Carlton Club

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As a starting point and historical example let’s take the faction that included senior officers in MI5 led by Peter Wright, supported by the CIA, and "a whole cabal of Tory and neo-fascist ne'er-do-wells around the Carlton Club and the Special Forces Club".[1]

Is there any evidence of plotting in these clubs — is this what they were set up to do? Do they contain people who are likely and motivated to do this kind of thing? Are there mechanisms which we can identify? The Carlton Club can be described as a famous ‘political club’ (in Pall Mall) and the recognised headquarters of the Conservative Party, founded in 1832 by the Duke of Wellington. Not all the London Gentlemen’s Clubs are the same, one would have to concede, but what of the Carlton with its political committee and illustrious members?

Well, Chamberlain was ‘ditched following a famous meeting at the Carlton club’ to be replaced by Bonar Law (not quite the formation of the 1922 Committee but the two are closely tied).[2]

But there are always surprises: that most authoritarian figure in 1832 Peel had little to do with the "Charles Street Gang" or the Carlton Club. But this was early days — and the Tory party was just trying to organise itself nationally after its defeat of 1832. Joseph Planta's home had become too small for the Gang, so the Conservatives set up the Carlton Club as Conservative headquarters to deal with electoral matters. In 1832 Conservative Associations began to be set up throughout the country. Its history is suggestive of an off-the-record cabal but what of today?

When Ian Duncan Smith declined to join the Carlton, it was mooted that this may put at risk Tory funding from the club, which reached £1m in 2002. The Carlton’s Sir Peter Emery, is also chairman of the St James' club's political committee. So we can begin to identify overlaps, money flows, finding structures that reveal the Club to be a manifestation of a wider circle. Also the Carlton has a symbolic cache — the custodian of ‘values’ which may be more apparent than real. Nevertheless it does not seem to attract anarchists as its members. Giles Chichester, son of Francis Chichester and MP for the South West of England (and Gibraltar), was the Chairman of the Carlton Club Political Committee 1992-95 (Hon Secretary 1988-92). As well as being a member Carlton Club Political Committee, Tim Loughton MP (East Worthing & Shoreham) is on the Executive Committee of the Selsdon Group, IEA and Centre For Policy Studies (which seems like what one would expect). Other members of the Carlton Club Political Committee include Robert Walter MP Chairman of the Defence Committee of the European Security and Defence Assembly. But it’s not all Colonel Blimp in the new era of Cameron Conservatism. Some Carlton members (probably temporarily) resigned over the maintenence of the ban on members with ovaries: Robert Walter, Douglas Hogg; as part of his admonition of Tories who refused to be dragged into the 18th century, William Hague stated that: "The Carlton is not just a gentlemen's luncheon club. It is one of the homes of the Conservative Party.” This report also adds that all Conservative leaders are members of the Carlton. Baroness Thatcher had an honorary membership.[3]

The current Chairman, Lord Cope of Berkeley, is also the Conservatives' Chief Whip in the Lords, Lord Walker of Worcester, MBE, PC, is Chairman of the Carlton Club. However the membership is not restricted to MPs. Richard Simmons, CBE, Chairman, BDP Media Group Limited (a former partner of Arthur Andersen, who has served as adviser to a number of Government ministers. He was co-founder and non-executive director of the Cranfield Information Technology Institute; a trustee of the Foundation for Social and Economic Thinking (the charitable name for the think tank Politeia)) was formerly Hon Treasurer, Carlton Club Political Committee — and now part of Westminster Forum Limited whose site tells us with unbidden declaration: “We are not lobbyists” and “We follow Chatham House rules”.[4] Others include Anthony Speaight QC (vice-Chairman of the Bar Council's Legal Services Committee). And here we have the beginnings of conflicts of interest or rather the obscuring of them:

According to a 1989 article in The Guardian, the "private prison network" came together on September 15, 1988, at a dinner for more than 150 people, given by the conservative Carlton Club's political committee. "All the various players were there," the article by D. Rose read: "representatives of the ASI and other right wing policy units, civil servants, John Wheeler and his colleagues, architects and people from the consortia ... a mood of satisfied expectation was beginning to emerge."[5]

Cllr Keith R Mitchell of Regional Planning Committee is a member of the “Carlton Club Political Committee Transport Think Tank, currently advising Shadow Cabinet”. So the Carlton Club is something of a think tank with a Policy advisory committee on 'law and order', 1996-97 and so forth.[6]



  1. Stuart Christie My Granny Made Me An Anarchist Scribner paperback, 2005
  2. Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley (2002) Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations.
  3. Sarah Schaefer (1999) Clubland stirs from its armchairs as Tory quits Carlton over ban, Independent, Nov 12.
  7. Debretts People of Today Eric Koops Esq, LVO, accessed 3 May 2011