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Tuesday, 6 October, 1998, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Just call me Mr Ancram
Michael Ancram: Has held three seats
From this week, the man who will one day be the 13th Marquess of Lothian will be in charge of marketing a reinvented Tory Party.

The Earl of Ancram, who prefers to be known as plain mister, will succeed Lord Parkinson as party chairman at the end of the 1998 annual conference.

Ancram and Parkinson
Ancram replaces Lord Parkinson as chairman
The son of the 12th Marquess of Lothian, Michael Ancram is the heir to a hereditary peerage and is married to the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, Lady Jane Fitzalan-Howard. The couple have two daughters.

His father was a whip in Alec Douglas-Home's government and a junior minister in Ted Heath's Foreign Office. The family seats include houses in Jedburgh and Derbyshire.

It has been said of the 53-year-old aristocrat that the advantage of considerable wealth has allowed him the comfort of not having to worry about his political career.

Three times an MP

Mr Ancram enjoyed an education at Ampleforth - known as the Catholic Eton - followed by Oxford and then Edinburgh.

In his many incarnations, he has been an advocate, farmer, PR consultant and newspaper columnist as well as a politician.

Mr Ancram has always prefered the cut and thrust of the Commons to the aristocratic upper house and is now on his third constituency.

His first election was West Lothian against Tam Dalyell in 1970, but was told by the local Orange lodge it could not offer its traditional loyal support for the Tory candidate as the Earl's family were staunch Catholics.

Mr Ancram was first elected as an MP for Berwickshire and East Lothian in February 1974 before losing his seat the following September.

Five years later he was back representing Edinburgh South, but failed to hold it in 1987.

During that period, Mr Ancram was made a junior Scottish minister by Lady Thatcher which included introducing the poll tax to Scotland.

In 1992, Mr Ancram was elected as MP for the safe West Country seat of Devizes.

First minister to meet IRA

He rapidly emerged as a staunch John Major loyalist and was rewarded with a post in the Northern Ireland Office, where he rose to become political affairs minister playing a central role in the talks process.

He solidly backed his boss Sir Patrick Mayhew and took a leading role in the drafting of the Anglo-Irish Joint Declaration of 1993.

Mr Ancram, was in the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984 when it was attacked by the IRA, but 11 years later he led a government delegation in its first public talks with Sinn Fein.

After the 1997 election, his Scottish roots made him a logical choice for the new post of constitutional affairs spokesman - a role to disguise the Tories lack of Scottish and Welsh MPs.

Fighting at the ballot box

Brighton's Grand Hotel
Ancram was in the Grand Hotel in 1984
Mr Ancram had the thankless task of campaigning for a No vote in the referendum on a Scottish parliament, decades after he had supported devolution.

As well as more aristocratic pursuits such as fly-fishing and ski-ing, Mr Ancram's passtimes include folk singing and he is known to play guitar at Tory party sing-a-long bonding sessions.

On the whole, Michael Ancram is a man without enemies and is universally thought to be inoffensive.

Critics have said Mr Ancram is not as clever as his friend and predecessor Chris Patten, but nonetheless is shrewd and thorough.

A genial, likeable man, it is thought he will be a gentler type of Tory chairman.

Yet he will have the task of rallying support ahead of elections in Scotland and Wales, local government and for the European Parliament.

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