Peter Thorneycroft

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Thorneycroft
File:Peter Thorneycroft in 1938.jpg
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 14 September 1981
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by William Whitelaw
Succeeded by Cecil Parkinson
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
4 August 1965 – 13 April 1966
Leader Edward Heath
Preceded by Edward Boyle
Succeeded by Quintin Hogg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
16 October 1964 – 4 August 1965
Leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Denis Healey
Succeeded by Enoch Powell
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Harold Watkinson
Succeeded by Denis Healey
Minister of Aviation
In office
27 July 1960 – 13 July 1962
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Duncan Sandys
Succeeded by Julian Amery
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
13 January 1957 – 6 January 1958
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Derick Heathcoat-Amory
President of the Board of Trade
In office
30 October 1951 – 13 January 1957
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Preceded by Sir Hartley Shawcross
Succeeded by Sir David Eccles
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth
In office
30 October 1945 – 31 March 1966
Preceded by Leslie Pym
Succeeded by Donald Anderson
Member of Parliament
for Stafford
In office
9 June 1938 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by William Ormsby-Gore
Succeeded by Stephen Swingler
Personal details
Born (1909-07-26)26 July 1909
Died 4 June 1994(1994-06-04) (aged 84)
Political party Conservative

George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, Baron Thorneycroft CH, PC (26 July 1909 – 4 June 1994), was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1957 and 1958.

Life and politics

Thorneycroft was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a second lieutenant on 29 August 1929, but resigned his commission on 1 July 1931.[1][2] In 1933 he was called to the bar for the Inner Temple. He entered Parliament in a 1938 by-election as Member of Parliament (MP) for the borough of Stafford. He was re-commissioned into the Royal Artillery in his previous rank on 30 August 1939.[3] During the Second World War he served with the Royal Artillery and the general staff. Along with other members of the Tory Reform Committee, Thorneycroft pressed his party to support the Beveridge Report. He served in the Conservative caretaker government of 1945 as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of War Transport. In the 1945 general election, he lost his seat to his Labour opponent, Stephen Swingler, but returned in a by-election for Monmouth a few months later.[4]

Throughout the late 1940s Thorneycroft worked assiduously to refurbish the Conservative Party after its disastrous defeat in the 1945 general election. His opposition to the Anglo-American loan in the Commons earned him a reputation as a parliamentary debater, and when the Conservatives returned to power after the general election of 1951 Thorneycroft was named President of the Board of Trade. He was instrumental in persuading the government in 1954 to abandon the party's support for protectionism and accept the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.[5]

Thorneycroft's support for Harold Macmillan in Macmillan's successful 1957 leadership contest for the premiership led to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, one of the most senior positions in the government. He resigned in 1958, along with two junior Treasury Ministers, Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch, in objection to increased government expenditure. Macmillan, himself a former Chancellor, made a famous and much-quoted remark to the effect that the resignations were merely "little local difficulties". In reality, Macmillan was deeply concerned about the possible effects of Thorneycroft's resignation, but chose to hide his worries from public view.[citation needed]

Thorneycroft returned to the Cabinet in 1960 and held a number of posts in government and then in opposition under Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home. Ted Heath, who became leader of the party in 1965, had been Chief Whip when Thorneycroft resigned in 1958 and had seen the resignation as a betrayal. Thorneycroft lost his seat at the 1966 general election and received a life peerage, taking a seat in the House of Lords, having been created Baron Thorneycroft, of Dunston in the County of Stafford on 4 December 1967.[6] He was Shadow Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1965.

Thorneycroft was a strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher's monetarist policies, and she made him Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1975. He held this position until 1981. He was notable as an amateur watercolourist and held exhibitions. Winston Churchill when told of Thorneycroft's interest said, "Every minister must have his vice. Painting shall be yours".[4]

Lord Thorneycroft was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) on 31 December 1979.[7]


His grandfather was the Victorian Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft a Wolverhampton industrialist, eccentric, landowner and well known Conservative who was asked to stand for election by Benjamin Disraeli. Colonel Thorneycroft owned various houses in Staffordshire and Shropshire including Tettenhall Towers and Tong Castle. His great-grandfather was George Benjamin Thorneycroft, an ironfounder, JP, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and first Mayor of Wolverhampton. His grandfather's cousin was John Isaac Thorneycroft who founded Vosper Thorneycroft. A second cousin was Siegfried Sassoon. A third cousin was Willie Whitelaw. Another second cousin was the novelist Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler. His great uncle was Lord Wolverhampton.

After his first marriage (to Sheila Wells Page) and divorce, he married Carla, Contessa Roberti (later known as Lady Thorneycroft, DBE) in 1949. He had a son by his first wife, and a daughter by his second wife.


  1. The London Gazette: no. 33530. p. 5644. 30 August 1929. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 33731. p. 4246. 30 June 1931. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 34660. p. 5920. 29 August 1939. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Howarth, Alan (6 June 1994). "Obituary: Lord Thorneycroft". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Robert Shepard, "Theorneycroft, (George Edward) Peter", in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century British Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 642
  6. The London Gazette: no. 44469. p. 13287. 5 December 1967.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48059. p. 298. 8 January 1980.

Further reading

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ormsby-Gore
Member of Parliament for Stafford
Succeeded by
Stephen Swingler
Preceded by
Leslie Pym
Member of Parliament for Monmouth
Succeeded by
Donald Anderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Hartley Shawcross
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Sir David Eccles
Preceded by
Harold Macmillan
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Derick Heathcoat-Amory
Preceded by
Duncan Sandys
Minister of Aviation
Succeeded by
Julian Amery
Preceded by
Harold Watkinson
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
as Secretary of State for Defence
Preceded by
as Minister of Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Denis Healey
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Whitelaw
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Cecil Parkinson