BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics: Talking Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 30 April, 2001, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Profile: Lord Taylor of Warwick
Lord Taylor
Lord Taylor became the first black peer in 1996
As the Conservative's most senior black politician, Lord Taylor's condemnation of a colleague for "spouting racist rubbish" is given extra force.

This is not the first time he has become entangled in a fight with what he calls a "certain right wing element" of the party.

The Tories appear to have taken a step back into the dark ages

Lord Taylor of Warwick

An unsuccessful parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham at the 1992 general election, Lord Taylor - then John Taylor - was subjected to racist abuse by members of his own constituency party.

Some even urged people not to vote for him.


Cheltenham was regarded as a safe Tory seat, but infighting over the choice of candidate was considered to have helped the Liberal Democrats take it by 1,668 votes.

In 1996, at the age of 43, he became one of the youngest and the only black peer in the upper house, taking the title Lord Taylor of Warwick.

He was said to be "gobsmacked" on hearing of his ennoblement - on the recommendation of the then prime minister John Major.

John David Beckett Taylor was born in Birmingham in 1952 to Jamaican immigrants.

His father was a professional cricketer, playing for Warwickshire and the West Indies, and his mother a nurse.

Legal career

From head boy at Moseley Grammar School, Birmingham, he studied English literature and law at Keele University followed by the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

Lord Taylor was called to the bar in 1978, when he joined the same chambers as ex-Tory chancellor Ken Clarke.

Choosing the Conservative party as his political home in the early 1980s, he explained that Labour's attitude towards black people was patronising.

He has said: "They pat us on the head, tell us that we're black, we can't make it, we're disadvantaged because of the colour of our skin.

"That's not a positive message."

Lord Taylor became politically active as a councillor in Solihull, but failed to win election to the Commons on two occasions, first in the safe Labour seat of Birmingham Perry Barr in 1987, then in Cheltenham.

'False idol'

At one point it looked like the peer had grown disillusioned, dismissing political office as "a false idol".

He said: "I need politics now like I need a hole in the head."

Since his elevation to the Lords, and in addition to his legal work, he has worked on a TV series on legal rights and other issues - "things that affect ordinary people".

Despite his dislike of "right wing elements" in the party he gained the approval of Lord Tebbit who tipped him as a future cabinet minister.

Lord Taylor's latest attacks on his own party - and on William Hague himself - have re-opened a debate which looks set to continue while both the peer and John Townend MP remain members.

Lord Taylor said: "The Tories appear to have taken a step back into the dark ages."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

30 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tory peer renews threat to quit
27 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Tory peer attacks Hague over race
29 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Race row MP faces expulsion
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more Talking Politics stories