Robert Gascoyne-Cecil

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Person.png Robert Gascoyne-Cecil   Alchetron PowerbaseRdf-icon.png
(politician, deep politician)
Born1946-09-30
Alma materChrist Church (Oxford)
Children • Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil
• Richard Cecil
Spouse • Hannah Stirling
• Marjorie Olein Wyndham-Quin
Member ofLe Cercle, The Other Club
PartyConservative

Employment.png Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire

In office
7 October 2005 - Present

Employment.png Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords

In office
2 May 1997 - 3 December 1998
Preceded byIvor Richard

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

In office
20 July 1994 - 2 May 1997
Succeeded byIvor Richard

Employment.png Lord Privy Seal Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
20 July 1994 - 2 May 1997
Succeeded byIvor Richard

Employment.png Under-Secretary of State for Defence

In office
22 April 1992 - 20 July 1994

Employment.png Member of Parliament for South Dorset

In office
3 May 1979 - 11 June 1987

Employment.png Member of the House of Lords

In office
17 November 1999 - 11 November 1999

Employment.png Member of the House of Lords

In office
1 January 1992 - 11 November 1999

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, (known in his father's lifetime as Viscount Cranborne) is a British deep politician. He is also a member of the House of Lords and the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. [1] He is well connected with Ulster unionism, a member of Friends of the Union, and part of a number of Eurosceptic and Neoconservative connected organisations such as Open Europe.

Background

Gascoyne-Cecil comes from one of England's most prominent aristocratic families, with a long history of involvement in Conservative politics. His father, the sixth Marquess was a Conservative MP and President of the Monday Club.[2]

Like the four preceding Marquesses, Gascoyne-Cecil was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford.[3]

In 1970, aged 23, he married Hannah Stirling, niece of Lt Col Sir David Stirling.

Member of Parliament

Gascoyne-Cecil was elected MP for Dorset South in 1979.[4]


John Major had also applied for the Conservative candidacy in the constituency, and recounts the following experience:

I reached the second round of interviews and was waiting with the others for my ordeal when I saw the selection committee rise respectfully as a well-built young man with dark hair entered the room. One of the other candidates scowled: 'That's Lord Cranborne - he owns the constituency.' That was not quite true, although he certainly owned a lot of land.[5]

On entering the Commons, Gascoyne-Cecil joined the "blue chip" group of backbench MPs.[6] According to John Major, this was the most prestigious of the dining clubs formed by the 1979 Conservative intake, and Gascoyne-Cecil was a leading member.[7]

Afghanistan

The Independent has written that Gascoyne-Cecil spent part of his time as an MP in Afghanistan: "He decided to offer his freelance services to the mujahedin, then resisting a Soviet puppet regime, when he found himself crouching in shallow trenches as Russian bombs rained down on him."[8]

House of Lords

Gascoyne-Cecil entered the Lords in 1992 as Baron Cecil.[9] He was awarded a life peerage in 1999 to allow him to sit in the reformed Lords. In November 2001, he announced he was taking a leave of absence from the Lords in protest at new rules on registration of interests.[10]

Major re-election campaign

After John Major resigned as Conservative leader in June 1995, Gascoyne-Cecil led his re-election campaign.[11] In his account of this period, Major wrote of Gascoyne-Cecil's "taste for intrigue":

I knew my campaign could not be in better hands. Robert's family, the Cecils, had been involved in the high intrigue of politics for more than four hundred years. It was in his blood.[12]

1997 election campaign

Gascoyne-Cecil was among those consulted by John Major during discussions about the date of the 1997 election.[13] During the campaign,he served as Major's chief of staff.[14] He unsuccessfully urged Major to sanction a party political broadcast featuring Tony Blair selling his soul to a spin-doctor.[15] Major records that prior to the election, Gascoyne-Cecil had attempted to persuade him not to resign as Conservative leader in the wake of his defeat.[16]

On Ireland

Gascoyne-Cecil voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the Commons in 1985.[17]

In November 1989, Gascoyne-Cecil attended a meeting of the Friends of the Union in Belfast at which David Trimble had accused the Conservatives of being the "enemy of the union."[18]

Dean Godson writes that following the emergence of dialogue with republicans in the early 1990s, John Major made few moves without the support of the whole Cabinet Northern Ireland Committee. Gascoyne-Cecil, a "well-known unionist sympathiser" was among the sceptics within this group.[19]

Gascoyne-Cecil gave his own assessment of the balance of forces during the period to Henry McDonald:

My feeling was that there was a strong Orange tinge which affected a substantial proportion of the Tory back-benchers in the House of Commons, and the presence of people like me was an inhibitor against more wholesome concessions . There was a hard core of strongly Orange/Unionist sympathisers, about sixty MPs at the core. But it took in everybody - there was widespread sympathy for the unionist cause.[20]

In January 1995, a draft of the Framework Documents being negotiated between the British and Irish governments fell into the hands of Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside, who discussed it with his party leader James Molyneaux. Godson reports the following conversation:

'I have seen them and it is terrible and disastrous.' 'What do I do?' asked Molyneaux, taken aback. 'Go and see Robert Cranborne,' said Burnside, referring to the most ardent Unionist in the Cabinet. 'I don't want to compromise his position in the Cabinet'. Burnside flared up: 'For Christ's sake, this is the Unionist cause we're talking about here.'[21]

Following the leaking of the document, John Major recounts that he met with a large number of Conservative MPs at his room in the Commons:

It was a tense occasion, but support from our position came from Robert Cranborne, the Leader of the Lords and a known supporter of the Unionist cause. This helped steady nerves.[22]

Gascoyne-Cecil was highly critical of the British Government response to the IRA 's Docklands bomb in February 1996. In a memo to John Major, he called for the appointment of a counter-terrorist supremo within the cabinet. He subsequently met with Major and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, who rejected the idea but promised improved intelligence co-ordination.[23]

On 19 May 1996, Conservative MP Andrew Hunter faxed Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble about the issue of IRA decommissioning:

'Robert Cranborne and I both feel there are two many grey areas, but see little point in demanding more than you are reported to find acceptable.'[24]

Godson suggests that Trimble intended to reach an accommodation, but was happy to allow his English unionist allies to maintain pressure on the Government.[25]

In late 1996, Gascoyne-Cecil along with Kenneth Clarke, Michael Howard and Peter Lilley, persuaded Major against moderating the terms for a second IRA ceasefire.[26]

According to Henry McDonald, Gascoyne-Cecil corresponded with former IRA member Sean O'Callaghan for several years before his release from prison in December 1996.[27]

At the start of the 1997 marching season, Gascoyne-Cecil and O'Callaghan travelled to Northern Ireland to meet with leading members of the Orange Order: Denis Watson, Rev.William Bingham and Robert Saulters.[28] According to Dean Godson, Gascoyne-Cecil and O'Callaghan were instrumental in persuading unionists that confrontations with nationalist residents over parades would play into the hands of Sinn Féin.[29] However, Gascoyne-Cecil, O'Callaghan and Andrew Hunter failed in an attempt to persuade Harold Gracey that the Drumcree parade should be voluntarily rerouted.[30]

On 28-29 November 1997, Gascoyne-Cecil hosted a 'unionist unity conference' at his ancestral seat, Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire.[31] Among those in attendance were the leaders of the UUP, the DUP and the UKUP, Andrew Mackay, Kate Hoey, Gary Kent, John Lloyd[32] and members of the loyal orders.[33] The ostensible organisers of the event were Ruth Dudley Edwards and Sean O'Callaghan. Another Trimble confidante, Eoghan Harris, did not attend because the event "had too much of the air of 1912-style resistance to Home Rule, with Unionists coalescing with what he saw as reactionary elements on the mainland."[34] According to Henry McDonald, Hoey's involvement was intended to refute suggestions that the event was a Conservative attempt to play the Orange card. He also suggests that the exclusion of the loyalist UDP and PUP was inconsistent given O'Callaghan's participation.[35]

Godson records that Sean O'Callaghan and Ruth Dudley Edwards suggested that Gascoyne-Cecil and Kate Hoey were ideal figures to campaign with Trimble for a Yes vote in the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.[36] However, Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell also claims credit, stating "we even persuaded Viscount Cranborne" to campaign for a Yes vote.[37] Henry McDonald offers an account which reconciles both versions. He reports that O'Callaghan got in touch with Powell through 'a third party':

O'Callaghan then worked on Lord Cranborne who was sceptical about the Agreement, especially the rather vague promises on decommissioning. However, he managed to persuade Cranborne and Labour MP Kate Hoey to travel to Northern Ireland and canvass with Trimble.[38]

Ruth Dudley Edwards records an anecdote from the campaign trail, which illustrate's Gascoyne-Cecil's frustration with the state of unionism:

As the huge divisions within Orangeism and unionism became ever more apparent, Cranborne observed: 'I used to believe in the truth of Dr Johnson's dictum that "when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Now I realize it just makes him sillier.'[39]

Gascoyne-Cecil was strongly critical of Trimble's performance on the issue of policing following the creation of the Patten Commission on the future of the RUC.[40] According to Godson, it was only after pressure from Gascoyne-Cecil and Ruth Dudley Edwards that he accepted an invitation from the Daily Telegraph to speak out on the issue.[41]

At a meeting in the Commons on 17 November 1999, Gascoyne-Cecil persuaded Trimble to sign a post-dated letter of resignation before entering government with Sinn Féin.[42]

His former Parliamentary Private Secretary was Cheryl Gillan.

Financial interests

The 2006 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Gascoyne-Cecil's personal wealth at £250 million:

Salisbury, 59, is the master of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, a treasure trove of paintings. The art is worth £125m, which we cut in half on tax grounds. Hatfield has a 3,000-acre park and woodland. There is also Cranborne Manor, the estate in Dorset. The family’s company, Gascoyne Holdings, owns property in London.[43]

The Estates Gazette reached a similar valuation in a 2009 article which highlighted several other interests:

His main farming company, Gascoyne Cecil Farms, reduced its losses from £215,000 to £9,661 on sales up from £1.7m to £2.4m in 2007-08, when it showed £4.8m net assets. Salisbury also has a smaller company, Perlpart Developments, showing just £284,000 net assets in 2007-08.[44]

Affiliations

Connections

External Resources

30 September 1946| 

Events Participated in

EventStartEndLocation(s)Description
Le Cercle/1982 (Wildbad Kreuth)11 June 198213 June 1982Wildbad Kreuth, West Germany
Le Cercle/1984 (Bonn)5 July 19847 July 1984Germany
Bonn


References

  1. Tom O'Sullivan The Young Elite 1-10, The Guardian, 12 March 2000.
  2. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  3. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  4. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  5. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.57.
  6. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  7. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.57.
  8. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  9. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  10. Nicholas Watt, Angry Cranborne quits 'enfeebled' Lords, Guardian, 3 November 2001.
  11. Anthony Seldon, The Saturday Profile Viscount Cranborne, Conservative Peer: The last true blue blood, Independent, 21 November 1998.
  12. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.623.
  13. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.706.
  14. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.718.
  15. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.695.
  16. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.723.
  17. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.368.
  18. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.110.
  19. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.113.
  20. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.164.
  21. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.122.
  22. John Major, John Major - The Autobiography, Harper Collins, 2000, p.467.
  23. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.202.
  24. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.219.
  25. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.219.
  26. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.249.
  27. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.182.
  28. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.110.
  29. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.280.
  30. Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Faithful Tribe, Harper Collins, 1999, p.501.
  31. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.189.
  32. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, pp.309-311.
  33. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.189.
  34. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, pp.309-311.
  35. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.189.
  36. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.368.
  37. Jonathan Powell, Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, Bodley Head, 2008, p.114.
  38. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.189.
  39. Henry McDonald, Trimble, Bloomsbury, 2000, p.189.
  40. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.474.
  41. Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, Harper Collins, 2005, p.486.
  42. Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Faithful Tribe, Harper Collins, 1999, p.520.
  43. The Marquess of Salisbury, timesonline.co.uk, accessed 11 April 2010.
  44. Salisbury keeps a low profile, estatesgazette.com, accessed 11 April 2010.
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