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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK

UK Politics

From Marxist to minister

Derek Fatchett: A 20,000 majority in his Leeds seat

Derek Fatchett was widely regarded as an able, articulate and intelligent minister.

He had represented the inner city constituency of Leeds Central since 1983 with a majority of more than 20,000.

Mr Fatchett was born in Lincoln in 1945 and attended Lincoln School before studying at Birmingham University and the London School of Economics.

Prior to entering Parliament, he had been a councillor on Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and followed an academic career, including lecturing in industrial relations at Leeds University.

[ image: Mr Fatchett said he was once a bearded leftie Marxist]
Mr Fatchett said he was once a bearded leftie Marxist
He began his political life on the left wing of the Labour Party, which he joined in 1964.

In the 1980s, he urged a ballot for West Yorkshire employees on whether they wanted their pension funds invested in companies contributing to the Conservative Party.

He once admitted to having been a bearded leftie Marxist in his youth, but said he gave that up under Neil Kinnock's modernising leadership of the party.

His career saw him move from the left of the party to join ranks behind Neil Kinnock and then Tony Blair. He quit the left-wing Campaign Group in 1985.

He rose in the Parliamentary Labour Party as a whip and then as education spokesman between 1987 and 1988, attacking the Education Reform Bill.

Foreign Affairs spokesman

At that time he persuaded the Tribune Group to support Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley to lead the party.

Between 1988 and 1992, he was spokesman on employment and training, followed by defence up until 1995.

He held the position of spokesman on foreign and commonwealth affairs from 1995 to 1997 and joined the Foreign Office after Labour's general election victory.

Mr Fatchett had become close to his Foreign Office boss Robin Cook when he was switched to the industry team in 1992.

In his tribute to his colleague, Mr Cook described the minister as a close friend.

His position at the Foreign Office gave him responsibility for the Middle and Far East, Australia and North Africa.

He avoided becoming embroiled in the Sierra Leone affair which tainted the Foreign Office early on in the Labour administration.

[ image: Robin Cook: Close friend]
Robin Cook: Close friend
One of his highest-profile roles since he becoming a minister was being chosen to sell the "Cool Britannia" image abroad as head of Panel 2000.

The day prior to his death, Mr Fatchett joined Mr Cook at the daily Ministry of Defence briefing on the Kosovo conflict.

He had recently visited East Timor during the first visit by a UK Government minister since the Indonesian invasion in 1975.

Mr Fatchett also accompanied the Queen on last month's visit to South Korea.

Earlier this year he met with the Taleban's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Zahidc in Islamabad in the first ever contact between the UK and the Islamic organisation.

Mr Fatchett became a privy councillor in October last year.

As well as his ministerial duties, Mr Fatchett was keen to modernise the Foreign Office.

He was keen to change the type of people the department recruited and move away from the dominance of Oxbridge-educated, male civil servants.

His hobbies included gardening, jogging and cricket. Mr Fatchett was married with two sons.               

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