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Sunday, 14 October, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Lord Hailsham: The passionate peer
Lord Hailsham
Lord Hailsham was a man of contrasts
Lord Hailsham's career as both a politician and lawyer was long and eventful. He had wanted for much of his life to be Prime Minister. His dream almost came true, but in the end his career was never quite as successful as it might have been.

He sat on the Woolsack in three Conservative governments, following in the footsteps of his father who was also Lord Chancellor.

He was renowned both for his command of English, and for his occasionally explosive temperament.

Hogg with rosette
Winning the 1938 Oxford by-election

After a brilliant record at Eton and Oxford in the 1930s, as Quintin Hogg he won the famous Oxford by-election in 1938 where he supported Neville Chamberlain's agreement with Hitler at Munich..

After the war, in which he was wounded, he succeeded to his father's Viscountcy, not without protest. He was now excluded from further membership of the Commons.

Nevertheless, from the Lords, he continued to hold a number of ministerial posts under Eden and MacMillan.

Hailsham at the 1957 party Conference
Ringing the bell for victory as Conservative Party Chairman

As party chairman in 1957, his prolonged ringing of the bell from the platform of the Tory Party Conference cheered up the rank and file after the Suez affair, though it added to his eccentric image.

The summer of 1963 was a turning-point in his career. He led the British delegation to Moscow to sign the nuclear test-ban treaty, and, with an unfashionable moral Christian stand, he denounced the Profumo scandal as a moral, not a party political, issue.

MacMillan's decision that year to resign as Prime Minister coincided with a new law allowing hereditary peers to disclaim their peerages.

Hailsham at the podium
Hailsham renouncing his peerage in 1963

MacMillan told Hailsham at the beginning of the Party Conference that he wanted him to succeed him. In a frenzied atmosphere, Hailsham renounced his peerage indicating he was ready and willing to lead the nation.

But the Party, rejecting Butler and, perhaps distrustful of Hailsham's ebullience, opted for Alec Douglas-Home.

Again, in 1970, when he was expected to become Home Secretary under Edward Heath, he was passed over. Heath instead, asked him to become Lord Chancellor.

He accepted a life peerage and returned to the Lords where he served three terms, reforming the administration of justice but without making the radical changes of his successors.

Hailsham with Thatcher in 1970
With Margaret Thatcher in 1970

He coined the phrase "elective dictatorship" to describe the faults he perceived in the constitution.

Lord Hailsham was a man of contrasts: a fine mind, extrovert, eccentric, quick-tempered, sometimes arrogant, and not often given to compromise.

His sincerity was unquestioned and his prominence among the great legal and political figures of the 20th century is more than justified.

See also:

14 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tory grandee Lord Hailsham dies
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