Rhodes Boyson

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The Right Honourable
Sir Rhodes Boyson
Minister of State for Local Government
In office
10 September 1986 – 13 June 1987
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by The Hon. William Waldegrave
Succeeded by Michael Howard
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
In office
11 September 1984 – 10 September 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by William Murray (The Earl of Mansfield)
Succeeded by Nicholas Scott
Minister of State for Social Security (Minister for the Disabled)
In office
13 June 1983 – 11 September 1984
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Hugh Rossi
Succeeded by Tony Newton
Parliamentary Under-Secretary
Department of Education and Science
In office
7 May 1979 – 12 June 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded by Bob Dunn
Member of Parliament
for Brent North
In office
28 February 1974 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by (new constituency)
Succeeded by Barry Gardiner
Personal details
Born (1925-05-11)11 May 1925
Haslingden, Lancashire
Died 28 August 2012(2012-08-28) (aged 87)[1]
Harefield
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) (1) Violet Burleston (m. 1946-1971, divorced); (2) Florette MacFarlane[1]

Sir Rhodes Boyson (11 May 1925 – 28 August 2012) was a British educator, author and politician and Conservative Member of Parliament for Brent North. He was knighted and made a member of the Privy Council in 1987.

Early life[edit]

Born in Haslingden, Lancashire, the son of Alderman William Boyson MBE JP, Rhodes Boyson was educated at Haslingden Grammar School, University College Cardiff, the University of Manchester, the London School of Economics and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

He was awarded a PhD in 1967 by London University, with his thesis being on Henry Ashworth, a Victorian Lancashire cotton manufacturer who was the brother-in-law of Richard Cobden and a Radical campaigner who also had a reputation as a model employer. It was published in 1970 by the Oxford University Press as The Ashworth Cotton Enterprise. The Rise and Fall of a Factory Firm. 1818-1880.[2]

Early career[edit]

From his late 20s, Boyson was a Methodist lay preacher. He served with the Royal Navy based in India at the time of Independence and then was a head teacher, first at Lea Bank Secondary Modern School in Rossendale (1955–61), then at Robert Montefiore Secondary School, Stepney, London (1961–66),[3] and finally from 1967 to 1974 at Highbury Grove School, a new all-boys' comprehensive in Islington, North London, of which he was the founding head; in this capacity, and subsequently as an MP, he was outspoken in support of the retention of corporal punishment in British schools. He opposed what he perceived to be lax discipline, both in modern education and in the wider society, and at Highbury Grove he introduced an unfashionably traditional regime, with strictly enforced uniforms, caning for misbehaviour, and a house system. This proved so popular with local parents that the school was consistently oversubscribed.[4]

From 1957 until 1961 Boyson was a Labour councillor in Haslingden, where his father was at that time a Labour alderman and had been a trade union secretary. Boyson left the Labour Party in 1964, joining the Conservative Party three years later.[5] Boyson later wrote:

My own move to Conservative party membership arose from the effect of my research into the cotton industry and the Manchester school of liberal economic philosophy. Here was a body of men who believed that a free enterprise economy was not only efficient but brought moral growth to all men. The employer risked his capital on his judgement and must care for his workers as part of his stock in trade, and the workers would be enabled to become prosperous and through their own industry, thrift and moral courage could establish their own business enterprises and their personal independence to the advantage of themselves, their families and society. Cobden had a moral view of society and believed that free enterprise would not only bring prosperity but social harmony at home and peace abroad within a system of universal free trade.[6]

In 1977 he was co-author (with C. B. Cox) of one of the series of Black Papers on education,[7] criticising many aspects of the comprehensive schools system.

Boyson was a severe critic of what he regarded as the influence of "mindless sociologists" who produced "mush which has corrupted the national character", noting in 1978 that "it has not gone unnoticed that crime has increased parallel with the number of social workers". The Daily Mirror responded with an editorial comment "that crime has also increased parallel with speeches from Dr. Boyson".[8]

He served as chairman of the National Council for Educational Standards.

Political career[edit]

Rhodes Boyson was first elected to the House of Commons in February 1974 for Brent North, and was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science 1979–1983. In this capacity he sought to uphold schools' right to use the cane, and was nicknamed the "Minister for Flogging" by the anti-corporal-punishment campaign STOPP. He was Minister of State for Social Security 1983–1984, for Northern Ireland 1984–1986 and for Local Government 1986–1987.

Boyson was a strong opponent of homosexuality and a supporter of Section 28. He said:

"It is wrong biblically, is homosexuality. It is unnatural. AIDS is part of the fruits of the permissive society. The regular one-man, one-woman marriage would not put us at risk in this way. If we could wipe out homosexual practices, then Aids would die out." [9][10]

Boyson was a supporter of the Conservative Monday Club and frequently addressed them.[citation needed] At the Conservative Party Annual Conference at Blackpool on 10 October 1991 he was the principal speaker at a Club fringe meeting on the subject of A Conservative Revolution in Education.

In 1994 he appeared on the BBC topical panel TV show Have I Got News for You. He also appeared on Brass Eye[11] and was an early interviewee of Ali G.[12]

Boyson lost his Brent North seat in the Labour landslide of 1997, his 24% majority turning to a 10% majority for the opposition, partly because of his perceived lack of commitment to the campaign to retain Edgware General Hospital;[citation needed] in 2001, the seat, no longer contested by Boyson, swung a further 9% to Labour.

Distinctive personal features were his mutton chop whiskers and strong Lancashire accent. The whiskers date from an occasion when he rebuked pupils for having long hair at the school where he was headmaster: the students retorted jokingly "why don't you grow your hair, Sir, if we cut ours".[13] In 2007 he received an honorary degree from The University of Buckingham.

Personal life[edit]

Boyson married Violet Burletson in 1946, and they had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1971, after which he married Florette MacFarlane, a teacher.[14] Boyson maintained his Lancashire accent. He and his second wife lived in Pinner, northwest London until he moved into Cedar House nursing home in Harefield, where he died aged 87. He left more than £2 million in his will, most of it to her.

In 2014, ahead of an investigation of sexual abuse by British politicians, former Conservative activist Anthony Gilberthorpe alleged that he was ordered to recruit underage rent boys for members of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, including Boyson and then-Education Secretary Keith Joseph, at drug-fueled parties during the Conservatives' 1983 party conference. The Sunday Mirror also alleged that a 40-page dossier detailing the abuse was "lost" by the Home Office.[15] David Mellor, a Home Office minister under Thatcher, denied the allegations against Boyson and others named by Gilberthorpe.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sir Rhodes Boyson". Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Robert Eccleshall, English Conservatism Since The Restoration. An Introduction and Anthology (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), p. 229.
  3. ^ "BOYSON, Rt Hon. Sir Rhodes," Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008.
  4. ^ Boyson, Rhodes, Oversubscribed: The Story of Highbury Grove School, London, 1974. ISBN 0-7062-3385-9
  5. ^ Eccleshall, p. 229.
  6. ^ Eccleshall, pp. 230-231.
  7. ^ Cox, C.B.; Boyson, Rhodes. "Black Paper 1977: Fight for Education", Critical Quarterly, 1234.
  8. ^ Pearson, Geoffrey, Hooligan: A history of respectable fears, Macmillan Education, 1983.
  9. ^ Hari, Johann (13 June 2008). "Section 28: An obituary". Attitude (London). 
  10. ^ Jeffrey Weeks The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life, Routledge, 2007. ISBN 1134101759 (p. 99).
  11. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1509163/
  12. ^ "Early Ali G Interview Sir Rhodes Boyson". YouTube. 3 December 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "Last Word, BBC Radio 4". BBC. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Obituary, The Guardian, 31 August 2012.
  15. ^ Tory child abuse whistleblower: 'Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring among ministers'. Vincent Moss and Matthew Drake. Sunday Mirror. 13 July 2014.
  16. ^ Westminster abuse inquiry: 'I found rent boys to entertain top Tory politicians in the 1980s', claims former party activist. Andy McSmith. The Independent. 13 July 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boyson, Rhodes, Centre Forward – A Radical Conservative Programme, Temple Smith, London, 1978. ISBN 0-85117-148-6
  • Boyson, Rhodes, Oversubscribed: The Story of Highbury Grove School, Ward Lock Educational, London, 1974. ISBN 0-7062-3385-9
  • Boyson, Rhodes, Speaking My Mind, Peter Owen, London, 1995. ISBN 0-7206-0983-6
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1991, 172 edition, East Sussex, ISBN 0-905702-17-4.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New constituency
Member of Parliament for Brent North
1974–1997
Succeeded by
Barry Gardiner
Political offices
Preceded by
Hugh Rossi
Minister of State for Social Security (Minister for the Disabled)
1983-1984
Succeeded by
Tony Newton