Francis Pym

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Person.png Francis Pym  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Francis Pym (cropped).jpg
BornFrancis Leslie Pym
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Died2008-03-07 (Age 86)
Sandy, Bedfordshire
Alma materEton, Magdalene College (Cambridge)
Member ofNobody's Friends, The Other Club

Employment.png Lord President of the Council

In office
14 September 1981 - 5 April 1982
Preceded byChristopher Soames

Employment.png Leader of the House of Commons Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
5 January 1981 - 5 April 1982
Preceded byNorman St John-Stevas

Employment.png Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
5 January 1981 - 14 September 1981
Preceded byNorman St John-Stevas

Employment.png UK/Paymaster General Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
5 January 1981 - 14 September 1981
Succeeded byCecil Parkinson

Employment.png Secretary of State for Defence

In office
4 May 1979 - 5 January 1981
Preceded byFred Mulley
Succeeded byJohn Nott

Employment.png Shadow Foreign Secretary Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
6 November 1978 - 4 May 1979
Succeeded byDavid Owen

Employment.png Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
19 November 1976 - 6 November 1978
Succeeded byNorman St John-Stevas

Employment.png Shadow Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food

In office
18 February 1975 - 19 November 1976

Employment.png Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
4 March 1974 - 29 October 1974
Preceded byMerlyn Rees
Succeeded byIan Gilmour

Employment.png Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
2 December 1973 - 4 March 1974
Preceded byWilliam Whitelaw
Succeeded byMerlyn Rees

Employment.png Chief Whip of the Conservative Party

In office
19 June 1970 - 2 December 1973

Employment.png Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
19 June 1970 - 2 December 1973
Succeeded byHumphrey Atkins

Employment.png Member of Parliament for South East Cambridgeshire

In office
16 March 1961 - 11 June 1987
Succeeded byJames Paice

Francis Leslie Pym, Baron Pym was a British Conservative politician who served in various Cabinet positions in the 1970s and 1980s, including Foreign, Defence and Northern Ireland Secretary, and Leader of the House of Commons.

Having previously been considered Thatcher's chief challenger, Pym was sacked as foreign secretary in 1983, the final role in which he and a long line of similar semi-patrician top Tories had failed to curb her more extreme policies.[1]

John Hughes-Wilson stated in 2013 that Francis Pym supported the "Arms to Iraq" project.[2]

Early life

Pym was born at Penpergwm Lodge, near Abergavenny in Monmouthshire.[3] His father, Leslie Pym, was also an MP, while his grandfather, the Rt Revd Walter Pym, was Bishop of Bombay.

He was educated at Eton, before going on to Magdalene College, Cambridge. For much of the Second World War, Pym served in North Africa and Italy as a captain and regimental adjutant in the 9th Lancers. He was mentioned in despatches twice, awarded the Military Cross,[4] and ended his military service as a major. Pym was a managing director and landowner before he went into politics.


Pym entered politics as a member of Herefordshire County Council in 1958. He contested Rhondda West without success in 1959 and entered Parliament in 1961 at a by-election as MP for Cambridgeshire. He held the seat until 1983, and thereafter was MP for South East Cambridgeshire until 1987. He was an opposition whip from 1964 and served under Edward Heath as Government Chief Whip (1970–1973) and Northern Ireland Secretary (1973–1974), and Margaret Thatcher as Defence Secretary (1979–1981), Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council (1981–1982).

He became foreign secretary during the Falklands War in 1982 following Lord Carrington's resignation, but was removed by Thatcher the following year after her second election victory.

Pym was a leading member of the "wets", Conservative MPs sceptical of Thatcherism. During the 1983 general election campaign he said on the BBC's Question Time that "Landslides don't on the whole produce successful governments".[5] This was publicly repudiated by Thatcher and he was sacked after the election. Shortly afterwards, he launched a pressure group called Conservative Centre Forward to argue for more centrist, one-nation policies. But with Thatcher at the height of her powers, it was unsuccessful. He stood down at the 1987 election and was created a life peer as Baron Pym (of Sandy in the County of Bedfordshire) on 9 October 1987.

He was the author of The Politics of Consent, published in 1984 after he left the government. The book is a guide to the Wets' opposition to Thatcher's leadership style and politics.

Personal life

Pym died in Sandy, Bedfordshire, on 7 March 2008 after a prolonged illness, aged 86.[6] He was survived by his wife, Valerie (1929–2017),[7] whom he married in 1949, and their four children.[8]

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