Nigel Lawson was a titan of the conservative party who dedicated five decades of his life to public service, a former chancellor, MP, journalist and peer he has died at 91.
Lord Lawson was a key figure in Margaret Thatcher’s governments, who served as Chancellor between 1983-1989. His policies added to the dramatic reshaping of the UK economy and through “The Big Bang” set London on the path to become one of the key global financial centres.
A prominent Thatcherite he was also credited with lowering taxes, most notably he cut the basic rate of income tax from 30 per cent in 1983 to 25 per cent by 1988. The top rate of tax also came down from 60 per cent to 40 per cent in 1988 and the four other higher rates were removed, leaving a system of personal taxation in which there was no rate anywhere in excess of 40 per cent.
He was also a key figure in the privatisation of swathes of failing nationalised industry from steel and car manufacturing to gas and electric.
His resignation in 1989 following a public spat between the Prime Minister, her advisor Alan Walters and himself contributed to lady Thatcher’s downfall just 12 months later.
Following his retirement as the Conservative MP for Blaby in Leicestershire in 1992, having been first elected in 1974, he entered the House of Lords where he played an active part on issues such as climate change and Brexit.
His meteoric meritocratic rise within the ranks of the conservative party also marked a generational shift away from the traditional public school educated Tory figures, indeed the then Deputy Prime Minister Willie Whitelaw famously quipped that in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, there were more old Estonians than old Etonians.
Prior to entering politics, Lord Lawson enjoyed a career as a successful financial journalist with the FT and even edited The Spectator for four years from 1966 to 1970.
As news of Lord Lawson’s death emerged tributes poured in, lead by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who described the former chancellor as “transformational” and “an inspiration to me and many others”.
He continued: “One of the first things I did as Chancellor was hang a picture of Nigel Lawson above my desk.”
While former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Nigel Lawson was a fearless and original flame of free market Conservatism.
“He was a tax-cutter and simplifier who helped transform the economic landscape and helped millions of British people achieve their dreams. He was a prophet of Brexit and a lover of continental Europe. He was a giant. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt added: “Nigel Lawson was a rarity amongst politicians, someone who transformed our thinking as well as transforming our economy.
“Since he stepped down as Chancellor his shoes have been impossible to fill but he inspired all his successors, leaving the country more prosperous and enterprising.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly took to twitter to pay tribute to Lord Lawson commenting that he was: “A true statesman. His contributions to this nation will not be forgotten.”
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said she was “incredibly sad to hear of the death of Nigel Lawson”, describing him as a “giant of 20th-century politics who, as Chancellor, famously sought to abolish at least one tax at every Budget. His time at the helm of the Treasury was transformational. My sincere condolences to his family.”
While the former Conservative leader and prominent Brexiteer Sir Iain Duncan Smith commented: “This is very sad news. Nigel Lawson was one of the colossal political figures of the 20th century who throughout the Thatcher government was a critical part of what was to become known as Thatcherism”.
“He has been a great confidante to many of us and a really intelligent Conservative. He will be very sadly missed.”