The Rt. Hon The Lord Attwell PC
Born 16th April 1934
Constituency Mid Bedfordshire
Political Party Conservative Party
Religion Christian
Spouse Alexandra Phillips (m. 1962-1990)
Penelope Smythe (m. 1992-present)

Michael Attwell was a British Conservative politician who served as the MP for Mid Bedfordshire from 1974 to 1992. He served in the government of Milly Calvert as Secretary of State for Energy from 1985 to 1987 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 1987 to 1990.


After being elected as MP for Mid Bedfordshire in February 1974, Attwell was first given a frontbench role in April 1976 within the Shadow Transport team as Shadow Minister for Rail. He served until June 1977 when he was moved to the Shadow Industry team as Shadow Minister for Industrial Harmony.

Upon the Conservative election victory in May 1979, Attwell was moved out of Industry and instead became Minister of State for Policing and Security at the Home Office. Attwell was placed in charge of his portfolio barely a few weeks after a major riot, in which he dealt with the aftermath. He worked with senior police officers to curb civil disturbance and was an advocate within the government to protect the police from expenditure cuts. After Thatcher's resignation in January 1981 and the election of Robert George Grosvenor to succeed her, Attwell was removed from the government despite having supported Grosvenor for the leadership.

When Grosvenor was forced to resign due to ill health in July 1981, Attwell supported Robert Noble-Gordon for the leadership but he was not asked to return to ministerial office. Over time, Attwell became a prominent backbench critic of the Noble-Gordon government and was re-elected despite a de-selection attempt at the 1983 general election. From the backbenches, Attwell was a key organiser in the backbench coup that forced Noble-Gordon's resignation in 1985 and the ascension of Milly Calvert as Prime Minister.

Attwell was rewarded for his role in Calvert's ascension by being appointed as Secretary of State for Energy. He served for two years, during which time he oversaw the closures of coal mines and mass expansion of oil drilling in the North Sea. Following the 1987 general election, Attwell was appointed Secretary of State for Defence. As Defence Secretary, Attwell was notable for securing investment in new military technologies and playing a leading role in signing defence pacts and agreements with countries newly freed from the Soviet bloc.

In May 1990, the newspapers revealed that Attwell had been having an affair with Penelope Smythe, his secretary. The resulting scandal called into question whether he had breached security measures or made himself open to compromise. Attwell subsequently resigned as Defence Secretary at Calvert's request whilst his wife, Alexandra, ended their marriage and sold her story to the papers.

Attwell remained as MP for Mid Bedfordshire until standing down at the 1992 general election, which saw the Calvert government defeated by Labour.

Attwell was created Baron Attwell of Ampthill in the county of Bedfordshire in 1992.

Personal Life[]

He was married to Alexandra Phillips (b. 1935) from 1962 until their separation following his affair in 1990. The marriage produced two children, Henry (b. 1965) and Leslie (b. 1967).

Following his divorce, Attwell married his former secretary and mistress, Penelope Smythe (b. 1959) in 1992. The marriage produced one child, Olivia (b. 1994).

Olivia Attwell was later elected as MP for Sevenoaks at the 2019 general election.