David Mellor

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For other people named David Mellor, see David Mellor (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
David Mellor
Secretary of State for National Heritage
In office
11 April 1992 – 22 September 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Peter Brooke
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
28 November 1990 – 11 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Norman Lamont
Succeeded by Michael Portillo
Minister for the Arts
In office
26 July 1990 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Richard Luce
Succeeded by Tim Renton
Minister of State for Home Affairs
In office
27 October 1989 – 26 July 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Patten
Succeeded by Angela Rumbold
Minister of State for Health
In office
25 July 1988 – 27 October 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Tony Newton
Succeeded by Anthony Trafford
Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
13 June 1987 – 25 July 1988
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Tim Renton
Succeeded by William Waldegrave
Member of Parliament
for Putney
In office
3 May 1979 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Hugh Jenkins
Succeeded by Tony Colman
Personal details
Born (1949-03-12) 12 March 1949 (age 65)
Wareham, England
Political party None
Other political
Conservative (until 2003)[1][2]
Spouse(s) Judith Mellor (1974–1995)
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
Profession Barrister - not practising

David John Mellor QC (born 12 March 1949) is a former British politician, non-practising barrister, broadcaster, journalist and businessman. As a member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet of Prime Minister John Major as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1990–92) and Secretary of State for National Heritage (April–September 1992), before resigning in 1992. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Putney from 1979 to 1997.

Since leaving Parliament, Mellor has worked as a newspaper columnist, a radio presenter,[3] after-dinner speaker, served as Chairman of the government's 'Football Task Force', and established a successful career as an international business consultant and entrepreneur.

Political career[edit]

Born in Wareham, Dorset, Mellor was educated at Swanage Grammar School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association[4] and a contestant on University Challenge. After briefly working for Jeffrey Archer (then a Member of Parliament (MP)) while studying for his bar exams, Mellor became a barrister in 1972 and a Queens Counsel in 1987. He is currently not practising.[5] After contesting West Bromwich East in the general election in October 1974, he subsequently became the MP for Putney aged only 30 in the general election of 1979. He was re-elected on three further occasions in the general elections of 1983, 1987, and 1992.[6]

In 1981, Mellor was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy, thus becoming Mrs Thatcher's youngest minister, aged 32. He remained her youngest minister for four years.

In 1983, Mellor was appointed to the Home Office[7] where he was involved in several pieces of ground-breaking "Law and Order" legislation, including the pioneering Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984,[8] which amongst other things required police to tape-record all interviews with suspects in order for such evidence to be admissible at trial; The Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985 establishing the Crown Prosecution Service; legislation enabling the re-investigation of Miscarriages of Justice; and the significant vivisection "laboratory testing of animals" welfare legislation the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

The last Act, prepared by a coalition of animal welfarists and scientists led by Sir Andrew Huxley (President of the Royal Society), and was jointly launched by them, Mellor, and campaigner Dr Michael Balls – Father of Ed Balls MP (who went on to become the Labour Party's shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) – gave the UK what is still the most advanced framework for the protection of laboratory animals.[citation needed]

In 1987, Mellor was promoted to the Foreign Office by Margaret Thatcher, and was made responsible for the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union (before the fall of the Iron Curtain). He was briefly Minister for Health in 1988, where he was responsible for health service reforms, before he was made a Privy Councillor in 1990 by Margaret Thatcher, shortly before she resigned as Prime Minister.

Mellor was briefly Arts Minister in 1990 before entering John Major's new Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in November 1990. After the 1992 general election he remained a Cabinet Minister when he was made Secretary of State in the newly created Department for National Heritage (now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport), during which period he was vernacularly known as the "Minister for Fun" after comments he made to the waiting press on leaving 10 Downing Street on his appointment.


Mellor attracted controversy when, as a Foreign Office Minister in January 1988 during an official visit to Israel he protested angrily in front of press and TV cameras to an Israeli army colonel about what he saw as the "excessive" and brutal way troops were treating local Palestinians. Mellor's furious demand that it be stopped, and later statement to journalists that the treatment was "an affront to civilised values" was broadcast around the world, and caused an international incident for which Mellor refused point blank to apologise. He was later privately reprimanded by Thatcher.

Further controversy followed in December 1991 when he was interviewed on a TV programme following the setting up of the controversial Calcutt Review Inquiring into Press Standards. Mellor claimed during the television interview that "the press – the popular press – is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon"[9] and called for curbs on the "sacred cow" of press freedom.[10] The press, coming under heavy criticism at that time, reacted furiously, alleging that he was prejudging Sir David Calcutt's inquiry.

Retaliation came in July 1992, when Mellor was involved in a kiss and tell story in which actress Antonia de Sancha sold a story of Mellor's extra-marital affair with her for £35,000. In a precursor to the "phone-hacking" scandal that would engulf Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in 2006 and later in 2010, their telephone conversations had been secretly recorded by de Sancha's landlord, an activity which at the time was legal in England but has subsequently been outlawed.[11] The Sun, relying on material supplied by publicist Max Clifford, made a number of lurid fictional claims about the relationship that de Sancha later admitted in a newspaper interview were entirely untrue,[12] This was subsequently confirmed by David Mellor in 2011 at the Leveson Inquiry into Press Behaviour.[13][14]

Then Prime Minister John Major supported Mellor through the incident, but Fleet Street and the tabloids still angry at the "Last Chance Saloon" comments rounded on him. Subsequent claims of a holiday spent with Mona Bauwens, the daughter of a wealthy businessman and Palestine National Fund supporter Jaweed al-Ghussein, in August 1990, maintained the pressure on him and Mellor resigned on 24 September 1992.

This came just seven days after the front page headline "Now We've All Been Screwed by the Cabinet" which was a pun on a series of sex controversies affecting the "Back to Basics" Major government as well as the "Black Wednesday" financial disaster the previous day which saw interest rates rise from 10% to 12% and the devalued pound sterling removed from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.[15]

Controversy followed Mellor to the back benches following the Dunblane school shooting of 1996 when Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children and an adult before committing suicide. Mellor led a backbench revolt against the Government, which subsequently led to the introduction of stringent legal restrictions on the owning and possession of handguns.[16]

Defeat at 1997 general election[edit]

Mellor contested the 1997 general election, but was defeated by the Labour Party's Tony Colman as one of the most notable Tory casualties as Labour won by a landslide to end nearly 20 years of Tory rule. The election night was memorable for Mellor's showdown with the Referendum Party founder Sir James Goldsmith — Mellor was taunted by Goldsmith and the pro-handgun candidate (who gave him a slow hand clap and shouted "Out! Out! Out!") during his concession speech. Mellor retorted:

After Parliament[edit]

Mellor was chairman of the incoming Labour government's 'Football Task Force' from August 1997 until its dissolution in 1999. Among the recommendations accepted by the Labour government and introduced into law was the criminalisation of racial abuse by an individual spectator, as distinct from a group.

Mellor has also pursued a career in journalism, and has written columns for six national newspapers including the Evening Standard, The Guardian and The People, often on current affairs, but also his specialist interests of sport and the arts. A supporter of Chelsea, he regularly presented football-related programmes on BBC Radio 5 until 2001, and classical music programmes on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 3. In 1994 he won the Variety Club's "BBC Radio Personality of the Year" award.

He currently presents "David Mellor" and The New Releases Show on Classic FM. He is Opera and Classical Music critic for British newspaper The Mail on Sunday. He is a regular contributor on LBC Radio and hosts a Saturday morning politics and current affairs discussion programme alongside Labour's former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. He has been a fixture on the "After Dinner" speech circuit since leaving government in 1992.

Since leaving office has pursued a successful career as an international business consultant focusing heavily on the Middle East and China. He has been a senior advisor to a wide range of blue-chip companies as diverse as Ernst and Young, BAE Systems, Aedas, and a major Gulf-based Islamic bank. He is also senior partner of an investment brokerage company with offices in London and Hong Kong.[citation needed]

Private life[edit]

Mellor married Judith on 20 July 1974. They divorced in March 1995. They have two sons.

Mellor currently lives with his partner of 20 years, Penelope, Viscountess Cobham.


  1. ^ "BBC: Breakfast with Frost". BBC News. 11 May 2003. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Breakfast with Frost: Extract From Paper Review, David Mellor". BBC News. 11 May 2003. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2012: Winners and nominees in full". Digital Spy. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Bar Standards Board Website - Records 8 December 2010 -
  6. ^ Putney (UK Parliament constituency)#Elections 1983–2010
  7. ^ Daily Telegraph, 10 June
  8. ^ Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
  9. ^ quoted in Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Macmillan, 2003 [2004], p.539, n.21, p739; Hard News, Channel 4, 21 December 1989, The Times, 22 December 1989, p.5
  10. ^ "Closing time at the Last-Chance Saloon". Sirc.org. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Keren David (24 July 1992). "Antonia de Sancha: 'I am the real victim,'". The Independent. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Euan Ferguson (2 November 2002). "Antonia de Sancha on moving forwards and emotional hangovers". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "David Mellor". The Leveson Inquiry. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY 1992: Mellor resigns over sex scandal". BBC News. 24 September 1975. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Thatcher & Thatcherism". Conservativehome.blogs.com. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY 1996: Handguns to be banned in the UK". BBC News. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hugh Jenkins
Member of Parliament for Putney
Succeeded by
Tony Colman
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Luce
Minister of State for the Arts
Succeeded by
Tim Renton
Preceded by
Norman Lamont
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Michael Portillo
New office Secretary of State for National Heritage
Succeeded by
Peter Brooke