Beard of the year

3rd January 2003 at 00:00
He won it by a whisker. The diary sends its congratulations to Education Secretary Charles Clarke whose chin growth this week won him the coveted Beard of the Year Award 2002.

But Keith Flett, organiser of awarding body the Beard Liberation Front, says it was a close shave: "There was quite a lot of competition from people like the new Archbishop of Canterbury but Clarke has not only kept his beard while moving to a top job but he has ignored beardist abuse saying he should shave it."

He adds: "I suspect there may some pragmatism here. If you shaved it off you might find three double chins, but he has earned our recognition."

An old comrade of Clarke's from their student politics days, Flett reveals there was some discussion in the judging room over Mr Clarke's qualifications for the award. Did he sport a beard or was it merely stubble?

"It used to be a much more luxuriant growth in the 1970s," Flett recalls. "Over the years, it has been trimmed and cut but I think it is still a beard. It is not just the kind of thing you might get if you had drunk too much the night before, although that is quite possible, knowing him."

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