John Nott

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For other people named John Nott, see John Nott (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Sir John Nott
KCB
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
5 January 1981 – 6 January 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Francis Pym
Succeeded by Michael Heseltine
Secretary of State for Trade
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Smith
Succeeded by John Biffen
Member of Parliament
for St Ives
In office
31 March 1966 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Greville Howard
Succeeded by David Harris
Personal details
Born (1932-02-01) 1 February 1932 (age 82)
Bideford, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Bradfield College
Trinity College, Cambridge
Military service
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
2nd Gurkha Rifles
Years of service 1952–1956
Rank Lieutenant

Sir John William Frederic Nott KCB[1] (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.

Early life[edit]

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, a refugee from Communist Slovenia (Yugoslavia). They have two sons and a daughter.

Member of Parliament[edit]

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.

In government[edit]

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.[1] 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[edit]

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.[1]

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.

Personal life[edit]

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.

Books[edit]

Nott's autobiography Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is a reference to the infamous interview conducted by Sir Robin Day in October 1982 and by which Nott is chiefly remember in the public consciousness. Day asked Nott whether the public should believe the MP's statements on defence cuts since Day, in his usual provocative manner, considered Nott "if I might say so, 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 promptly stood up calling the interview "ridiculous", threw down his microphone and walked off the set.

Nott's second memoir, Mr Wonderful Seeks Immortality, is set to be published on March 26, 2014.

In the media[edit]

Nott was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.

In popular culture[edit]

Nott was portrayed by Clive Merrison in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's controversial The Falklands Play. In the film The Iron Lady Nott is played by Angus Wright.

References[edit]

General
  • 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

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Greville Howard
Member of Parliament for St Ives
19661983
Succeeded by
David Harris
Political offices
Preceded by
John Smith
Secretary of State for Trade
1979–1981
Succeeded by
John Biffen
Preceded by
Francis Pym
Secretary of State for Defence
1981–1983
Succeeded by
Michael Heseltine