Kenneth Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Baker of Dorking
CH PC
Home Secretary
In office
28 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Waddington
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Tony Newton
Succeeded by Chris Patten
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Peter Brooke
Succeeded by Chris Patten
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
21 May 1986 – 24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Keith Joseph
Succeeded by John MacGregor
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
2 September 1985 – 21 May 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Patrick Jenkin
Succeeded by Nicholas Ridley
Member of Parliament
for Mole Valley
In office
9 June 1983 – 2 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Paul Beresford
Member of Parliament
for St Marylebone
In office
22 October 1970 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Quintin Hogg
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Member of Parliament
for Acton
In office
28 March 1968 – 18 June 1970
Preceded by Bernard Floud
Succeeded by Nigel Spearing
Personal details
Born (1934-11-03) 3 November 1934 (age 79)
Newport, Monmouthshire
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford

Kenneth Wilfred Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking, CH, PC (born 3 November 1934), is a British politician, a former Conservative MP[1] and a Life Member of the Tory Reform Group.

Early life[edit]

Born in Newport, Monmouthshire, son of a civil servant, he was educated at what was then Hampton Grammar School, a boys' voluntary aided school (now Hampton School, an independent school) between 1946 and 1948, and thereafter at St Paul's School, a boys' independent school in Barnes, London and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with a BA Degree in Law (1958) and four years later his MS degree in International Law and Regulations (1962). He did National Service as an army lieutenant and worked for Royal Dutch Shell before being elected as a Member of Parliament at a by-election in March 1968.[2]

Career[edit]

Early parliamentary and ministerial career[edit]

Kenneth Baker was first elected to Parliament when he won Acton in Ealing, London, at a March 1968 by-election, gaining it from Labour following the death of Bernard Floud. However, in the 1970 general election, he was defeated by Labour's Nigel Spearing (the seat was later regained by Sir George Young who held it until 1997 and who is now MP for North-West Hampshire). Following the surprise Conservative victory in 1970, a suitable Lord Chancellor had to be found: this was Quintin McGarel Hogg who was given the necessary life peerage, removing him from the Commons and making him a member of the Lords. At the ensuing by-election, held on 22 October 1970, Baker was elected for the safe Conservative seat of St Marylebone in central London. In the parliamentary seat redistribution of the early 1980s, St Marylebone was abolished and Baker was defeated by Peter Brooke for the Conservative nomination at the nearby new safe seat of Cities of London & Westminster. However he successfully obtained nomination at Mole Valley, a rural seat in Surrey and safely Tory, which he held until his retirement in 1997. He was succeeded there by Sir Paul Beresford.

After being Minister for Information Technology from 1981, he entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment in 1985, before serving as Secretary of State for Education from 1986 to 1989. Baker's most noted action in his time at the Department of Education was the introduction of the controversial "National Curriculum" through the 1988 Education Act. He also introduced in-service training days for teachers, which became popularly known as "Baker days". At this time Baker was often tipped as a future Conservative leader, including in the 1987 edition of Julian Critchley's biography of Michael Heseltine. Critchley quoted one journalist's witticism "I have seen the future and it smirks" (a reference to the famous line "I have seen the future and it works" written by Lincoln Steffens, an American visitor to Lenin's USSR in 1921). Baker's mannerisms were unpopular with some people: he dressed his hair with Brylcreem, and by the late 1980s he had come to be portrayed by the satirical programme Spitting Image as an oily snail.[3]

In the July 1989 reshuffle Baker was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, with the intention that he should organise a fourth consecutive General Election victory for Margaret Thatcher. Baker managed to steer the government through the otherwise disastrous local elections of May 1990 by stressing the good results for Conservative "flagship" councils in Westminster and Wandsworth, i.e. supposedly demonstrating that the Poll Tax—a source of great unpopularity for the government—could be a vote-winner for Conservative councils who kept it low. He was still Party Chairman at the time Margaret Thatcher resigned (November 1990).

After the change of regime Baker was promoted to Home Secretary. His time as Home Secretary was marred by prison riots, bad publicity over the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and a ruling that he was guilty of contempt of court.

In 1991 the Court of Appeal held that Baker was in contempt of court - the first serving minister to be found guilty of contempt - for defying a court order and deporting a man back to Zaire while proceedings were pending. "It would be a black day for the rule of law and the liberty of the subject," the court ruled, "if ministers were not accountable to the courts for their personal actions." However, this ruling did not prompt Baker to resign as Home Secretary.

After 1992[edit]

After the 1992 General Election he left the government rather than accept demotion to the job of Welsh Secretary. He chose not to stand for re-election to the House of Commons in 1997 and on 16 June 1997 was made a life peer as Baron Baker of Dorking, Iford in the County of East Sussex.[4]

Until 1995 he lived in Station Road in the village of Betchworth four miles east of Dorking.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust[edit]

Baker is the founder with the late Ronald Dearing of the Baker Dearing Trust, an educational trust set up to promote the establishment of University Technical Colleges in England as part of the free school programme.

In 2013 Baker was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Plymouth University.[5]

Personal life[edit]

In 2005 he published a book on King George IV, George IV: A Life in Caricature, followed by King George III: A Life in Caricature in 2007;(Thames & Hudson). Other publications include several compilations of poetry,[6][7][8][9] a history of political cartoons and his autobiography.

In 2006, Lord Baker announced that he was introducing a bill into the House of Lords to address the West Lothian question.[10] This would prevent Scottish and Welsh MPs from voting on legislation which affects England alone as a result of devolution to the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

In the media[edit]

Baker was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!. Singer-songwriter Bill Pritchard criticized Baker from the left in his 1989 pop song "Kenneth Baker." The lyrics include a litany of names, in which Baker, as well as Thatcher and several other world figures from that period are accused of being "a sick man."

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levy, Geoffrey (11 July 2009). "Can Maggie REALLY have cut out Carol from her will?". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  2. ^ "OPC Committee list". Old Pauline Club. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Macdonald, Marianne (15 May 1996). "Baker spits back at 'Image' cartoonists". The Independent (London). Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "UK Parliament - MPs and Lords". biographies.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  5. ^ http://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/graduation/honorarydegrees/honoraries2013/Pages/The%20Right%20Honourable%20Lord%20Baker%20of%20Dorking%20CH%20PC.aspx
  6. ^ Faber Book of English History in Verse, 1989
  7. ^ Faber Book of War Poetry, 1997
  8. ^ Faber Book of Childrens English History in Verse, 1999
  9. ^ Faber Book of Landscape Poetry, 2000
  10. ^ "Baker seeks end to West Lothian question". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bernard Floud
Member of Parliament for Acton
19681970
Succeeded by
Nigel Spearing
Preceded by
Quintin Hogg
Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
19701983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mole Valley
19831997
Succeeded by
Paul Beresford
Political offices
Preceded by
Patrick Jenkin
Secretary of State for the Environment
1985–1986
Succeeded by
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded by
Keith Joseph
Secretary of State for Education and Science
1986–1989
Succeeded by
John MacGregor
Preceded by
Tony Newton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Preceded by
David Waddington
Home Secretary
1990–1992
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
Party political offices
Preceded by
Peter Brooke
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Chris Patten