Peter Tapsell (British politician)
Sir Peter Hannay Bailey Tapsell (1 February 1930 – 18 August 2018) was a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament (MP) for Louth and Horncastle. He served in the House of Commons continuously from 1966 until 2015, and was also previously an MP from 1959 to 1964. He was Father of the House between 2010 and 2015.
Sir Peter Tapsell
|Father of the House of Commons|
6 May 2010 – 30 March 2015
|Preceded by||Alan Williams|
|Succeeded by||Sir Gerald Kaufman|
|Member of Parliament|
for Louth and Horncastle
Horncastle (1966–1983), East Lindsey (1983–1997)
31 March 1966 – 30 March 2015
|Preceded by||John Maitland (Horncastle) & Michael Brotherton (Louth)|
|Succeeded by||Victoria Atkins|
|Member of Parliament|
for Nottingham West
8 October 1959 – 25 September 1964
|Preceded by||Tom O'Brien|
|Succeeded by||Michael English|
Peter Hannay Bailey Tapsell
1 February 1930
|Died||18 August 2018 88) (aged|
(m. 1963; div. 1971)
|Alma mater||Merton College, Oxford|
|Years of service||1948–1950|
|Unit||Royal Sussex Regiment|
Early life and education
Tapsell was born in Hove. He was educated at Tonbridge School, served in the Royal Sussex Regiment from 1948 to 1950, and continued his education at Merton College, Oxford, gaining a BA in Modern History in 1954, during which time he was also elected Librarian of the Oxford Union (a senior office). Tapsell was a member of the Oxford University Labour Club and the Oxford Union debating society during his time at Merton.
Tapsell worked as a personal assistant to Sir Anthony Eden during the 1955 general election. He contested the Wednesbury by-election in 1957, losing to the Labour Party candidate John Stonehouse. Tapsell was chairman of the Coningsby Club (a dining club for Conservative graduates, restricted at that time to graduates of Oxford and Cambridge) from 1957 until 1958.
He first entered Parliament in the 1959 general election, representing Nottingham West. After losing his seat at the 1964 general election, he was selected for Horncastle, representing the constituency from 1966 to 1983. In 1983, boundary changes moved Tapsell to East Lindsey, which he represented until 1997 when further boundary changes moved him to Louth and Horncastle. Tapsell was knighted in 1985. Tapsell was a long-time supporter of Keynesian economics, and opposed the monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher's governments. In 1981, he voted against Sir Geoffrey Howe's Budget – becoming, as Peter Oborne noted, "the first Conservative since Harold Macmillan in the 1930s to vote against a Budget, a brave move which turned him into an internal political exile."
Tapsell was known for his forthright views and was sometimes controversial. In May 2001, he made headlines during the UK general election campaign when comparing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's vision of Europe to Adolf Hitler's: "We may not have studied Hitler's Mein Kampf in time but, by heaven, there is no excuse for us not studying the Schröder plan now". Tapsell was opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and called for Tony Blair to be impeached for misleading parliament over the invasion of Iraq. From 2005 onwards he was the only MP from any party who had been first elected in the 1950s, but the two-year gap in his parliamentary service prevented him from becoming Father of the House until Alan Williams retired in 2010. He is one of the few MPs in parliamentary history to have served over fifty years in the House of Commons.
Tapsell was strongly Eurosceptic. He was in favour of Britain leaving the EU. He also felt that of all his political actions the thing of which he was most proud was his opposition to the Maastricht Treaty, "because everything that has gone wrong in Britain dates from us joining the European Union. One of the reasons the House of Commons has lost its prestige is because people feel we are no longer in charge of a country. So much of the legislation that affects them is imposed by Brussels."
In November 2005, he was the only Conservative MP, and one of only two non-Labour MPs, to vote in favour of a proposal to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge. During the 2006 Lebanon War, he said that Israeli action in Lebanon was "gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw". Guardian sketch writer Simon Hoggart frequently lavished praise on Sir Peter, describing him as "the grandest of grandees" (July 2008) that when in the Chamber, Tapsell rises "to speak, or rather to intone superbly" (January 2008) and that "like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park, [he] erupts at irregular but predictable intervals" (July 2009).
In June 2011, Tapsell was appointed as a Privy Counsellor in the 2011 Birthday Honours, and he was sworn into the Council the following month. Tapsell was reported as being one of the Conservative MPs to have spoken critically of Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi at a meeting of the 1922 Committee, following Warsi's handling of Roger Helmer MEP's defection to UKIP. In March 2014, he announced his intention to step down from Parliament at the 2015 general election, and also gave an interview where he was highly critical of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, under whom he briefly served as a spokesman on economic policy when the Conservatives were still in Opposition in the 1970s.
Tapsell married Cecilia Hawke, third daughter of the 9th Baron Hawke, in 1963. The couple had a son, James, who was born in 1966 and died in 1985. They divorced in 1971, and Tapsell subsequently married Gabrielle Mahieu in 1974. His former wife Cecilia married Tapsell's fellow Conservative politician Sir Nicholas Scott in 1979.
- Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 418–419.
- "Sir Peter Tapsell obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
- "No. 50221". The London Gazette. 6 August 1985. pp. 10815–10816.
- Sir Peter Tapsell: 'My biggest mistake in politics was to listen to Mrs Thatcher' The Daily Telegraph, 21 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
- 'Hitler' jibe on UK campaign trail Archived 23 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine, CNN, 12 May 2001.
- UK Tory veteran Sir Peter Tapsell dies Financial Times.
- Sir Peter Tapsell: 'My biggest mistake in politics was to listen to Mrs Thatcher' The Daily Telegraph, 21 March 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
- Charities and religious leaders condemn Blair Archived 7 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent 26 July 2006.
- Simon Hoggart "Tripped by an obvious trap", The Guardian, 3 July 2008.
- Simon Hoggart "A collective sigh of relief", The Guardian, 25 January 2008.
- Simon Hoggart "Why fight for high ground?", The Guardian, 13 July 2009.
- "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 1.
- "Privy Council Office – Orders for 13 July 2011" (PDF).
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "MP Sir Peter Tapsell to stand down in 2015", BBC News, 21 March 2014.
- "Former Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell dies aged 88". BBC News. 18 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.