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Nicholas Budgen

From Academic Kids

Nicholas William Budgen (November 3, 1937October 26, 1998) was a British politician.

Named after St. Nicholas Church in Newport, Shropshire of which his grandfather was priest (and later Dean of Lichfield Cathedral). Budgen was baptised at Lichfield Cathedral by Enoch Powell's grandfather. Nicholas Budgen was educated at St Edward's School in Oxford and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. During his National Service he rose to the rank of Captain in the Staffordshire Regiment. He became a barrister with Gray's Inn in 1962.

In the 1970 general election he stood for the Conservatives in Birmingham, Small Heath. In 1974, when the Conservative maverick Enoch Powell decided that he no longer wished to be a Conservative because of his anti-European views, only six weeks before the 1974 general election, Budgen was selected to stand for the Conservatives in Powell's old seat: Wolverhampton South West.

In 1975 he voted to remain in the Common Market. In 1981 he was made a Conservative whip, at the time a sure way of becoming a minister. In 1983, he effectively threw away his political career when he resigned as a whip over the government's Northern Ireland policy, commenting at the time that he "was not one of nature's policeman". However to compensate The Spectator magazine selected him as their 1984 Backbencher of the Year. His speeches in 1985 against the Anglo-Irish Agreement persuaded his cousin Ian Gow to resign as a minister from Margaret Thatcher's government.

His real prominence came in the 1990's when he was one of the whipless eight; the Maastricht Rebels. He called for the Prime minister John Major to sack the then Chancellor Ken Clarke because of his pro-European attitude and for the fact that Clarke had resuscitated the dying idea of a European Single Currency. The whipless eight had taken to having their own policy meetings, leading former Prime minister Edward Heath to describe them as "a party within a party". The Maastricht Rebels, along with accusations of sleaze, helped push the Conservative Party to the lowest point in the opinion polls in its history, to a mere 18 points from 46 points two-and-a-half year earlier. To Budgen the European question was an issue far more important than mere party loyalty. He had a contemptous attitude towards both party and his leaders, having the second most rebellious voting record in the House of Commons for the period from 1979 to 1997. He is quoted as saying "you know, this is a government you can push", he was acutely aware that John Major's government was reliant upon the right wing of its party because of its small majority in the House of Commons. To this end he helped lead a hardcore of approximately 50 rightwing Conservative Party MPs to hold the government to ransom in order to have their way on Northern Ireland and Europe among other things. His hardline on the Northern Ireland situation was perhaps stiffened by the IRA murder of his cousin Ian Gow MP, who bled to death in his wife's arms in 1990. He had a certain kudos amongst rightwingers not only for his intelligence but because he had been campaigning against the UK's gradual European drift since he resigned as a Whip in 1983.

The day after a conciliatory article in The Times by Budgen, John Major returned the Conservative whip to the rebels. Additionally, of the whipless rebels, he was the only one to vote with the government on VAT on fuel in November 1994; the government were, however, defeated, forcing the then Chancellor Ken Clarke to return to Parliament with a "mini budget", an unprecedented event. Unlike most of the Maastricht rebels Budgen was against capital punishment. It was also Budgen who first muted the idea of a referendum on the European Single Currency in 1993, with his proposed European Currency (Referendum) Bill.

Budgen was also a leading member of the Treasury Select Committee, who questioned every tax rise and attacked Ken Clarke as being "intellectually dishonest". It was his position on this committee that persuaded him that the Bank of England should be made independent of political interference, this led to his private members bill in 1996, an attempt to privatise the Bank of England. The bill failed; however, in 1997 when the Labour Party was in government, it made the Bank of England independent as one of its first measures.

Budgen was also vociferous in protecting the rights of gun owners following the Dunblane massacre. His speech was described in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper by columnist Simon Hoggart as "one of the last great parliamentary speeches". The Dunblane bill created a situation where small calibre pistols were illegal in the UK, apart from a 3 week period in 2002 for the Commonwealth Games being held in Manchester, with the British team being forced to practice in France.

In the run up to the 1997 election he played the race card in a vain attempt to keep his seat. In a boost to his anti-European and anti-immigration credentials he was endorsed by his predecessor Enoch Powell, who was famous for his "Rivers of Blood Speech". Due to his support for a referendum on the question of European integration, James Goldsmith's Referendum Party decided not to run a candidate against him. Budgen had in fact suggested to the seatless former Conservative Government minister Alan Clark that he should stand for the Referendum Party.He had said that the Conservatives "in the West Midlands will be running on alternative manifesto", presumably meaning with other local Maastricht Rebels, Christopher Gill (Ludlow) and Richard Shepherd (Aldridge & Brownhills). It should be noted that despite losing by a 9.9% swing from the Conservatives to Labour, of the 144 seats that Labour gained from the Conservatives it had the tenth joint lowest swing, being one of only 13 seats that changed hands with a swing in single figures.

Budgen was notoriously mean, letting others buy drinks for him or waiting at the bar until someone did and buying his suits from Oxfam. On his death over 40 horses were found on his farm, explaining why he always appeared so strapped for cash. Budgen was a keen huntsman, he had hunted in 29 of the UK's counties, and in his youth was well known in the hunting community for being a particularly fearless rider; he wrote regularly for Horse and Hound. Budgen was above all a man of principle, and an unrepetant rebel. He was noted as one of parliament's intellectuals and there is no doubt that, had he been prepared to sacrifice his principles, he could have achieved high office. Parliament was a much more colouful place with men like Budgen, who was described in the Commons by one former minister as being "worth ten placeman" and by the Daily Telegraph as the "late, great Nicholas Budgen". He seemed to take great joy in contuining Wolverhampton South West's feud(began by Enoch Powell) with the representative for Old Bexley and Sidcup, Edward Heath heckling him at any opportunity. Powell had let it be known that he would refuse a peerage while Heath was still in the Commons, Heath refusing to retire from the Commons for so long as he thought Powell might have a chance of a peerage.

Budgen was a witty and popular member of the house. He attempted to stand for the European Parliament along with the fellow euro-sceptic ex MPs Norman Lamont and Winston Churchill: all failed. Diagnosed with Liver Cancer and given only months to live he faced his fate matter of factly. Whilst on his death bed he rediscovered the Anglicanism of his youth and planned his funeral. His funeral service was near his Lichfield farm at Lichfield Cathedral, where he had been baptised and where his grandfather had been Dean; the eulogy was given by his close friend and fellow Maastricht rebel Richard Shepherd.

Quotations

On the 1988 Budget, which caused the Lawson Bust - "It is the most irresponsible budget I have ever heard, it will be downhill from now on. In one fell swoop Mr Lawson has squandered five years of responsible economic management." Budgen was the only critic of the Budget at the time.

On supporting Douglas Hurd in the 1990 Conservative leadership contest: " it is the Conservative workers fate to be betrayed by his leader, so we may at least be betrayed elegantly."

"If the Conservatives say beggars should be kicked once, then New Labour will say that beggars should be kicked twice."

"It would be my general feeling that the transference of power to Europe was so important a matter as to require a vote against any organisation and any party that wished to transfer that power."

On John Major: "he would make a reasonably competent head of a Wolverhampton Social Security office."

Predicting the course of a future Labour government: "If it [Labour] comes to power, those solid citizens will put pressure on the fresh-faced public school boy (Tony Blair) and we shall be back to the old story of an enormous public sector borrowing requirement, higher taxes and higher interest rates, and there will be no difference whatsoever in substance between the fresh-faced public school boy and all the old chaps who are in favour of old Labour."

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