Born: 25 June, 1932, in London.
Died: 9 May, 2005, in Wiltshire, aged 72.
CHARLES Morrison was on the left wing of the Conservative Party and a firm supporter of Edward Heath. His years in the Commons largely coincided with those of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, so his prospects for advancement were slight. Mrs Thatcher certainly did not consider Morrison "one of us", and apart from a minor post as chairman of the Young Volunteer Force Foundation (when she was minister of education) she was careful never to allow him into any appointment.
That was not surprising. Unlike his brother, Sir Peter, who was Thatcher’s PPS, he did rather let rip at many of her policies and even described her policy for the unemployed as "shaming". At the height of the Falklands War, Morrison suggested the Prime Minister make a hasty peace settlement with the Argentinians. It is not surprising, therefore, that the arch Thatcher supporter Alan Clark dismissed Morrison as "wet, defeatist, utterly useless" and put him among the "salon des refuses who have always loathed her".
Charles Andrew Morrison came from a wealthy family who originally hailed from the Outer Isles. An ancestor had walked from South Uist to Wiltshire, married well and founded a successful drapery business in the West Country. The family maintained connections with the Hebrides and still have an estate on the Isle of Islay.
Morrison’s father was a Tory MP throughout the 1950s and was elevated to the peerage, with the title of Lord Margadale, in 1964.
After Eton and the Guards, Morrison studied at Cambridge and then the Agricultural College at Cirencester. While his father was an MP he managed the family estates in Wiltshire and on Islay. The latter was a specialised farm, breeding cattle and sheep with substantial fishing rights. Morrison was to grow not only to love Islay but also to become a keen fisherman.
In 1964 he fought and won Devizes at a by-election. The victory was against many of the pundits’ forecasts and Morrison was seen as a fresh broom for the rather tired post-Macmillan Tory party. He was a bright, articulate and distinguished man who gave the party a younger and more acceptable image. His campaign benefited from the endorsement of the novelist and creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming, who was a distant relation. In an article headlined "To Westminster with Love" Fleming wrote "Charles Morrison - Licensed to Kill".
From the outset Morrison demonstrated that he was on the left of the party: he even advocated proportional representation. He was pro-Arab, a committed European and always voted against hanging. Not surprisingly he languished on the backbenches. His commitment to Europe made him an ideal supporter of Edward Heath, whose leadership campaign Morrison championed. He was rewarded with the shadow post of sport but was not offered a position when Heath moved to Number 10 in 1970.
In truth, Morrison was a free spirit: he enjoyed having the opportunity to sound off without worrying what ministers or whips expected of him. He was an excellent constituency MP and served on many House of Commons committees - specialising in those concerned with agriculture, fishing and rural matters.
Morrison certainly angered many Thatcher loyalists. Alan Clark penned his famous lines that Sir Ian Gilmour and Morrison were "pinkish toffs" who "having suffered ten years of submission to their social inferior, see in Michael Heseltine an arrivist who can’t shoot straight and bought his own furniture". Morrison was more of an establishment liberal who held some traditional views.
Morrison was always a courteous and gentle man. He was at ease with all his constituents and was a passionate angler. He fished the West Country waters and returned to fish the rivers of the Hebrides and the west coast every summer. He also enjoyed game shooting and stalking. He was always involved with the management at both his farms, and on Islay he held an interest in a hotel.
Sotheby’s asked him to be a director and he acted as deputy lieutenant for Hereford from 1995. Morrison served on numerous angling committees and was an active chairman of the Game Conservancy. However, an appointment that gave him special pleasure was chairman of the Handicapped Anglers’ Trust, which provided "wheelyboats" to facilitate wheelchair access.
In the rapidly changing Tory party of the 1980s, Morrison was somewhat out of kilter. It is, however, too easy to dismiss him as a "Wiltshire wet". Morrison was a man of well-reasoned social principles and his worries over certain Tory legislation (the Poll Tax, for example) proved well founded. To his credit he stood his ground and refused to jump on fashionable bandwagons or indulge in gimmickry. He ceased being an MP in 1992 and was succeeded by Michael Ancrum. Morrison was knighted in 1988.
Morrison was twice married. Both marriages were dissolved and he is survived by a son and daughter of his first marriage.