Bill Deedes

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Deedes
KBE MC PC DL
Minister without Portfolio
In office
13 July 1962 – 15 October 1964
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by The Lord Mills
Succeeded by The Lord Carrington
Member of Parliament
for Ashford
In office
23 February 1950 – 18 October 1974
Preceded by Edward Percy Smith
Succeeded by Keith Speed
Majority 4,012 (13.4%)
Personal details
Born (1913-06-01)1 June 1913
Kent, England, UK
Died 17 August 2007(2007-08-17) (aged 94)
Kent, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Occupation Editor

William Francis "Bill" Deedes, Baron Deedes, KBE, MC, PC, DL (1 June 1913 – 17 August 2007) was a British Conservative Party politician, army officer and journalist; he is to date the only person in Britain to have been both a member of the Cabinet and the editor of a major daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.

Early life and career[edit]

Brought up in the family home of Saltwood Castle and educated at Harrow, he was denied a university career after his father suffered heavy financial losses from the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Deedes began his career as a reporter on the Morning Post in 1931, joining the Daily Telegraph when it took over the Post in 1937. Between 1931 and the beginning of the war in 1939, he shared a home in Bethnal Green, with his uncle Wyndham Deedes.

Deedes fought in the Second World War as an officer in the 2nd Battalion of The Queen's Westminsters, one of the territorial units of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, gaining the Military Cross near Hengelo, The Netherlands in April 1945. He was also the only officer to serve in 12th King's Royal Rifle Corps (2nd Queen's Westminsters) for the duration of the war. His battalion served as the motor battalion of 8 Armoured Brigade in the NW Europe campaign.

Marriage and children[edit]

He was married to Evelyn Hilary Branfort, who died in May 2004, by whom he had two sons (one of whom died young) and three daughters, Juliet, Jill and Lucy.[1]

A convinced Christian like his father, he lived very unpretentiously on the edge of Romney Marsh, Kent, where his wife, Hilary, kept a menagerie of farm animals. He was never particularly well-off, preferring to use public transport whenever possible.[2]

His son, Jeremy Deedes, is a director of the Telegraph Group of companies and a director of lobbyists Pelham Bell Pottinger He has been a Director of the Tote, Chairman of The Sportsman newspaper, and is currently a director of Warwick Racecourse.[3]

Lucy Deedes is a former Master of Foxhounds and was the first wife of Crispin Money-Coutts, the 9th Baron Latymer. She is the mother of society magician Drummond Money-Coutts.

Politics[edit]

Deedes came from a family with a tradition of public service. He was very proud of the fact that there had been a Deedes member of parliament in every century since 1600.[4]

Deedes was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashford in 1950. First serving as a junior minister under Winston Churchill for three years, he later entered Harold Macmillan's Cabinet in 1962 as Minister without Portfolio. He left the Cabinet in 1964, as Minister of Information, and subsequently stood down as an MP at the October 1974 election.

Journalism and later life[edit]

He was Editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1986, and after he was replaced by Max Hastings, continued his career as a journalist. His tenure was noted for battles with the print unions.

Deedes was made a life peer in 1986, becoming Baron Deedes, of Aldington in the County of Kent, though he always preferred to be addressed as "Bill" rather than "Lord Deedes".[citation needed]

Bill Deedes continued to comment on social and political issues through his newspaper columns up to his death. In his later years, he gained a cult fanbase after two memorable appearances on Have I Got News For You becoming, at the age of 88, the oldest guest ever to have appeared on the programme until 2012 when Baroness Trumpington appeared at the age of 90. He was also a stalwart member of the Carlton Club and was appointed as an ambassador for UNICEF in 1998, running high-profile campaigns against landmines. In 2006, he wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph, saying that Islam "is the only faith on Earth that persuades its followers to seek political power and impose a law — sharia — which shapes everyone's style of life" adding that Islam "forbids" Muslims from conforming with British society.[5] He continued to write into his 94th year, with his final article, published on 3 August 2007, concerning Darfur.[6]

He died on 17 August 2007 at his home in Kent, aged 94, after a short illness.[7] The residential street, Bill Deedes Way, in the village of Aldington near Ashford, is named after him.

Popular culture[edit]

Dear Bill[edit]

Deedes was close to Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis. The spoof letters "from" Mr. Thatcher which appeared in satirical magazine Private Eye throughout the Thatcher years were always addressed to Dear Bill - the "Bill" in question was usually assumed to be Deedes; however some instalments (e.g. 16 May and 28 November 1986) would suggest otherwise. The two men regularly played golf together, with Deedes claiming it was a public service to take the spouse of the Prime Minister away from the stress of being married to the country's head of government. The Eye also based its long-running editorial comment, "Shome mishtake shurely?", on Deedes' distinctive slur.

Scoop[edit]

According to many sources, Deedes was the journalist used by Evelyn Waugh as the model and inspiration for the hapless William Boot, protagonist of the satirical novel Scoop. Deedes himself said he "spent part of my life brushing aside the charge," but admitted "that my inexperience and naivety as a reporter in Africa might have contributed a few bricks to the building of Boot."[8] The two had reported together in 1936, trying to cover the Second Italo-Abyssinian War; Deedes arrived in Addis Ababa aged 22 with almost 600 pounds of luggage.[9] Berhanu Kebele, Ethiopian ambassador, to London, pointed out that Deedes's sharp journalistic instincts ensured Italian excesses were kept in the public eye.[10] Barring the question of age, a more appropriate model for Boot is William Beach Thomas who, according to Peter Stothard, "was a quietly successful countryside columnist and literary gent who became a calamitous Daily Mail war correspondent" in World War I.[11]

Publications[edit]

  • Deedes, WF, Words and Deedes: Selected Journalism 1931-2006, Macmillan, 2006, ISBN 1-4050-5396-8
  • Deedes, WF, At War with Waugh: The Real Story of "Scoop", Macmillan, 2003 ISBN 1-4050-0573-4
  • Deedes, WF, Brief Lives, Macmillan, 2004 ISBN 0-330-42639-7
  • Deedes, WF, Dear Bill: A Memoir, Macmillan, 2005 ISBN 1-4050-5266-X
  • Deedes, WF & Wake, Sir Hereward (eds.), Swift and Bold: the story of the King's Royal Rifle Corps in the Second World War 1939-1945, Gale and Polden, Aldershot, 1949

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ingrams, Richard (20 August 2007). "Obituary: Lord Deedes". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ Ingrams, Richard (20 August 2007). "Obituary: Lord Deedes". The Guardian (London). 
  3. ^ http://www.pelhambellpottinger.co.uk/profiles/profile?profile_id=3&role_id=2
  4. ^ Ingrams, Richard (20 August 2007). "Obituary: Lord Deedes". The Guardian (London). 
  5. ^ Muslims can never conform to our ways - Daily Telegraph. 20 October 2006
  6. ^ Darfur is as bad as Nazi Germany - and I know - Daily Telegraph. 3 August 2007
  7. ^ "Journalist Lord Deedes dies at 94" (webpage). BBC News Online. 17 August 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2007. 
  8. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.102-103
  9. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.3
  10. ^ Letter to the Daily Telegraph on 27 August 2007(Issue no 47,347)
  11. ^ The Times Hay, we got it wrong 29 May 2007

External links[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Percy Smith
Member of Parliament for Ashford
19501974
Succeeded by
Keith Speed
Media offices
Preceded by
Maurice Green
Editor of The Daily Telegraph
1974–1986
Succeeded by
Max Hastings