'Wettest of the wets' Lord Gilmour dies at 81

LORD Gilmour of Craigmillar, a rebel Conservative parliamentarian who was a constant thorn in then prime minister Margaret Thatcher's side, has died at the age of 81.

The former Sir Ian Gilmour was the first Cabinet minister to be sacked by Mrs Thatcher after he warned her hardline tactics would lose voters' support.

He died last night in West Middlesex Hospital, after a short illness, his eldest son, David Gilmour, confirmed.

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Ian Gilmour served as defence secretary in Edward Heath's government in the 1970s and later as Lord Privy Seal in Mrs Thatcher's first government.

On the liberal wing of the Tory Party, the aristocrat cut an uneasy figure in Mrs Thatcher's administration.

Dubbed the "wettest of the wets", he was sacked in 1981 and became a persistent and outspoken critic of Thatcherism.

He responded to his dismissal by issuing a statement declaring Mrs Thatcher was steering "full speed ahead for the rocks".

Pro-Europe, against hanging, and opposed to the poll tax, he was also a trenchant critic of monetarist economics.

A Conservative MP for Norfolk Central from 1962 to 1974 and Chesham and Amersham from 1974 to 1992, he was once quoted as saying: "Socialists may look forward to some grim Utopia. Conservatives have no such illusions about the future or the past.

"For them there has never been a 'golden age' and there never will be.

"Similarly there is no fixed or golden policy to which the Conservative Party could or should turn."

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Lord Gilmour retired from the Commons in 1992 and was rewarded with a peerage.

Before entering parliament, he was editor and proprietor of the Spectator magazine from 1954 to 1959.

The magazine's current editor, Matthew d'Ancona, said last night he was "deeply saddened" to learn of his death.

He added: "He was a true Spectator legend. It was always a pleasure to receive a letter from him on this or that matter. "

The leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, said: "Sir Ian Gilmour had a lifetime of service to the public and the Conservative Party. He will be greatly missed by his friends from all sides of the political spectrum."

Lord Gilmour leaves four sons and a daughter.

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