Peter Tapsell (British politician)

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The Right Honourable
Sir Peter Tapsell
Father of the House
In office
6 May 2010 – 7 May 2015
Preceded by Alan Williams
Succeeded by Sir Gerald Kaufman
Member of Parliament
for Louth and Horncastle
Horncastle (1966–1983), East Lindsey (1983–1997)
In office
31 March 1966 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by John Maitland
Succeeded by Victoria Atkins
Member of Parliament
for Nottingham West
In office
8 October 1959 – 15 October 1964
Preceded by Tom O'Brien
Succeeded by Michael English
Personal details
Born (1930-02-01) 1 February 1930 (age 86)
Hove, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Cecilia Hawke (1963–1971)
Gabrielle Mahieu (1974–present)
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1948–1950

Sir Peter Hannay Bailey Tapsell (born 1 February 1930) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom and the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Louth and Horncastle. He served in the House of Commons continuously from 1966 until 2015 and was also previously an MP from 1959 to 1964. He was Father of the House between 2010 and 2015.

Early life and education[edit]

Tonbridge School

Tapsell was born in Hove. He was educated at Tonbridge School, served in the Royal Sussex Regiment from 1948 to 1950, and continued his education at Merton College, Oxford, gaining an MA in Modern History in 1953, then a Diploma in Economics in 1954, during which time he was also elected Librarian of the Oxford Union (a senior office), and was a member of the Oxford University Labour Club during his time at Oxford, alongside Gerald Kaufman. Tapsell's father and his grandparents were born in India.

Political career[edit]

Tapsell was personal assistant to Sir Anthony Eden during the 1955 general election. He contested the Wednesbury by-election in 1957, losing to the Labour Party's John Stonehouse. He was chairman of the Coningsby Club from 1957 until 1958.

He first entered Parliament in the 1959 general election, representing Nottingham West, and was the Conservatives' longest-serving MP albeit with a break in service (1964 to 1966). He was from 2005 the only MP of any party first elected in the 1950s, but the two-year gap in his parliamentary service prevented him from being Father of the House until Alan Williams retired in 2010. He is one of a few MPs in parliamentary history to have served over 50 years in the House of Commons.

After losing his seat at the 1964 general election, he was selected for Horncastle, representing that seat from 1966 to 1983. In 1983, boundary changes moved Tapsell to East Lindsey, which he represented until 1997 when boundary changes moved him to Louth and Horncastle. Tapsell was knighted in 1985.[1]

Tapsell is known for his forthright views and is no stranger to controversy. In May 2001, he made headlines during the UK general election campaign when comparing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's vision of Europe to Adolf Hitler's: "We may not have studied Hitler's Mein Kampf in time but, by heaven, there is no excuse for us not studying the Schröder plan now".[2]

On 9 November 2005 he was the only Conservative MP, and one of only two non-Labour MPs, to vote in favour of a proposal to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge.

In July 2006, he said that Israeli action in Lebanon was "gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw".[3] He is opposed to the war in Afghanistan.[citation needed]

Guardian sketch writer Simon Hoggart frequently lavished praise on Sir Peter, describing him as "the grandest of grandees" (July 2008)[4] that when in the Chamber, Tapsell rises "to speak, or rather to intone superbly" (January 2008)[5] and that "like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park, [he] erupts at irregular but predictable intervals" (July 2009).[6]

In June 2011, it was announced Tapsell would be appointed as a Privy Counsellor in the 2011 Birthday Honours.[7] On 13 July 2011, he was sworn of Council.[8]

In March 2012, Tapsell was reported as being one of the Conservative MPs to have spoken critically of Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi at a meeting of the 1922 Committee, following Warsi's handling of Roger Helmer MEP's defection to UKIP.[9]

On 21 March 2014, he announced his intention to step down from Parliament at the 2015 general election,[10] and also gave an interview where he was highly critical of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in whose government he briefly served in the 1980s.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Tapsell married the Hon Cecilia Hawke, third daughter of the 9th Baron Hawke in 1963, with whom he had a son, James (b. 1966), who committed suicide in 1985.[12] They divorced in 1971, and Cecilia later married Tapsell's fellow Conservative politician Sir Nicholas Scott in 1979.[13] Tapsell subsequently married Gabrielle Mahieu in 1974.


External links[edit]

News articles
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tom O'Brien
Member of Parliament
for Nottingham West

Succeeded by
Michael English
Preceded by
John Maitland
Member of Parliament
for Horncastle

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for East Lindsey

Member of Parliament
for Louth and Horncastle

Succeeded by
Victoria Atkins
Preceded by
Alan Williams
Father of the House
Succeeded by
Gerald Kaufman
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
Oldest sitting Member of Parliament
Succeeded by
Gerald Kaufman