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|The Right Honourable
Sir John Nott
|Secretary of State for Defence|
5 January 1981 – 6 January 1983
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||Francis Pym|
|Succeeded by||Michael Heseltine|
|Secretary of State for Trade|
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||John Smith|
|Succeeded by||John Biffen|
|Member of Parliament
for St Ives
31 March 1966 – 9 June 1983
|Preceded by||Greville Howard|
|Succeeded by||David Harris|
1 February 1932 |
Bideford, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Bradfield College
Trinity College, Cambridge
|Service/branch|| British Army
• 2nd Gurkha Rifles
|Years of service||1952–1956|
Sir John William Frederic Nott KCB (born 1 February 1932) 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. In 2016, he claimed David Cameron had poisoned the EU referendum debate.
Born in Bideford, Devon, 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 (1952–1956). He served in the Malayan emergency after a period of service with the Royal Scots. He left to study law and economics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society. He was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1959. At Cambridge he met his future wife Miloska, a Slovene. They have two sons and a daughter.
Member of Parliament
Nott was Member of Parliament for St Ives in Cornwall from 1966 to 1983. He 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, after which Nott sat as a Conservative MP.
Nott served in the early 1970s government of Prime Minister Ted Heath as Economic Secretary to the Treasury. 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. He served first as Secretary of State for Trade which incorporated The Department of Prices & Consumer Affairs. Nott was responsible for repealing the Prices & Incomes policy and played a leading role in the abolition of Exchange Control. The Department of Trade also covered responsibility for Shipping and Aviation. Nott announced the privatisation of British Airways, the first privatisation of the Thatcher Government. He was moved to Defence in the reshuffle of January 1981, at the peak of the Cold War.
He was widely criticised by the Royal Navy chiefs over his 1981 Defence White Paper for his decision to reduce the forward naval programme during the severe economic recession of the early 1980s. He refused to reprieve the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance which was overdue for retirement. His White Paper proposed the reduction of the Surface Fleet from 60 to 50 Frigates and from three to two Aircraft Carriers. He switched the resultant savings into nuclear submarines, naval weapon systems and air defence. He announced and took through Parliament the upgrading of the nuclear deterrent to the current Trident system (D5).
Resignation and retirement
Nott offered his resignation as Defence Secretary 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. Margaret Thatcher in her personal memoir of the Falklands described Nott as behaving "splendidly throughout". But Nott who started life as a regular Army officer says that he hopes never ever to have anything to do with War again. It was a nasty and emotional experience. 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.
In 1985, he became Chairman and Chief Executive of the banking firm Lazard Brothers; during his time at Lazard it was engaged in the high publicity affairs of Guinness and Westland. He was Chairman of Hillsdown Holdings, a multi-national food company, the Canadian firm Maple Leaf Foods, Deputy Chairman of Royal Insurance and other companies. He was an adviser to APAX Partners and Freshfields. Currently he is a staunch supporter of Brexit, the move to leave the European Union. He now lives on his farm at St Erth in Cornwall and is the owner of Woodcocks Club Limited, a sporting estate on the River Lynher in mid-Cornwall.
Nott's son, Julian Nott, is a film composer, screenwriter and director, most famous for writing the scores for the Wallace & Gromit and Peppa Pig 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, [Sir Hugo Swire]] MP.
Nott's autobiography Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is a reference to an interview conducted by Sir Robin Day in October 1982. Day described Nott, who had already announced that he would not stand at the next election, as "if I might say so, a here-today-gone-tomorrow politician." He asked whether the public should believe the MP's statements on defence cuts. Nott promptly stood up and said the Defence Programme had been increased not reduced, called the interview "ridiculous", removed his microphone and walked off the set.
Nott's second book, Mr Wonderful Takes a Cruise, was published in 1988.
In 2007, he published a family history entitled Haven't We Been Here Before.
In 2012, he published Trewinnard - A Cornish History about his home in Cornwall.
Nott's fourth book, Mr Wonderful Seeks Immortality, was published in 2014.
In the media
European Union referendum
In 2016, Nott criticised the "poisoned EU debate" in the Conservative Party, and announced he would not renew his party membership until there was change of leadership.
In popular culture
- "Janus: The Papers of Sir John Nott". cam.ac.uk.
- Peter Dominiczak (9 June 2016). "Margaret Thatcher's defence secretary Sir John Nott suspends Tory membership because of 'poisonous' EU campaign". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
- 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
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for St Ives
|Secretary of State for Trade
|Secretary of State for Defence