Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lord St John of Fawsley, politician, author, barrister and constitutional expert is dead at 82, a maverick but truly gifted politician

Dear All

Norman St John-Stevas is dead.

He was one of the leading Tory Wets of the Thatcher era where Britain changed dramatically from a caring country to the cesspit that it has become.

Lord St John of Fawsley, politician, author, barrister and constitutional expert was a man who went on to be a member of Margaret Thatcher’s first Cabinet as Leader of the Commons.

He was sacked in 1981 opposed to her more hardline policies.

During his time at Westminster he made his mark on Parliament by creating the select committee system.

This allows ordinary MPs to interrogate ministers and set up inquiries into controversial issues.

It was and still remains a sound idea.

After leaving government, he remained on the backbenches and was made a life peer in 1987.

He served as chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission and master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

He was a prolific author and a prominent Roman Catholic.

A coulurful character, he used to cox a Cambridge crew in a top hat, white tie and tails.

Lord Strathclyde, Conservative Leader of the Lords, said:

“He was a colourful, deeply spiritual and wise figure whose greatest legacy to the House of Commons remains the select committee.”

Former Cabinet colleague Lord Heseltine said:

“Norman was a one-off, a very unusual character, combining intellect and academic talent with the realities of politics. He also had a great sense of humour. As a Cabinet minister he used to sit at the far end of the table and it was quite frequent there would be an eruption of laughter from that quarter at something he said.”

Lady Thatcher’s successor Sir John Major said:

“He was always fun. But his flippancy had a cost, and shortened his Cabinet career.”

David Cameron said:

“I was lucky to get him in to No. 10 after becoming Prime Minister to hear his advice. He came to a reception at Downing Street this Christmas and was amongst the last to leave, chatting amiably to young and old alike with his great charm.”

A spokesman for his family said Lord St John, died at his home in London on Friday after a short illness.

He was born on May 18, 1929.

He gained a first in law at Fitzwilliam, Cambridge, an MA at Christ Church, Oxford, and a doctorate at London University. By the age of 24 he had been called to the Bar at Middle Temple and had been president of the Cambridge Union and secretary to the Oxford Union – the first man to hold office in both unions.

He represented Chelmsford from 1964 until 1987, and became a minister at the Department of Education and Science under Mrs Thatcher. Edward Heath later made him minister for the arts.

Norman St John-Stevas was a maverick; he is one of those Tories who wanted to do genuinely do better for people while in political office.

Lesser people came after him.

A great pity, he was always worth a listen to.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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