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Last Updated: Friday, 14 February, 2003, 20:41 GMT
Steve Richards on election losers
Steve Richards
Steve Richards
For even the most famous and successful politicians a life-changing defeat may be lurking just around the corner. It is often crushing, sometimes humiliating, but it can also be reinvigorating.

In a series for The Westminster Hour in January and February 2003, the political columnist and broadcaster Steve Richards talks to the big names who took a mighty fall.

In They Fought and Lost they recall how defeat tasted and how they rebuilt their lives afterwards. Our trio are Chris Patten, Peter Tatchell and Shirley Williams.


Chris Patten and John Major in Downing Street after winning the 1992 general election
Chris Patten and John Major in Downing Street after winning the 1992 general election
Chris Patten became an MP in Margaret Thatcher's election victory in 1979, but he was never seen as one of the true Thatcherites. He became a minister in 1983 and joined the cabinet as Environment Secretary in 1989, becoming chairman of the Conservative Party in 1990. At the general election in 1992, Chris Patten also had to defend his own Bath seat against the Liberal Democrats - and failed.

He went on to become the last Governor of Hong Kong and is now one of Britain's two European commissioners, dealing with the EU's external relations. His nemesis, Don Foster, remains a Liberal Democrat MP and is his party's transport spokesman.


Peter Tatchell in 2003 demonstrating against the Zimbabwe cricket tour of England
Peter Tatchell in 2003 demonstrating against the Zimbabwe cricket tour of England
Peter Tatchell was the controversial Labour candidate who was buried by the Alliance in the Bermondsey by-election in London shortly before the 1983 general election. Talking to Steve Richards, Peter Tatchell tells of the animosity directed against him and his brushes with the outgoing local Labour MP and one-time cabinet minister, Bob Mellish.

Nearly two decades later, Simon Hughes is still in the House of Commons as a Liberal Democrat MP and their spokesman on home affairs. He is now the party's candidate for Mayor of London in 2004.


Shirley Williams with the other three founders of the Social Democratic Party in 1981
Shirley Williams with the other three founders of the SDP in 1981
Shirley Williams lost twice. As a Labour MP, she became a cabinet minister under Wilson and Callaghan from 1974 to 1979. But she lost her seat in Hertfordshire in the election of 1979.

Abandoning the Labour Party to help found the new Social Democratic Party, Shirley Williams re-entered the Commons after winning the Crosby by-election in 1981, only to lose again to the Tories in 1983. She now leads the Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords.



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