatribe reducedrndie woman to tears.)rnOne of his parliamentary colleaguesrnwas at least partly right when he remarkedrnthat “Al should realise there’srnmore to polities than being amusing.”rnThe fact that Clark got away with his outrageousrnopinions and statements is vividrnproof that, in polities, it is less what yournbelieve but whom vou know that counts.rnIt also says something for MargaretrnThatcher that she would permit such arnloose cannon in her government.rnDespite his repeated lapses into suchrnJacobinism and his mocking humor,rnAlan Clark had a generous, traditionalist,rnultraeonservative view of the world. Hernwas one of the few Tories who votedrnagainst entering the Common Market,rnsurprising Dennis Skinner by saying thatrn”I’d rather live in a socialist Britain thanrnone ruled by a lot of f—ing foreigners”rn(April 1975). Seven years later, as a necessaryrncorrective to national decadencern—and as a magnificent coup de theatre —rnhe favored vigorous and early interventionrnin the Falklands: “If we are going torngo, I feel, let us go out in a blaze —thenrnwe can all sit back and comfortably becomerna nation of pimps and ponces, arnsort of Macao to the Emopean continent.”rnOn a postwar visit to the Falklands,rnhe wrote:rnSeeing all those dear little fairhairedrnchildren in their anoraks —rnexactly like any village in one’s constituencyrn—brought home morerneffectively than anything else couldrnhave done exactly what we werernfighting for, and how impossible itrnwould have been to have abandonedrnthem to a foreign power.rnHe was also frequently pessimisticrnabout his family’s future, using terminologyrnreminiscent of Jean Raspail:rnI get a dark foreboding, sometimes.rnI feel it at Saltwood [his familyrnhome, a medieval castle in Kent] asrnpeople encroach more and more,rnwith higher sense of justification,rnon the boundaries and fences-“if srnnot right that something so important/rnl:>eautiful/interesting/liistoriernshould belong to one man . . . “rnThere are the boys [his sons] withrntheir patriotic instincts quite natural,rnalso the sense of privilege andrnassurance—but will they be able tornhold i t . . . ?rnAnd, “Are we [his family] an etiolatedrnrearguard? The French nobility in 1788?”rn(March 1974).rnThe deadi of one of his beloved beaglesrnprompted Clark to think of his ownrndissolution:rnHe was shrouded in his red blanketrnwith his steel dish and dinnerrn.32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn