John Carlisle (British politician)

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For other people named John Carlisle, see John Carlisle (disambiguation).

John Russell Carlisle (born 28 August 1942) is a former Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the Luton West constituency and later Luton North constituency in Bedfordshire. Carlisle was Public Affairs Director of the UK Tobacco Manufacturers' Association from 1997 until 2001, even though he is a non-smoker himself.

Early life[edit]

The son of Andrew and Edith Carlisle, he was educated at Bedford School, and St. Lawrence College, Ramsgate. Carlisle married Anthea Jane Lindsay May in 1964; the couple had two daughters.

He was a senior executive (1964–1978) of Sidney C.Banks Ltd., Sandy, Bedfordshire, a member of the London Corn Exchange (1970–1979 and 1987–97), and was a Director of Granfin Agriculture Ltd., Stoke Ferry, Norfolk (1979–83). From 1982–87 he was a consultant to Louis Dreyfus plc., and to Barry Simmons PR (1987–97). He was a non-executive director of the Bletchley Motor Group, 1988–95, and of Charles Sidney plc, 1995–1997. He was a member of the Baltic Exchange 1991–1997.

Political career[edit]

John Carlisle was Vice-Chairman (1973–74) and Chairman (1974–76) of the Conservative Party's Mid-Bedfordshire Constituency Association, and was elected MP for Luton West in 1979. In 1983 he was elected MP for Luton North. He was Chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary Committee on Sport (1981–84), Vice-Chairman of the All-Party Football Committee, Secretary of the Conservative Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee (Africa) 1982–83, and was a member of the International Executive Committee of "Freedom in Sport". He was also Treasurer of the Anglo-Gibraltar Group, 1981–82, and was Secretary (1983–87), and Chairman (1987) of the British-South Africa Group. He was elected Vice-President of the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986 and was Governor of the Sports Aid Foundation (Eastern Region), 1985–1996. He was a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture 1985–88.

He was an active member of the Conservative Monday Club and circa 1980-1982 was Chairman of their Foreign Affairs Committee. He was guest-of-honour at the Club's Hampshire and Dorset branch Autumn Dinner on 20 October 1989. On 4 April 1991, the London Evening Standard carried a front-page attack by the Monday Club against the proposed appointment of Janet Street-Porter for the position of the BBC's Head of Arts and Culture. The following day, the Daily Mail quoted John Carlisle saying that she should not be appointed. Ultimately, she did not get the job. During his tenure as a Member of Parliament, John Carlisle regularly hosted Monday Club meetings in Committee Rooms at the House of Commons. He supported the gun lobby after the Dunblane tragedy.

South Africa and apartheid[edit]

Carlisle was opposed to the Gleneagles Agreement of 1977 which discouraged sporting ties to the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1981 he called it a "worthless treaty" and urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to readmit South Africa. Advocating the right of sportsman to play wherever they wished, he offered his support for the 1982 English rebels tour saying that "many of us will salute the courage that has been shown by these players."[1] After the Test and County Cricket Board banned players who had featured in the tour he described it as "a sorry day for international cricket."[2] In 1983 he called on the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), as a club, to tour South Africa as a means of establishing if contemporary opinion polls approving of reviving sporting links were correct. The suggestion was rejected by MCC members.[3]

According to one of his interventions in a 1987 House of Commons debates: "the system of apartheid in South Africa has worked in terms of government",[4][5] although he claimed not to be support it.[4] Of the television screening of the April 1990 tribute concert in London for the newly freed Nelson Mandela, the MP said: "The BBC have just gone bananas over this and seem to be joining those who are making Mandela out to be a Christ-like figure." Carlisle observed: "This hero worship is misplaced."[6] He had earlier described Mandela as a terrorist in 1988.[7]

Later life[edit]

Carlisle announced that he would retire from politics in September 1996, and would not stand at the following General Election in 1997.[8]


  1. ^ R.W. Apple Jr. "British Cricketers Defy Ban to Play in South Africa", New York Times, 3 March 1982
  2. ^ Jack Williams Cricket and Race, Oxford: Berg, 2001, p.98
  3. ^ Williams, p.112-13
  4. ^ a b "The Commonwealth and South Africa Hansard, HC Deb, 13 November 1987, vol 122 cc676-741, 737-38
  5. ^ cited by Jon Gemmell The Politics of South African Cricket, London: Routledge, 2004, p.175
  6. ^ Anthony Bevins and Michael Streeter "Nelson Mandela: From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen", The Independent, 9 July 1996
  7. ^ Ross Hawkins "Mandela death: How the British political class came to love Nelson", BBC News, 6 December 2013
  8. ^ "John Carlisle to quit", The Independent, 10 September 1996
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1992, 173rd edition, East Sussex.
  • Black, A & C.,Who's Who, London. (Various editions).
  • Rhodesia to Zimbabwe - An Assessment, Policy Paper by the Monday Club's Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman: John Carlisle, MP July 1982.
  • Thompson, Cllr.Peter, (Foreword by John Carlisle, MP.), The United Nations Organisation, Discussion Paper by the Monday Club's Foreign Affairs Committee, October 1988.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Brian Sedgemore
Member of Parliament for Luton West
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Luton North
Succeeded by
Kelvin Hopkins