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 Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 18:28 GMT
Lord Younger: A career in politics
Lord Younger
Lord Younger held a number of cabinet posts
Lord Younger of Leckie has died at the age of 71. BBC News Online Scotland looks back at the political career of the former Tory cabinet minister.

George Younger achieved a teenage ambition when he replaced Michael Heseltine as Defence Secretary in 1986.

In a Westminster career which spanned almost 30 years, the MP for Ayr also spent more than six years as Secretary of State for Scotland.

Gentleman George, as he was frequently known, was one of Margaret Thatcher's staunchest allies during her time as prime minister.

Born George Kenneth Hotson Younger, he was a member of the brewing family and the heir of the third Viscount Younger of Leckie.

Margaret Thatcher
Lord Younger was a close ally of Margaret Thatcher
He was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and during his national service was commissioned in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, serving in Germany and Korea.

He stayed with the regiment as a territorial and later, when it was threatened with disbandment, was one of the leaders of the successful Save the Argylls campaign.

He first entered politics in the late 1950s, unsuccessfully contesting North Lanarkshire in 1959.

In 1964 he was elected as MP for Ayr, a seat held by his great-grandfather early in the century.

He served as a junior Scottish minister in the Heath government and, briefly, as minister of state for defence.

Scottish secretary

He was a front-bench spokesman on defence and Scotland while the Conservatives were in opposition.

After the party's 1979 general election victory he was appointed Scottish secretary, a post which he held for six-and-a-half years.

He was also generally considered to have been one of the more successful Scottish secretaries.

He had to contend with industrial decline and growing unemployment, but fought his corner in cabinet and managed to mitigate the damage of closures.

Michael Heseltine
He replaced Michael Heseltine at defence
He was tough in his dealings with high-spending councils.

However, his decision to go ahead with rate revaluations caused great resentment among Scottish Tories, and commercial ratepayers had to be paid compensation.

George Younger was appointed defence secretary in January 1986 after the resignation of Michael Heseltine over the Westland affair.

He was a strong supporter of the nuclear deterrent and the Trident missile programme.

During his time as defence secretary, Lord Younger had to deal with controversy over privatisation of the dockyards at Devonport and Rosyth and the sale of Royal Ordnance Factories.

Nuclear disarmament

He had some doubts about the American raid on Libya in April 1986 and about the Star Wars programme.

But one of his main concerns was the danger - as he saw it - of Labour's nuclear disarmament policies.

He said they would put Britain's security at risk and would also threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Lord Younger quit the cabinet in 1989 to join the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He was soon group chairman, leading the company to record profits and the takeover of NatWest.

Campaign manager

In 1989 he also master-minded Margaret Thatcher's successful leadership campaign in the face of a challenge from the stalking horse Tory back-bencher Sir Anthony Meyer.

He was drafted in as her campaign manager again the following year, but his involvement was less than whole-hearted, some felt, because of his banking chairmanship.

When he stood down as the Ayr MP in 1992, it stayed Tory by a whisker.

After leaving the Commons he returned to business and banking, and became involved in many Scottish public bodies.

Away from politics, he was a music lover and tennis player.

He was married with three sons and a daughter.

See also:

26 Jan 03 | Scotland
26 Jan 03 | Scotland
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