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George Edward Peter Thorneycroft

(1909—1994) politician


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(b. Dunstan, Staffordshire, 26 July 1909; d. London, 4 June 1994) British; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1957 –8, Minister of Defence 1962 –4; Baron (life peer) 1967 Educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Thorneycroft trained as a barrister. Elected to parliament in 1938 (sitting for Stafford until 1945, when he was defeated, and then for Monmouth, being returned in a by-election later that year), he was a leading member of the Tory Reform Committee during the war years, pressing for acceptance of social reform by the party. He served briefly as a junior minister in 1945 and was recognized as a rising star in the party. In 1951, Churchill appointed him to his new Cabinet as president of the Board of Trade. He held the post until January 1957, when the new Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, appointed him Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, he took a more austere stance on economic policy than the more expansionary Macmillan and in January 1958 unexpectedly resigned, along with his two junior ministers (Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch), after the Cabinet refused to agree to an additional £50 million reduction in public expenditure. Macmillan, though deeply worried, dismissed the resignations as a ‘little local difficulty’ and appointed the more pliant Derick Heathcoat-Amory as Chancellor. Thorneycroft was brought back to government two years later, serving as Aviation Minister and then Minister of Defence, presiding over a reorganization of the forces and the ministry. He served on the front bench in Opposition, but lost his seat in the 1966 general election. He was made a life peer the following year and pursued a number of business interests. He was unexpectedly brought back into politics in 1975, when the new party leader, Margaret Thatcher, appointed him as party chairman. He proved effective in the post, enjoying the seniority and detachment necessary to make the position work, and served for six years before some independent comments on the state of the economy contributed to his departure.

Thorneycroft had an important influence on the Conservative Party over a period of four decades. Though Macmillan made various dismissive remarks about him, both before and after his 1958 resignation, Thorneycroft achieved a status as a respected elder statesman of the party.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.


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