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The Right Honourable
 The Lord Baker of Dorking 
CH PC

In office
28 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Waddington
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke

In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Tony Newton
Succeeded by Chris Patten

In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Preceded by Peter Brooke
Succeeded by Chris Patten

In office
21 May 1986 – 24 July 1989
Preceded by Keith Joseph
Succeeded by John MacGregor

In office
2 September 1985 – 21 May 1986
Preceded by Patrick Jenkin
Succeeded by Nicholas Ridley

Born 3 November 1934 (1934-11-03) (age 75)
Hampton, London, UK
Political party Conservative

Kenneth Wilfred Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking,[1] CH, PC, born 3 November 1934 (1934-11-03) (age 75), is a British politician, a former Conservative MP[2] and a Life Member of the Tory Reform Group.

Contents

Early life

Born in Newport, South Wales, son of a civil servant, he was educated at the former Hampton Grammar School, a boys' voluntary aided school, now Hampton School, an independent school, between 1946 and 1948, and thereafter at St Paul's School, a boys' independent school in Barnes, London and at Magdalen College, Oxford where he graduated with a BA Degree in Law (1958) and four years later his MS degree in International Law and Regulations (1962). He did National Service as an army lieutenant and worked for Royal Dutch Shell before being elected as a Member of Parliament at a by-election in March 1968.

In the government

Kenneth Baker was first elected to Parliament when he won Acton in Ealing, London, at a March 1968 by-election, gaining it from Labour following the death of Bernard Floud. However, in the 1970 general election, he was defeated by Labour's Nigel Spearing (the seat was later regained by Sir George Young who held it until 1997 and who is now MP for North-West Hampshire). Following the surprise Conservative victory in 1970, a suitable Lord Chancellor had to be found- this was Quintin McGarel Hogg who was given the necessary peerage, removing him from the Commons and making him a member of the Lords. At the ensuing by-election, held on 22 October 1970, Baker was elected for the safe Conservative seat of St Marylebone in central London. In 1983, this seat was abolished and Baker was defeated by Peter Brooke for the new seat of Cities of London & Westminster; however, he relocated to Mole Valley, a rural seat in Surrey, and safely Tory, which he held until his retirement in 1997. He was succeeded by Sir Paul Beresford.

After being Minister for Information Technology from 1981, he entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment in 1985, before serving as Secretary of State for Education from 1986 to 1989. Baker's most noted action in his time at the Department of Education was the introduction of the controversial "National Curriculum" through the 1988 Education Act. He also introduced in-service training days for teachers, which became popularly known as "Baker days". At this time Baker was often tipped as a future Conservative leader, including in the 1987 edition of Julian Critchley's biography of Michael Heseltine. Critchley quoted one journalist's witticism "I have seen the future and it smirks" (a reference to the famous line "I have seen the future and it works" written by Lincoln Steffens, a gullible western visitor to Stalin's USSR in the 1930s).

In the July 1989 reshuffle Baker was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, with the intention that he should organise a fourth consecutive General Election victory for Margaret Thatcher. Baker managed to steer the government through the otherwise disastrous local elections of May 1990 by stressing the good results for Conservative "flagship" councils in Westminster and Wandsworth, ie. supposedly demonstrating that the Poll Tax - a source of great unpopularity for the government - could be a vote-winner for Conservative councils who kept it low. He was still Party Chairman at the time Margaret Thatcher resigned (November 1990).

After the change of regime Baker was promoted to Secretary of State for the Home Department. His time as Secretary of State for the Home Department was marred by prison riots and bad publicity over the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act. During this time Baker, who dressed his hair with brylcreem, had come to be portrayed by the satirical programme Spitting Image as an oily snail.[3]

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Retirement

After the 1992 General Election he left the government rather than accept demotion to the job of Welsh Secretary. He chose not to stand for re-election to the House of Commons in 1997 and on June 16, 1997 was made a life peer as Baron Baker of Dorking, of Iford in the County of East Sussex.

Personal life

In 2005 he published a book on King George IV, George IV: A Life in Caricature, followed by King George III: A Life in Caricature in 2007;(Thames & Hudson). Other publications include several compilations of poetry, a history of political cartoons and his autobiography.

In 2006, Lord Baker announced that he was introducing a bill into the House of Lords to address the West Lothian question. This would prevent Scottish and Welsh MPs from voting on legislation which affects England alone as a result of devolution to the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

In the media

Baker was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.

Bibliography

  • George IV: A Life in Caricature (2005 Thames & Hudson ISBN 0500251274)
  • George III: A Life in Caricature (2007 Thames & Hudson ISBN 0500251401)

References

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bernard Floud
Member of Parliament for Acton
19681970
Succeeded by
Nigel Spearing
Preceded by
Quintin Hogg
Member of Parliament for St. Marylebone
19701983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mole Valley
19831997
Succeeded by
Sir Paul Beresford
Political offices
Preceded by
Patrick Jenkin
Secretary of State for the Environment
1985–1986
Succeeded by
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded by
Sir Keith Joseph
Secretary of State for Education and Science
1986–1989
Succeeded by
John MacGregor
Preceded by
Tony Newton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Preceded by
David Waddington
Home Secretary
1990–1992
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
Party political offices
Preceded by
Peter Brooke
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1989–1990
Succeeded by
Chris Patten

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