Obituary: Sir Teddy Taylor, Conservative MP and Eurosceptic

Sir Teddy Taylor, former Conservative MP and Eurosceptic. Born: 18 April, 1937, in Glasgow. Died: 20 September, 2017, aged 80.
Former Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor has died at the age of 80. Picture: PAFormer Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor has died at the age of 80. Picture: PA
Former Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor has died at the age of 80. Picture: PA

Sir Teddy Taylor was the most voluble, relentless, well-informed and media-conscious of all the Tory Euro-rebels who were the despair of the John Major administration in the 1990s.

His detestation of what started as the Common Market and became the European Union was on a scale which fell not far short of an obsession.

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Sir Teddy did not miss a single opportunity to ­proclaim publicly against what he regarded as an insidious organisation bent on eating away at Britain’s sovereignty and forcing the will of ­mainland alien Europeans on the governance of the United Kingdom.

He was one of the band of defiant Tory backbenchers who were stripped of the ­Conservative whip late in 1994 – effectively suspending them from the parliamentary party – and made clear he was ­prepared to fight elections as an independent Conservative rather than kow-tow to the yoke of Brussels.

Sir Teddy, a nervously heavy smoker but a fierce teetotaller, was an indefatigable and tigerish right-winger who ­supported the death penalty and Enoch Powell’s campaign to stop immigration.

Those crusades were all dwarfed by his ferocious hatred of the European Union. He was one of the few who openly called for Britain to withdraw.

He was able to reel off, without aides-memoires, streams of figures and describe events galore which, he claimed, proved his accusations of ­massive and uncontrollable fraud within the EU and of attempts to subordinate Britain under the heel of Brussels.

Edward Macmillan Taylor was born on April 18, 1937. He was educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, and started his career as a journalist in Glasgow.

He entered Parliament as Tory MP for Glasgow Cathcart in 1964, and it was to his immense personal credit that he held on to this marginal seat until 1979. The following year he fought and won a by-election at Southend East, where he remained.

Taylor was a junior Scottish Office Minister for part of Edward Heath’s 1970-74 administration but resigned over Heath’s decision to take Britain into Europe.

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His uncompromising and unyielding views on Europe meant that, although one of the brightest, busiest and most ­vigorous of Tory backbenchers, he was effectively ruled out of further ­ministerial posts.

But for this attitude, Margaret Thatcher would almost certainly have appointed him Scottish Secretary when she swept to power in 1979.

There was a shock in 1969 when, after two all-night sittings, he collapsed in the House of Commons.

He blamed that on “precious little food, too much coffee, too little proper sleep and too many blackcurrant eclairs”.

There was a happy chance sequel to this, though. At Westminster Hospital, where he was taken, he renewed his acquaintance with Sheila Duncan, a medical social worker, whom he had first met when he was eight. They ­married the following year.

Nothing could diminish his fervour over Europe.

He regularly claimed to have exposed skulduggery and flagrant misuse of taxpayers’ money by the Brussels bureaucrats and other unaccountable EU mandarins.

He regretted Nicholas Ridley’s resignation as Trade Secretary over anti-German remarks printed in the Spectator in the summer of 1990.

He also bitterly attacked Sir Geoffrey Howe’s “vicious” ­resignation speech the following November.

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Taylor voted for Margaret Thatcher in the first ballot of the ensuing leadership challenge, saying: “I have never seen anything so cruel and nasty as has been done to the Prime Minister over the last few days.”

When she withdrew from the contest, Taylor supported the triumphant John Major in the second ballot.

The following year he was knighted, even though he was on record as saying only weeks earlier: “If the Prime Minister were to offer me a political honour, my wife would stop me taking it because she is more of a democrat than I.”

The battle went on, although he praised John Major’s ­handling of the Maastricht negotiations.

Sir Teddy also had a useful connection with the Libyan authorities. In mid-1991, he returned from a secret ­ten-day visit to Libya with an apology and a cheque for £250,000 from the Libyan government in recognition of the killing of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher outside their London ‘embassy’ in 1984.

He was a man of “Calvinistic rectitude”, according to his contemporaries, who signed the pledge as a small boy.

He was a demon in a car, though, and had three speeding convictions within the space of only three months. He was also a self-confessed fan of reggae ­legend Bob Marley.

However, his detestation for the European Union dominated everything else.

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One contemporary said that he acted like a Glasgow streetfighter over this issue and he would not allow any blandishments or inducements to turn him from this single-minded crusade.

He finally stepped down as an MP in 2005.

He is survived by his widow, two sons and one daughter.