The previous MP Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, who has died aged 86, made a singular mark in British political historical past as the one Conservative MP to cross the ground of the Home of Commons and be a part of the emergent Social Democratic celebration. He did so in dramatic style within the vote on the 1981 finances, just a few days earlier than the SDP’s official launch, intervening within the debate on Sir Geoffrey Howe’s extremely controversial deflationary proposals after which leaving his seat to stride throughout the chamber to hitch the previous Labour MPs who fashioned the nucleus of the brand new celebration.
Citing the edict of his illustrious Norfolk constituency predecessor, the primary prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, who asserted that an MP ought to “say what you assume”, Brocklebank-Fowler instructed the chancellor of the exchequer that the nation, business and the British public deserved a brand new deal in politics with the intention to safe stability, nationwide unity and nationwide renewal – as was deliberate within the programme of the SDP.
“Fairly objectionable stuff it was,” the Tory MP and diarist Alan Clark famous sourly concerning the speech. Though there had been rumours of a number of doable defections, and 34 Conservative MPs rebelled towards the Thatcher authorities within the subsequent vote that night time, none would comply with Brocklebank-Fowler and group up with the 25 Labour MPs who initially left their celebration in 1981.
Brocklebank-Fowler achieved the additional distinction of being a member of 4 political events inside 15 years – after the SDP he joined the Liberal Democrats after which, in 1996, signed up for Tony Blair’s imaginative and prescient of the Labour celebration – however at all times maintained that his One Nation political beliefs remained constant all through his life.
He had appreciable justification for this as, even when within the Conservative celebration, he had been categorised as a “moist”, the derisory description Margaret Thatcher used for her personal celebration opponents. “Dogger Financial institution Trawler”, his pleasingly euphonic nickname at Westminster, was derived not solely from the fishing space off his Norfolk North West constituency however from the suggestion that he was “so moist you can shoot snipe off him”.
His politics have been fashioned partly by his household background, with a provincial, small “l” liberal custom of surgeons and vicars who might be traced again to the 17th century and by his personal way of life as a meritocrat who left faculty on the age of 16 and pursued a profitable profession in promoting and advertising and marketing within the Mad Males a long time of the 1960s and 70s. An extra enormous affect was the three years he spent as a farm supervisor in Kenya within the late 50s, which gave him an abiding concern and curiosity in abroad growth, the issues of postcolonialism and nationwide self-determination.
He was a captivating and convivial companion who was in style at Westminster throughout his 13 years within the Commons, though not amongst his former Tory colleagues after his defection. He by no means regretted his transfer, which he considered essentially the most honourable political determination of his profession, and his braveness was recommended, privately, by some Tories. It was additionally publicly recognised by David Owen, the previous overseas secretary with whom he was initially allied within the SDP and who acknowledged the extent to which Brocklebank-Fowler was ostracised by a few of his business shoppers as a consequence of his perceived apostasy.
Christopher was the second son of Sidney Brocklebank-Fowler, a solicitor in Leicestershire, and his spouse Iris (nee Beechey). He grew up initially on the west coast of Scotland, the place he went to major faculty. When the household moved to Cambridge, he attended the Perse faculty. He performed rugby, cricket and soccer, competed at county stage in Cambridgeshire over 10,000 yards and was a county youth swimming champion. He was a farm pupil in East Anglia between 1950 and 1955, interrupted for nationwide service as a submarine officer within the Royal Navy between 1952 and 1954.
He secured a diploma in agriculture by correspondence course in 1952 and arrived in Kenya in 1955 throughout the Mau Mau rebellion towards British rule. He returned to the UK in 1957 and spent two years with Unilever earlier than shifting into promoting.
Actively concerned in politics at the moment, Brocklebank-Fowler stood unsuccessfully because the Conservative candidate in West Ham North within the 1964 normal election. Within the 1970 normal election he was chosen for the marginal Labour-held seat of King’s Lynn. He gained it by 33 votes and when the constituency was abolished below boundary revision in February 1974 was adopted for the successor seat of Norfolk North West the place he steadily consolidated his majority.
In 1983, nonetheless, in widespread with many different founder MPs of the SDP, he misplaced his seat, which went to the Conservative Henry Bellingham by a majority of simply over 3,000. He stood once more as an SDP candidate in Norfolk North West in 1997, dropping by over 3 times as many votes after which in 1992 he stood as a Liberal Democrat in South Norfolk, coming second, however 17,000 votes behind the Conservative cupboard minister John MacGregor.
Brocklebank-Fowler was married and divorced 3 times. He was wed first in 1957 to Joan Nowland, an Australian public relations government. After their divorce in 1975, he married Mary Berry, from whom he was divorced in 1986. From 1996 to 2000 he was married to Dorothea Rycroft.
On retirement, in 2005 he moved to Caithness on the advice of his buddy Lord (Robert) Maclennan of Robart. He took a job as a river keeper on the River Forss, elevated the salmon take from 32 to 530 in the middle of six years and was happy with the ensuing employment his efforts delivered to the realm.
He’s survived by the 2 sons of his first marriage, Simon and Timothy.
• Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, politician, born 13 January 1934; died 29 Might 2020
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