For 15 years, Lord McAlpine was the self-styled “political servant” of Margaret Thatcher, and he proved to be one of the most successful party fundraisers in the history of British politics.
Renowned for his ability to charm potential donors over long lunches, he helped to raise more than £100 million to fund the Conservatives’ three electoral victories during his time as party treasurer.
Educated at Stowe, he left school at the age of 16 and in 1958 joined the family building firm, founded by his grandfather Robert, becoming a director at only 21.
He built up a fortune in his own right through property speculation in Australia but turned to politics after meeting Mrs Thatcher at a dinner. The pair hit it off and he has remained fiercely loyal to the former prime minister ever since.
Devastated by her defeat as Tory leader, he regularly poured scorn on successor John Major, dismissing him as “hanging about like a pair of curtains” and suggesting the Tories might benefit from a period in opposition.
He turned to writing and has penned a number of books, including a sequel to political schemer’s bible Machiavelli’s The Prince, called The Servant. Its dedication reads: “To the most magnificent, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, Prime Minister of Great Britain 1979-1990, from one of her many Servants, who believes she could have been better served.”
Lord McAlpine’s role at the heart of the Thatcher government put him in the IRA’s crosshairs. His name was included on a list of 100 high-profile figures discovered in a police raid on an apartment used by its bomb-makers in south London. He left his Hampshire home, West Green House, after the IRA planted a bomb in the building in 1990, causing extensive damage.
In 1996 he defected to the Referendum Party, becoming its leader after the death of Sir James Goldsmith, but later returned to the Tories.
Three times married, the 70-year-old moved to Italy with wife Athena to run a hotel. A passionate art lover, the peer was ahead of his time when he invested in a series of paintings by Rothko, long before he was fashionable. He sold the now-priceless collection for £10,000 in the 1970s.
He also donated many items from his impressive collection to galleries and museums.
Over the years, he has held numerous executive and trustee roles at arts organisations including the Royal Opera House Trust, V&A Museum in London and Friends of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
He lists his interests in Who’s Who as the arts, horticulture, aviculture and agriculture.
Born in London as Alistair McAlpine, he was the grandson of Sir Robert “Concrete Bob” McAlpine, who founded the construction firm named after him. The company was involved in building railways such as the Fort William-Mallaig line and the Glasgow Subway.