The Rt Hon. Robert Noble-Gordon (b. 23rd October 1920) is a British Conservative politician who currently represents the constituency of Galloway. He is currently Prime Minister & First Lord of the Treasury, combined with the Leadership of the House of Commons, and leads the Conservative and Unionist Party.
Early Life Edit
Robert Noble-Gordon was born in Kirkcudbright, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, to Colonel Sir Ivor Noble-Gordon of the Coldstream Guards and Marian Lindsay, a cousin of the Earl of Crawford. Sir Ivor was a traditional member of the landed gentry, owning six thousand acres of land in Galloway, inherited from generations of Noble-Gordons. However, as the second of four sons Robert was unlikely to inherit any landed wealth and thus had to make his own fortunes. In 1932 Robert was enrolled in the private fee-paying section of Kirkcudbright Academy, which was not unusual for the sons and daughters of local farmers, landowners and merchants at the time.
Leaving school at the age of seventeen, and deciding against applying for a university place, Robert enrolled in the Army upon the enactment of conscription in summer 1939. He was sent through officer training and commissioned in the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) in Spring 1941 as Second Lieutenant. Over the course of the war Robert served with his regiment in Syria and North Africa (1941 - 43), Italy (1943), Northern Europe (1944 - 45) and Burma (1945), eventually reaching the rank of Major with a position on the divisional staff in 1944. Of notable aquaintances made during the war was Patrick Kerslake, later a Conservative MP and a fellow Minister and member of the Cabinet during the Heath and Thatcher years, in North Africa at the famous battle of El Alamein, where they participated together in the great offensive against the Afrika Korps. Robert was demobilised upon the end of the war in the Far East and arrived back home in time for Christmas, 1945.
After demobilisation, Robert, through the good offices of his father who had many local friends of influence, took a trainee post with the Bank of Scotland, after which he sat a banking exam. Upon passing the exam, he was posted to the regional division headquarters of the Bank in Dumfries, where he worked in the agricultural department. In 1950 he was promoted and became the manager of the Kirkcudbright branch of the Bank of Scotland, where he had responsibility for overseeing the Bank's business transactions in Kirkcudbrightshire. Upon his election as MP for Galloway in 1958 he resigned from the Bank, although he would return to work for it in later years.
Political Career Edit
As a landed family the Noble-Gordons had been traditionally Conservative, ever since the days of Wellington and Peel. Sir Ivor sat on Kirkcudbrightshire County Council where he was a proponent of broadly Conservative local policies. One of Sir Ivor's friends was James Stuart, who was successively Chief Whip and Scottish Secretary in the governments of Churchill and Anthony Eden. It was Mr Stuart who encouraged Robert to join the Conservative Party after the end of the war, and to put his name forward for a seat. He was selected to fight the Labour seat of South Ayrshire in 1955 where, despite putting in a good campaign, he was unable to overturn the large Labour majority.
His chance to win a seat came in the winter of 1958/59, upon the death of the Unionist MP for Galloway, John Mackie. Galloway had been a safe seat for the Conservatives, or Unionists as they were known in Scotland, since the 1920s, and Robert was encouraged to put his name forward by local notables. In the event, he was selected for the seat and won the by-election comfortably.
His maiden speech took place during a debate upon decolonisation, where he argued the need for caution and care in cutting Imperial ties to African colonies. "I do not believe that it would be judicious or in any way beneficial," he stated, "for the United Kingdom to precipitously grant independence to our African colonies in the near future, at a time when the political elites of these territories are by no means advanced or sufficiently capable to govern these nations-to-be in a civilised and stable manner. To decolonise now is only to invite greater insecurity and conflict into the African continent, to the detriment of British interests and to the safety of our own kith and kin living in the colonies."
Mr Noble-Gordon took an interest in agricultural, defence and imperial matters during this early period in the House of Commons. He denounced Harold Macmillan's 'Winds of Change' speech by stating that "the pressure for getting out of Africa now will only result in a wind of terror and tyranny blowing through the continent. It is incumbant upon this nation to ensure that the colonies are granted their independence at such a time as they are ready, politically and economically for it - such a time has not been yet reached and for most shall not be reached for over a decade." Generally, however, Robert was supportive of the policies of the Macmillan administration, and in 1963, as a reward for supporting Sir Alec Douglas-Home's campaign for the leadership he was made a Government whip.
After the General Election of 1964 Robert retired to the backbenches, where he supported Reggie Maudling's candidacy for the leadership. He maintained his distance from the Heath leadership, warning in a speech to his constituency association that "to associate our party with the rhetoric of dangerous overmodernisation will only destroy all that we hold dear in this country, our time-held traditions and ancient values. We are attempting to turn the Conservative Party into something that it is not - a party of change for change's own sake." He opposed the Abortion Act 1967 and the Sexual Offences Act 1967, as well as voting against the abolition of Capital Punishment in 1969. Believing in a cautious approach to the issue of Southern Rhodesia, he urged moderation in imposing sanctions upon the renegrade colony.
After the 1970 election, Robert was invited by Edward Heath to join the Government as Minister of State for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, despite his misgivings about Heath's leadership. While he proved to be a reasonable success in his position, he resigned in 1972 after disagreeing with the proposed terms of entering the European Economic Community. In his resignation speech Robert condemned the terms of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies, arguing that they would put British agriculture at a great disadvantage compared to other EEC countries, an issue pertinent to his largely rural constituency. Speaking in the House, he stated that "we cannot enter the EEC, as the Conservative manifesto of 1970 stated, at any price whatsoever. Unfortunately it appears that the Government has abandoned its previous position on this matter, and has raced helter-skelter to sign the Treaty [of Rome], regardless of the cost. The agricultural community of Britain will pay a great price for the Government's insistance upon going into Europe whatever the terms. The sacrifice to the idol of European integration cannot be our farmers and fishermen." He remained on the backbenches for the remainder of the Parliamentary term.
In the general election of October 1974, Mr Noble-Gordon lost Galloway to the SNP after the Nationalists rode a wave of support to overturn a number of Conservative majorities and become the second placed party in Scotland in votes, if not seats, to Labour. This meant he was unable to vote in the 1975 leadership contest, although he supported Margaret Thatcher in both rounds. He was reselected as Conservative candidate for Galloway in March 1976, and retook the seat in the general election of 1979. As the Shadow Scottish Secretary, Sir Teddy Taylor, had been surprisingly defeated in his Glasgow Cathcart seat, Mrs Thatcher invited Robert to take his place and become Secretary of State for Scotland in her administration.
Robert's political career took a dramatic upswing in the events surrounding Mrs Thatcher's sudden illness and resignation. As it became clear that Mrs Thatcher would be unable to remain in office, the most likely successor emerged as Robert George Grosvenor, the Northern Irish Secretary, a colleague and friend of many years standing. Mr Noble-Gordon offered Mr Grosvenor his support in the 1981 Conservative Leadership Contest, who then proceeded to win comfortably over the Education Secretary, Vincent Garton. In the subsequent reshuffle Robert was promoted to become Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, and Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council.
It was not long that Mr Noble-Gordon had to enjoy his new position in the Party and Government, as Mr Grosvenor was forced to resign in June 1981 in the midst of a severe illness. He had led the party and country for only half a year. Mr Noble-Gordon stood in the leadership election to succeed him and won by 230 votes to 108. He met with Her Majesty the Queen later that day, when she asked him to become Prime Minister and lead a new Government.
Private Life Edit
In 1948 Robert married Jane Scott, daughter of a local solicitor and a childhood friend. He has four children - Douglas (age 29), Robert (26), Marian (21) and Fiona (18). He has one grandchild, Ian (1), son of Douglas and his wife Anne. Robert and his wife live in Park House, just outside Kirkcudbright, where they own one thousand acres, bought after the Conservatives lost the 1964 election from income from investments and a legacy left by his father. When Robert lost his seat in October 1974, he was offered and took up a post as a director on the board of the Bank of Scotland, which he then resigned upon taking ministerial office in 1979. He is a member of the Kirkcudbright Golf Club and the Kirkcudbright Burns Club, where he was Chairman of both, respectively, from 1965 - 67 and 1976 - 78. As a Conservative MP he is an automatic member of the Carlton Club, he has also been enrolled in the Caledonian Club and the prestigious Whites Gentleman's Club. As an MP for a rural constituency, and a former junior Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, he has an interest in farming, as well as other typically country pursuits such as walking, shooting and fishing. Other interests include landscape art, local and national history - especially of the eighteenth centuries onwards - classical music, in especial Mozart, and Church and local affairs.
Voting History Edit
- Voted against Criminal Justice Act 1961 (abolition of birching)
- Voted against Rail Transport Act 1962 (allowed for implementation of Beeching Cuts)
- Abstained on Peerage Act 1963
- Voted against Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965
- Voted against Abortion Act 1967
- Voted against Sexual Offences Act 1967
- Voted against Theatres Act 1968
- Voted against Decimal Currency Act 1969
- Voted against Divorce (Reform) Act 1969
- Voted against Representation of the People Act 1969
- Voted for Equal Pay Act 1970
- Voted against European Communities Act 1972
- Voted against Local Government and Local Govt. (Scotland) Acts, 1972 and 1973 respectively