Edward Charles Gurney Boyle

(1923—1981) politician

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(b. London, 31 Aug. 1923; d. Leeds, 28 Sept. 1981) British; Minister of Education 1962 –4; Bt. 1945, Baron (life peer) 1970 The son of a distinguished lawyer and grandson of a Conservative MP, Boyle was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he was elected president of the Oxford Union (1948). He had a short career as a journalist before entering the House of Commons, at the age of 27, as Conservative MP for Birmingham Handsworth in November 1950. He was appointed as a junior minister in 1954, aged 32, resigning from the government in 1956 on the issue of Suez. He was brought back into government by Harold Macmillan the following year, serving as parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Education and then economic secretary to the Treasury. In July 1962 he was given his own department, becoming Minister for Education, though without a seat in the Cabinet; he was elevated to Cabinet rank by Sir Alec Douglas-Home in April 1964, serving until the party lost the general election in the October. In Opposition, he was made shadow Home Secretary by Douglas-Home and shadow Education Secretary by his successor, Edward Heath. In 1969, at the age of 46, he announced he was leaving politics in order to become vice-chancellor of Leeds University. He left the House of Commons in 1970 and entered the Lords as a life peer. He devoted the rest of his life to the academic world, serving as vice-chancellor at Leeds and, from 1977 to 1979, as chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, before dying of a heart attack, following a long illness, in 1981 at the age of 58.

An intellectual, patrician, and private individual—he never married—he was not well suited to the hurly-burly and routine aspects of political life. He preferred the solace of classical music to the small talk of party activists. He served in posts where his liberal credentials clashed with the natural sentiments of those on the right of the Conservative Party. He opposed capital punishment and supported liberal policies on immigration. His willingness to concede a case for comprehensive education while shadow Education spokesman proved a particular irritant at party conferences—in 1967 his critics forced the first ballot at a party conference since 1950—and, sensing that he would not be offered the post of Education Secretary in a future Conservative government, left politics for a life more congenial to a scholar.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.

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