‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Peter Morrison's role in Margaret Thatcher's downfall

Today is the anniversary of the first round of the Conservative Party leadership ballot held in 1990 after Michael Heseltine challenged Margaret Thatcher.  At stake was the party leadership and, with it, the premiership. The electorate comprised the 372 Conservative MPs.

The result was that Thatcher achieved a higher number of votes (204) to Heseltine’s 152, but she was 4 votes short of the required 15% margin for outright victory. Although Thatcher declared initially that she would fight on in a second round, she later withdrew from the contest, opening up the way for John Major to win the leadership.  He beat Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd, in the second round ballot.

It emerged afterwards in Alan Clark’s Diaries that Thatcher’s campaign manager, Peter Morrison, had been literally asleep on the job of gathering votes for Margaret Thatcher.

If Morrison had persuaded just two MPs to change their vote in Thatcher’s favour, or four abstainers to vote for Thatcher, she would have seen off the challenge. Instead, it was to be the end of Thatcher’s premiership - undefeated in three general elections, but brought down by a narrow shortfall in support within her own party. Peter Morrison, who died in 1995, probably has a lot to answer for.

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