1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s tribute to The Rt Hon Lord Barber of Wentbridge, made on Thursday 27th April 2006.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
As I walked to the lectern -
The answer is that I worked for Tony after he left politics.
I was a very young member of a large Bank. He was the Chairman. It made no difference. Tony offered me his friendship and wise counsel with the warmth that was his hallmark.
I came to know a man to whom pomposity and self-
Tony Barber was special. Gregarious, with a real sense of fun -
Throughout his life Tony Barber showed a tenacity, a will to succeed and an ability to accomplish the unexpected. In 1976, he called me to his office. Standard Chartered owned Banks in California and he wished to mark the American Bicentenary.
“Do you think” he asked, “we could borrow the Magna Carta and take it there?” I demurred: it was, after all, a seminal document in 1000 years of British history and only three copies were known to exist.
“Lincoln Cathedral have a copy” he mused -
After much negotiation, all was agreed. It was a huge operation to protect the priceless document, insure it, transport it -
Tony decided to invite the Dean of Lincoln, Oliver Twistleton-
Tony had an exceptional War.
He volunteered for the Army and, at first, was in a Royal Artillery anti-
In 1942, he was flying home from Gibraltar -
From a German point of view, Tony was a very bad Prisoner of War. He escaped several times, once travelling across Poland and Germany, before recapture. He was grilled by the Gestapo for a week and then taken outside -
This could have been done with impunity, since no-
Tony did not waste his time in prison camp. When not planning escapes, he studied to obtain a law degree, and learned, when he was liberated by the Russians, that he had got a First.
He then took another First in PPE at Oxford, won a scholarship to Inner Temple and was called to the Bar. His first client was a professional villain whose case was hopeless. Tony persuaded him to plead guilty. For this, Tony got three guineas. The old lag got seven years.
When Tony was adopted as the Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of Doncaster he had two strokes of luck. First, he met Jean, his future wife, who was the candidate for the even less promising seat of Hemsworth. Their marriage was long and happy and they had two much-
And, second, the Boundary Commission re-
As a reward, he was invited to second the Loyal Address to The King, a daunting prospect for a new Member. But war and a prison camp puts such ordeals into perspective and he rose to the occasion with aplomb.
Tony was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Harold Macmillan, when he was Prime Minister, and learned a lot from the old master. He treasured a tape recording made at an election hustings in 1964, when the floor of the hall degenerated into a fight. The tape reveals Macmillan's commentary on the chaos: “Oh, look! He’s hit him again”.
Three years later, Tony was appointed Chairman of the Party. In the 1970 campaign only he and Ted Heath really believed the Conservatives could win -
As Chancellor, he was a reformer. He introduced VAT, abolished Purchase Tax and Selective Employment Tax. He simplified Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax and set his policies for growth and employment -
But events intervened. OPEC quadrupled the oil price, leading to severe and unpopular cuts in public expenditure. Inflation flourished and statutory controls were introduced to curb it.
The Miners’ Strike and the 3-
After retirement from politics, Tony was not interested in taking things easy: he became Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank; a member of the “Eminent Persons Group” which helped lay the foundations for the eventual end of Apartheid; he sat on the Franks Committee reporting on the Falklands War; and was one of a group of "international personalities" who made a pioneering trip to China as she emerged from isolation.
He also took an active role as Chairman of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and during his stewardship raised the extraordinary sum of £29 million. “It was” he joked, “his third career”. And, also -
Some years after Jean died, Tony married again -
But in his latter years, Tony was cursed by ill-
He enjoyed anonymity but was amused when a taxi driver mistook him for Roy Plomley, and congratulated him on Desert Island Discs.
Gentle, decent, thoughtful, kind. A lover of life with a generous spirit. A man of wisdom. A brave man. True to himself -
Tony Barber was a good man -
“Why him?” -