Thomas Jeremy King


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(b. Somerset, 13 June 1933)

British; Defence Secretary 1989–92; Baron (life peer) 2001 Educated at Rugby School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, King was a businessman before entering parliament as MP for Bridgwater in 1970. He was quickly talent spotted to serve as a parliamentary private secretary to Christopher Chataway, the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications. He served as Chataway's PPS throughout the parliament. His career progressed after Margaret Thatcher was elected party leader; he was appointed as an Opposition spokesman on industry in 1975 and subsequently on energy. However, his frontbench status was not translated into Cabinet office in 1979, and instead he had to serve four years as Minister of State for Local Government and Environmental Services before being appointed to the Cabinet as Environment Secretary in January 1983. He was Environment Secretary for six months, being moved to Transport in June and then to Employment in October. After a solid two-year stint at Employment, he was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary in 1985. He took over the Northern Ireland portfolio just in time to preside over the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and had to contend with opposition to the Agreement from the Unionist parties in the province. He developed links with the Irish government and disbanded the Northern Ireland Assembly after the Unionists withdrew from it. After four years in the post, he was rewarded with the post of Defence Secretary. He was responsible for a major defence review and had to endure a troublesome Minister of State in Alan Clark, who was to write both critically and affectionately about King in his published diaries. King was one of the principal supporters of Douglas Hurd in the party leadership contest in 1990. He stood down from ministerial office in 1992. He then became chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee until he retired from the House of Commons in 2001.

An ambitious man, King never quite managed to reach the political heights that he and some of his supporters believed he was capable of achieving. A competent administrator, he was respected but never quite trusted by Margaret Thatcher.

Subjects: Politics.

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