|The Right Honourable
Sir John Nott
|Secretary of State for Defence|
5 January 1981 – 6 January 1983
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||Francis Pym|
|Succeeded by||Michael Heseltine|
|Secretary of State for Trade|
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||John Smith|
|Succeeded by||John Biffen|
|Member of Parliament
for St Ives
31 March 1966 – 9 June 1983
|Preceded by||Greville Howard|
|Succeeded by||David Harris|
1 February 1932 |
Bideford, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|Service/branch|| British Army
• 2nd Gurkha Rifles
|Years of service||1952–1956|
Sir John William Frederic Nott KCB (born 1 February 1932 in Bideford, Devon) is a former British Conservative Party politician prominent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He featured heavily in the public eye as Secretary of State for Defence during the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and the subsequent Falklands War.
The son of Richard Nott and Phyllis née Francis, Nott was educated at Bradfield College and was commissioned as a regular officer in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles in Malaysia (1952–1956). He left to study law and economics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society. At Cambridge he met his future wife Miloshka, herself a refugee from Communist Slovenia (Yugoslavia). They have two sons and a daughter.
Member of Parliament
Nott was Member of Parliament for St Ives in Cornwall from 1966 to 1983. Interestingly, John Nott was the last person to commence his parliamentary career under the nearly obsolete National Liberal label. The National Liberals were formally absorbed by the Conservatives in 1968 and Nott then sat as a Conservative MP.
Nott served in the early 1970s government of Prime Minister Ted Heath as a junior Treasury minister. He joined the shadow cabinet in 1976 and the Cabinet when Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 general election. With this appointment to the cabinet, he was made a Privy Counsellor. He served first as the Secretary of State for Trade and was moved to Defence in the reshuffle of January 1981.
He was widely criticised by the Royal Navy chiefs over the 1981 Defence White Paper for his decision to cut back on government naval expenditure during the severe economic recession of the early 1980s; the cuts originally included the proposed scrapping of the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance and withdrawal of numerous major surface vessels, including aircraft carriers, shortly before the outbreak of the Falklands War.
Resignation and retirement
Nott offered his resignation to Thatcher following the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in March 1982. Unlike then Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, however, the resignation was not accepted. Nott remained Secretary of State for Defence throughout the four-month conflict. He was eventually replaced by Michael Heseltine in January 1983 when Nott announced he would not seek re-election in 1983. In the same year, he was knighted, as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Together with John Major, he is the only surviving member of Mrs Thatcher's cabinet who does not currently sit in either house of Parliament. In 1985 he became Chairman and Chief Executive of the banking firm Lazard Brothers. He now lives on his farm at St Erth in Cornwall.
Nott's son, Julian Nott, is a film composer, screenwriter and director, most famous for writing the scores for the Wallace & Gromit animated short films. Nott's other son, William, works for an international oil company in London. Nott's daughter, Sasha, is married to the Member of Parliament for East Devon, Hugo Swire MP; who was until July 2007, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In the new coalition government he is Minister of State for Northern Ireland.
Nott's autobiography Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is a reference to the infamous interview conducted by Sir Robin Day in October 1982. Day asked Nott whether the public should believe the retiring MP's statements on defence cuts, since (Day thought) Nott was a "here today, gone tomorrow politician" (Nott had either recently announced or was shortly to announce that he would not stand at the next election). Nott then stood up, threw down his microphone, called the interview "ridiculous", and promptly walked off set.
In the media
In popular culture
- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: recollections of an errant politician, Nott's autobiography, Politico's Publishing, ISBN 1-84275-030-5
- Who's Who in European Institutions and Organizations, p. 561, col. 1
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for St Ives
|Secretary of State for Trade
|Secretary of State for Defence