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Sir Edward Dillon Lott du Cann, (born 28 May 1924) was a British Conservative politician.

Du Cann was educated at Colet Court, Woodbridge School and St. John's College, Oxford, where he was a friend of Kingsley Amis. He became a company director. In 1951, du Cann contested Walthamstow West without success, and failed to win at Barrow-in-Furness in 1955.

He was elected as Member of Parliament for Taunton in a 1956 by-election. Du Cann was Economic Secretary to the Treasury from 1962 and Minister of State at the Board of Trade 1963-64. He was Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1967 and was Chairman of the 1922 Committee from 1972 until 1984.

Two years into his Chairmanship of the 1922 Committee, Du Cann played an influential part in the events surrounding the elevation of Margaret Thatcher to the leadership of the Conservative Party. Following two narrow defeats for the Conservatives at the polls in February and October 1974, significant disquiet in the party had developed over the leadership of Edward Heath, who had now lost three elections as leader. This was given direction on 14 October 1974, when the executive of the 1922 Committee met at Du Cann's home amidst a good deal of press attention. This was soon followed by a more public meeting of the executive at Du Cann's offices at Keyser Ullman on Milk Street where it was decided that the Committee would press Heath to hold a leadership election. The location of this meeting led to Fleet Street nicknaming the attendees, "The Milk Street Mafia."

As Alec Douglas Home, at Heath's request, considered the procedures for a leadership election, there was some speculation that Du Cann would himself stand as a representative of the party's right-wing against Heath. However, by the time Douglas Home reported back in December 1974, events had intervened. The devastating collapse of the banking boom had swept up Du Cann's firm, Keyser Ullman, in its path and Du Cann did not put himself forward as a candidate in the leadership contest. This released key support for Margaret Thatcher, especially as another potential right-wing candidate,Keith Joseph, had already withdrawn from any leadership calculations following a series of controversial speeches on social policy.

Consequently, after defeating Heath in the first round, Thatcher emerged triumphant in the second round in early 1975, defeating a number of other candidates who would play significant roles in her subsequent premiership.[1]

In the last week of the 1975 referendum on British membership of the European Economic Community, du Cann came out against British membership.[2]

Du Cann was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee between 1974-79. He retired from the House of Commons in 1987, and sold his home Cothay Manor in 1993 to return to live in London. He succeeded Lord Duncan-Sandys as Chairman of Lonrho. He was instrumental in creating a scholarship programme for rugby league players at the University of Oxford.[3]

Notes

  1. ^ Phillip Whitehead The Writing On The Wall - Britain In The Seventies, 1985, London: Michael Joseph, pp. 326-7.
  2. ^ David Butler and Uwe Kitzinger The 1975 Referendum, London: Macmillan, 1976, pp. 173-4.
  3. ^ http://www.ourlfc.org/scholarship

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Hopkinson
Member of Parliament for Taunton
1956–1987
Succeeded by
David Nicholson
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Blakenham
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1965–1967
Succeeded by
Anthony Barber
Preceded by
Sir Harry Legge-Bourke
Chairman of the 1922 Committee
1972–1984
Succeeded by
Cranley Onslow
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