Nigel Forman

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Nigel Forman MP
In office
1976–1997
Constituency Carshalton and Wallington
Personal details
Born (1943-03-25)25 March 1943
Political party Conservative Party (UK)
Spouse(s) Susan
Occupation Academic

Francis Nigel Forman, known as Nigel Forman, (born 25 March 1943) is a British Conservative politician. After working in the Conservative Research Department from 1968 to 1976 he was elected as an MP. He became a prominent backbench MP and was appointed to the position of Minister of Higher Education in April 1992. In December 1992 he resigned from this post “for personal reasons”. During his time as an MP he was considered to be on the left-wing of the Conservative Party and he was often described as "donnish" and a "europhile".

He lost his seat in Parliament in the 1997 general election and since then has worked as a lecturer, writer and instructor. After leaving Parliament he started to use the title “doctor” and is now commonly known as Doctor Nigel Forman. He is married to Susan (‘Susie’) Forman and the couple have no children

Early career[edit]

Forman was educated at Shrewsbury School, New College, Oxford, the College of Europe (Bruges), Harvard University and Sussex University. He obtained various degrees from these institutions including an Master of Public Administration from Harvard, a Certificate of Advanced European Studies (equivalent to a master's degree) from the College of Europe (class of 1965-1966) and a Ph.D from Sussex University. His first significant job was from 1967 to 1968 as an information officer at the Confederation of British Industry.

In 1968 he joined the Conservative Research Department ('CRD' - the research operation of the Conservative Party) and began the quest to find himself a seat in Parliament.[1] He progressed rapidly in the CRD, acting as ‘external affairs adviser’ to Edward Heath while the latter was leader of the opposition. He served Margaret Thatcher in the same capacity from 1975 to 1976. He achieved the rank of assistant director with special responsibility for European affairs,

He contested the Coventry North East constituency for the Conservatives in the February 1974 general election but was not elected.[2] After the elevation of Robert Carr MP to the peerage in 1976, Forman was adopted as the Conservative candidate for the parliamentary seat (Carshalton) that Carr was vacating.

Backbench MP, 1976 to 1992[edit]

Forman was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Sutton, Carshalton at a by-election on 11 March 1976. He took the seat with a 10,000 majority over Labour, compared with Carr’s 4,000 majority in October 1974. When constituency boundaries were revised for the 1983 election, his seat was renamed Carshalton and Wallington.

His Carshalton parliamentary seat was part of the London Borough of Sutton and was very mixed in character. It contained large estates of Council housing and areas with expensive detached houses. All three major parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal) had significant support in the seat and Forman’s position was therefore always potentially vulnerable to tactical voting. His constituency Conservative party and the Conservative leaders of Sutton Borough Council soon showed themselves to be resistant to concepts of modernisation that Forman sought to promote. Sutton was one the few remaining councils in the UK that had retained selective education and council meetings were unusual in that Conservative councillors wore ceremonial robes in order to “give dignity” to the proceedings.

Forman soon established himself as a bright and enthusiastic MP. During his first three months in the House he asked 64 formal questions of Ministers in the Labour government. His particular areas of interest were nuclear power, incomes policy, education policy and ministerial patronage.

After the Conservatives returned to government in 1979, it was widely expected that Forman would soon obtain ministerial office. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) first to Lord Carrington in the Foreign Office and later to Douglas Hurd in the Home Office. However, promotion beyond that was slow in coming.

Forman soon became known as a left-wing Conservative MP who differed with the policy of the Thatcher government on a number of key issues. In 1980 he spoke in favour of substantially increasing child benefits, he opposed reduction in the time limit for abortions, opposed hanging and spoke in favour of James Prior’s attempt to secure compulsory ballots in trade union votes through voluntary agreement with unions. He also expressed alarm at the manner in which unemployment was spiralling upwards as a result of the government’s economic policies. He frequently used the code word “one nation” in his speeches and writings – indicating disapproval of government policies which were perceived to be divisive. He favoured closer integration of Britain with the European Union.

In February 1981, Labour MPs cheered him in the House when he asked Chancellor Howe to act in order to halt the rise in unemployment. Forman advocated employment and economic policies which were broadly consistent with those pursued by the previous Labour government. He acquired the image of being a Conservative opponent of Thatcherism. All this raised his profile in the House but it did not enhance his promotion prospects. In a 1983 Times article, the senior Labour MP Gerald Kaufman noted that Forman had been overlooked for promotion and that his obvious abilities were not being used.

In 1984 Forman stood for the Chairmanship of the Conservative backbench finance committee as a left-wing “one nation” Tory – against incumbent right-winger Sir William Clark. Forman lost but had become clearly identified with “wets” and the one-nation group of Conservative MPs. In 1985, Forman published a pamphlet titled “Work to be done : employment policy for 1985 and beyond”. This was deeply critical of current government policy and advocated a package of measures to stimulate employment.

Forman’s progressive views did not endear him to the leadership of his constituency Conservatives in Carshalton. Many of them regarded him as disloyal to Margaret Thatcher and a traitor. There were repeated attempts to deselect him. Matters came to a head in 1986 after the Liberal SDP Alliance took control of Sutton Borough Council from the Conservatives. Forman publicly attributed this to the shortcomings of the local Conservative leadership

The matter is described in the following extract from an article in the Times dated 21 May 1987 :

“The Carshalton Conservative Association suffers from bigots and zealots who indulge in internecine warfare. Not Labour smear tactics, nor Alliance innuendo, but the words of its Conservative MP, Mr Nigel Forman. Several attempts to deselect Mr Forman failed. But when the election was called last week, five of the seven senior officers took their revenge on the beleaguered MP by resigning.” – the Times, May 1987

However, Forman comfortably held his seat in the 1987 general election. His radical image tended to prevent Labour and Liberal supporters indulging in tactical voting (that is, jointly backing his strongest opponent) in order to turn him out. Forman appeared to be more popular in Carshalton than was the local Conservative party and his political fortunes seemed to be in the ascendant.

“Has Chancellor Nigel Lawson gone soft? Yesterday he appointed as his PPS a Tory so wet he drips. As recently as last year, Nigel Forman, vice-chairman of the party's backbench finance committee, was publicly calling on the Chancellor to 'give top priority to the unemployment challenge'. The year before, in Mastering British Politics, he wrote: 'Occasionally, in the course of its long history, the Conservative party has been swept along on the wave of some particular ideology, but such periods have not usually lasted or brought enduring political success'.” – ‘Rising Damp’, the Times, June 1987

After Mrs Thatcher was forced from office in late 1990 it was considered only a matter of time before Forman would be promoted.

Minister of Higher Education, April 1992 to December 1992[edit]

“The omission of Nigel Forman, from successive ministerial reshuffles over the past few years has surprised many at Westminster when several apparently less talented politicians have secured top posts. But after 16 years in the Commons, he has become an under-secretary at the education department” – the Times, 15 April 1992

Forman was appointed Under Secretary of State for Education (with the job title Minister of Higher and Further Education) under Education Secretary John Patten. During his tenure of office, Forman dealt with high profile issues such as the financing of student unions, student loans and the quality assurance of degrees issued by the new universities.

Forman unexpectedly resigned from his ministerial post on 11 December 1992 for “personal reasons”. The nature of those personal reasons was never disclosed. Colleagues commented that Forman was “a very private man” and nobody claimed to know why he had resigned.

Thereafter, Forman’s political career went into decline. His political interests appeared to become more theoretical in nature. In January 1996 the Demos 'think tank' published a paper written by him on reform of the income tax system. Demos was generally considered to be closely associated with New Labour.[3] At the 1997 general election, Forman lost his seat to the Liberal Democrat candidate Tom Brake.[4] Forman's 10,000 vote majority in the 1992 general election was converted into a 2,000 vote Liberal Democrat majority with a 12% swing from Conservative to Lib Dem. That was an exceptionally bad result for the Conservatives even by the standards of the 1997 election.

After Parliament[edit]

Forman made no attempt to continue or resume his political career. He initially developed a portfolio of lecturing and writing work. In 1999 he joined the faculty of Wroxton College, the UK (Oxfordshire) campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University (‘FDU’).[5] FDU is a private university based in New Jersey, USA. It specialises in delivering short courses in all areas of management and public administration.

Forman has also delivered courses for ‘Westminster Explained’, Parliament’s own in-house training facility which provides courses to members of both Houses and the wider public service. His recent publications include “Constitutional Change in the UK” (Routledge, 2004 – a study of recent change introduced by New Labour) and “Mastering British Politics”, (4th edition, update of a standard text, Macmillan, 1999). He has been a visiting lecturer at Essex University and is an honorary research fellow at University College London.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBC Parliamentary profiles :Nigel Forman
  2. ^ February 1974 general election results :Coventry North East
  3. ^ Demos :Forman research paper
  4. ^ 1997 general election result :Carshalton & Wallington
  5. ^ Wroxton College faculty :Dr Nigel Forman
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Robert Carr
Member of Parliament for Carshalton
19761983
constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington
19831997
Succeeded by
Tom Brake