Obituary: Nicholas Budgen

By Cosgrave, Patrick | The Independent (London, England), October 27, 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Obituary: Nicholas Budgen


Cosgrave, Patrick, The Independent (London, England)


WHEN EDWARD Heath called an unexpected general election for February 1974, Enoch Powell produced a press release which came as a thunderbolt for all but a handful of his admirers: he would not stand as a Conservative candidate in the Wolverhampton South West seat which he had, by assiduous work, made safe for the Tories since he was first elected to Parliament for that constituency in 1950.

Many of his adherents felt then that, had Powell held on to the seat, and Heath lost the general election, the member for Wolverhampton could have become leader of the Conservative Party. Powell, however, felt that his principles would not allow him to stand in support of a Tory manifesto which he considered to be mendacious; and he declined to put himself forward as an Independent. Instead he supported a Conservative who was much of his own way of thinking, one Nicholas Budgen, a slight, balding barrister, with experience only of the Midlands circuit, whose grandfather, as it happened, had baptised Powell. Powell's last act, when he was in seriously failing health, was to send Budgen a message of good wishes for the 1997 general election campaign. It did not avail; and Budgen lost the seat.

In common with many other journalists - of very various political persuasions - I was, in 1974, keen to meet this unlikely successor to the redoubtable Powell. He told me, as he told others, that he had no particular ambition for office (though he did, briefly, serve as an Assistant Whip between 1981 and 1982) but that he regarded it as the highest political achievement "to succeed Enoch in his own seat". Budgen was born in 1937 in Oxford, and educated at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. He proved to be a resolute supporter of his parliamentary predecessor's opinions, especially in his opposition to the policy of successive governments on British membership of the European Economic Community (now the European Union). He did not have Powell's power of volcanic rhetoric; but he had a precise, dry and witty form of lawyer's utterance, which served him particularly well in all the many dry and technical debates on aspects of relations between the United Kingdom and the continental powers which took place during the (very nearly) quarter of a century that he served in the House of Commons. In November 1994 he showed the strength of his opposition by joining with seven other Conservative backbenchers ("eight elderly unknown romantics" as he put it) in a revolt against the European policy of John Major's government. The Conservative whip was withdrawn from these Members, and efforts were made, in their constituencies, to - in modern parlance - de-select them. This sorry episode had unpleasant echoes of the attempt by Sir Edward Heath's government to de-select Richard Body, Neil Marten, and Roger Moate for opposing policy on Europe in the early 1970s, though it is true to say that in this early case the whip was not withdrawn. Budgen and his fellow-rebels were eventually re-admitted to Conservative ranks in April 1995. Nonetheless, they deserve an honoured place in the list of parliamentarians of independent mind who have, at various times in modern history, suffered the ultimate sanction of the displeasure of the whips: the most famous name comes from another party, for the Labour whip was once withdrawn from Michael Foot, who was later to lead his party.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Obituary: Nicholas Budgen
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?