Stephen Milligan

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Stephen Milligan
Born (1948-05-12)12 May 1948
Godalming, Surrey
Died 7 February 1994(1994-02-07) (aged 45)
Chiswick, London
Cause of death Autoerotic asphyxiation
Nationality British
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Occupation Journalist
Political party Conservative Party
Partner(s) Julie Kirkbride (1992–94)

Stephen David Wyatt Milligan (12 May 1948 – 7 February 1994) was a British Conservative politician and journalist. He held a number of senior journalistic posts until his election to serve as Member of Parliament for Eastleigh in 1992. He was found dead in his flat in Hammersmith, London, in February 1994, apparently self-strangled by the use of an electrical cord during an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.[1]

Early life[edit]

Milligan was born in Godalming, Surrey, on 12 May 1948, the son of David Milligan, a company secretary at House of Fraser, and Ruth Seymour, a ballet teacher.[2] Educated at Bradfield College, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics. At Oxford, he became president of both the Oxford Union and the Oxford University Conservative Association.[3] He was a contemporary of journalist Libby Purves, whom he once partnered to a College Ball.



Milligan joined The Economist in 1970, and was industrial editor and chief EEC correspondent from 1972 to 1980. In 1976, he published a book, The New Barons, on British trade unions in the 1970s. Still working for The Economist, he took a position as presenter of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 from 1980 until 1983. He later became foreign editor and Washington correspondent at The Sunday Times from 1984 until 1987, before rejoining the BBC in 1988 as a European correspondent.[3] Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil described Milligan: "He possessed an enquiring, original intelligence, a wide knowledge of foreign and domestic affairs and he was great fun to work with, his infectious laugh filling our editorial meetings, where he played a major role in defining the paper's policy positions".[4]


Milligan left the Conservative Party upon the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981. However, he rejoined the Conservatives and in 1990 was selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Eastleigh. He became secretary of the Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Council in 1991 and was a member of the moderate Bow Group. At the 1992 general election, Milligan was elected as Member of Parliament for Eastleigh with a majority of 17,702. Seen as a 'rising star' in the party and noted for his Commons interventions on foreign policy, he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Jonathan Aitken, Minister of State for Defence. His last contribution in Parliament was in a debate on the Energy Conservation Bill on 4 February 1994.


A granite headstone, discoloured by moss, in a grassy churchyard
Milligan's grave in the churchyard of St. Peter in Woodmancote, West Sussex, in 2014

Milligan was found dead in his flat in Black Lion Lane, Hammersmith, London, by his secretary Vera Taggart on 7 February 1994.[5] His corpse – naked except for a pair of stockings and suspenders, with an electrical flex tied around his neck and a black bin liner over his head – was discovered in what was presumed to be a state of autoerotic asphyxiation, combined with self-bondage.[1] A detail of his death, which was the subject of much comment and speculation at the time, was that he was found to have had an orange segment in his mouth at the time of his death. The coroner concluded that he had died in the early hours of 7 February.[6]


Milligan's death significantly contributed to ending John Major's "Back to Basics" policy initiative. Commentators reflected that the circumstances of the MP's demise were a personal tragedy that unjustly overshadowed his achievements in life and his promising political career. John Major branded the events and circumstances leading to Milligan's death as being "rather sad". His death was one of a number of cases of political "sleaze" which were satirised on television programmes such as Have I Got News For You, whose producers sent black bin bags, oranges and black stockings to TV journalists.[7]

His death triggered a by-election at a time which was highly volatile for the Conservative Party and saw the election of Liberal Democrat David Chidgey.


  1. ^ a b "On this Day – 1994: Police probe MP's suspicious death". BBC News. 8 February 1994. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Jebb, Louis (9 February 1994). "Obituary: Stephen Milligan". The Independent (London). Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Bates, Stephen (8 February 1994). "Stephen Milligan". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Neil, Andrew (1996). Full Disclosure. Macmillan. p. 64. ISBN 0-333-64682-7. 
  5. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
  6. ^ The Independent, 23 March 1994
  7. ^ New Statesman & Society, v. 7, 1994, [1], Statesman & Nation Pub. Co. Ltd

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Price
Member of Parliament for Eastleigh
Succeeded by
David Chidgey