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It’s time for another name from the recent election, and yet another case where voting went down to the wire in a safe seat. This time it was the Division of Fairfax, which is a rural seat on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, comfortably in Liberal hands since 1990.

The reason it received so much attention is because of Queensland multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, who contested the seat for the Palmer United Party, a new political party. Well, newish – the United Australia Party was the precursor to the Liberal party, and this reboot had the Palmer tacked onto it to avoid conflict with the Uniting Australia Party (all I know of them is from their Facebook page, where they vaguely promise to get real people into politics, and make common sense decisions once elected – which they never were).

Clive Palmer is the sort of larger-than-life multi-millionaire who tends the hog the headlines and is almost certain to end up being described as a “colourful character” or even an “eccentric”. A couple of his recent ideas have been to construct a life size replica of the RMS Titanic, to be named Titanic II, and to create a simulation of Jurassic Park filled with animatronic dinosaurs. He has also courted controversy by sharing some of his conspiracy theories, such as Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife being a spy, and Greenpeace being funded by the CIA.

Clive won the seat of Fairfax by a mere 7 votes; as this was less than 100 votes, it automatically triggered a full re-count. After this second count, Clive won by 53 votes, making Cathy McGowan’s win in Indi by over 400 votes look like a landslide victory. He holds the seat by a margin of 0.03%, making it one of the closest results in Australian political history.

Some hope we are in for an entertaining time from our new MP, while others fear he will make our Parliament a laughing stock. However, eager followers of Australian baby name news may be more interested that Clive and his wife are expecting a baby, and will be welcoming their second child together before Christmas. Stay tuned!

Clive is an English surname derived from clif, the Old English for “cliff”. In Old English, the word didn’t just mean cliffs as we think of them, but was also applied to gentler slopes and riverbanks. The surname can also be through association with any of the several English places named Cliff or Cliffe.

Clive has been used as a boy’s name since the 16th century, and during the 18th it began to be given in honour of Major-General Robert Clive, otherwise known as Clive of India. Sir Robert Clive was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy East India Company in Bengal; although he had no military training, his bravery during the Siege of Arcot made him a hero in Britain by the age of 25.

Clive was one of the key figures who helped secure India, and all its vast wealth, for the British crown. As that wealth and power was consolidated during the 19th century, it is little wonder that the name Clive continued to be associated with the might of the British Empire. Even today, you may have a container of Clive of India curry powder in the pantry, bearing Robert Clive’s likeness.

The name Clive was #80 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #73. It left the Top 100 in the 1950s, and hasn’t ranked since the 1970s. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that British rule ended in India after World War II, and that by the 1970s, our view of India as a nation had radically changed, while we now felt much more uneasy about British imperialism in general.

Clive is a solid, masculine name which still has an air of authority to it. It also possesses quite a number of attractive namesakes, such as charming broadcaster Clive James, hunky actor Clive Owen, horror writer Clive Barker, witty comedian Clive Anderson, comedy actor Clive Dunn, art critic Clive Bell, rugby league star Clive Churchill (after whom the Clive Churchill Medal is named), and Clive Staples Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.

As Clive peaked a century ago, it has more of a vintage feel than a dated feel. It’s not fashionable, but it doesn’t seem unusable. However, it is a truth universally acknowledged (by name nerds) that politics almost never does a name any favours, and whatever else he does in Parliament, Clive Palmer most likely won’t help the fortunes of the name Clive. The sun has set on the British Empire – but has the name Clive also disappeared into the sunset? Only time will tell.

POLL RESULT: Clive received an approval rating of 46%. 22% of people saw the name Clive as horribly dated, and an “old man” name, while 16% thought it sounded intelligent and practical. 14% were put off the name because of Clive Palmer. Nobody thought the name Clive sounded snooty or stuck-up.

(Picture shows the Siege of Cuddalore, in which Robert Clive also distinguished himself; drawing by Richard Simkin, 1890)