Colourful Tory figure with Irish connections

 

Lord Hailsham, the former British Lord Chancellor, who died on October 12th aged 94, had a long distinguished career in law, government and conservative politics. He made a notable intellectual contribution as a lawyer and legal philosopher and was a colourful and slightly eccentric figure.

He was wont to claim that he had not a drop of English blood. His mother was the daughter of a Tennessee judge, while his father's family, the Hoggs, had gone from Ulster to Calcutta before settling in London at the end of the 19th century. His grandfather was a noted philanthropist who founded the London Polytechnic. His father, a barrister, became Lord Chancellor in the 1920s and was created Viscount Hailsham.

Quintin Hogg, as he was known for most of his life, was born on October 7th, 1907, and educated at Eton and Christchurch Oxford, where he took a first in Classics and Classical philosophy and won the most coveted prize of all, a fellowship at All Souls College. He became president of the Union, defeating Max McKenna, a former auditor of the Literary and Historical Society in UCD and subsequently a High Court judge in London. Quintin Hogg counted himself sufficiently Irish to be a member of the university Hibernian Society.

In 1938, after six years at the Bar, where he was the pupil of James Dillon's uncle Theo Mathew, he emerged into public life when he won a by-election in Oxford as the Chamberlainite pro-Munich candidate. But by May 1940 he was so disillusioned that he joined the small group of Tories who voted against the government in the crucial division in the House of Commons that brought about Chamberlain's resignation and the succession of Winston Churchill.

Quintin Hogg's military career was cut short when he was wounded in the North African campaign. Later he became one of a group of progressive young Tories who advocated support for the Welfare State.

Quintin Hogg (who succeeded his father as Lord Hailsham in 1950), first emerged as a national figure in the late 1950s when after the Suez debacle and the resignation of Anthony Eden he became chairman of the Conservative Party and the major architect of its resounding victory under Harold Macmillan in the 1959 General Election. Rather a showman, he made impassioned speeches and rang a bell that he said tolled doom for Labour. At his party's annual conference at Brighton he got himself photographed swimming in stormy waters so illustrating his own vigour and by extension that of his party.

When illness forced Harold Macmillan's resignation in 1963, he favoured Lord Hailsham. to succeed. Alone among the contenders Lord Hailsham had the stature of Churchill, whom in many ways he rather resembled in personality. But the Tory elders took fright after his excitable speech renouncing his peerage so that he could stand. They squirmed at his exhibitionism, aged 56, parading his new-born daughter to the conference. Eventually a safer if much less charismatic and able leader emerged in the form of the 14th Earl of Home (later Sir Alec Douglas-Home). Lord Hailsham was deeply wounded by the episode and unfairly attributed his defeat to Macmillan's treachery and the resentment of the less able for a man of genius. He felt, with some justice, that his party's narrow defeat in the 1964 General Election would have been averted under his leadership.

In opposition between 1964 and 1970, Quintin Hogg was progressive as shadow home secretary. He resisted the reactionary policies on race relations and immigration associated with Enoch Powell. He threw his weight behind the reforms introduced by Labour Home Secretary James Callaghan in response to the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. Moved by the kind reception he received in the Bogside he expressed remorse at the Tory Party conference in 1969 that it had condoned the policies of unionist governments.

Proud to belong to an Irish family he was much less detached from Ireland than the general run of English politicians. He remained devoted to the concept of a broader British identity and hoped the unity of these islands in some form would one day be reconciled with Irish nationalist aspirations.

His appointment as Lord Chancellor (when he was recreated a peer as Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone), meant he had not the main responsibility for Northern Ireland when the Conservatives returned to government in 1970. He did persuade the government to discontinue the use of methods of interrogation that had been employed against internees despite their endorsement by a committee of inquiry. In Cabinet he was severely critical of secret negotiations that took place between William Whitelaw and the IRA.

He was Lord Chancellor under Edward Heath from 1970 to 1974 and then under Mrs Thatcher from 1979 to 1987, when he was almost 80. While his intellectual powers were virtually undiminished to the end of his term his instinctive conservatism and reverence for legal institutions fashioned his judgment more and more as the years passed. As the minister responsible for the legal system in Northern Ireland he would not entertain suggestions from the Irish Government for cross-Border courts to try political offenders or to have three judges on the Diplock courts. He was contemptuous of the prevarications of successive Irish governments on extradition.

Although his background was low church, Lord Hailsham was a deeply committed High Anglican whose lifelong spiritual advisers were the Jesuits in Farm Street in London. His book, The Door Wherein I Went, is a fine apologia for Christianity and contains a moving condemnation of suicide, drawing on his own experience as a young man when a gun that had once been his most prized possession was taken by his elder half-brother Edward Marjoribanks to shoot himself.

Lord Hailsham was married three times. His first marriage to Natalie Sullivan ended when he returned from the war to find her involved with a Free French officer, whom she later married. He then married Mary Martin, daughter of Richard Martin, formerly of Ross House in Galway (Violet Martin, the Ross of Somerville and Ross was an aunt). Lady Hailsham died as a result of a fall from a horse in Australia in 1978. Of the marriage there were two sons, the elder of whom Douglas Hogg Q.C., was Minister of Agriculture in John Major's government, and three daughters, the eldest of whom Mary is a judge in the Family Division of the High Court.

He was married for a third time in 1986 to his former legal secretary Deirdre Shannon, who was a former pupil of Alexandra College. She died in 1998.

He is survived by his two sons and three daughters.

Quintin McGarel Hogg, Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone: born 1907; died, October 2001