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Lord Biffin was an enormous asset to political life in Britain in general and the Conservative Party in particular.
He was not a party hack, he spoke his mind and made a significant contribution to political debate.

Not only a principled opponent of Maastricht, John Biffen also had the courage to oppose Britain's accession to the EEC in the first place. More recently, he wrote:
"I am sorry we shall not have a referendum on the European constitution. I would have voted no with great enthusiasm."

A sad loss.

I also welcome his long-time commitment to gay rights.


Comstock @ 11.36.

What an odious comment.

And that surely rules you out of commenting on this site for some time !!


The comment from cornstock @ 11.36 must surely be deleted.


No wonder you log under anon with such low regard for those in the political system.


Just described by Lord Heseltine on Today as one of the original Powellites
I think he mean't on economic policy, on social policy John Biffen and Enoch Powell had hugely differing opinions.

Why was my comment overwritten?

Looks like you got your wish, Michael......

It's COMstock by the way :)

Let me try again - Thatcher hated Biffen when he was alive. She teated him badly and without respect. She had little time for anyone who did not share her opinions. She had little regard for other human beings.

He did come out with some fairly nutty things from the mid 1980's on - I recall him actually questioning whether the UK should retain a nuclear deterrent, he opposed Capital Punishment and seemed to be arguing for a move towards consensus politics and accusing the Thatcher administration of being Stalinist, so what else could Margaret Thatcher do except fire him - he was as Bernard Ingham said a semi-detached member of the cabinet.

"Please refer me to the section"

It's between the rule that you can't criticise Iain Duncan-Smith and above the one that anything positive about the Party Leader, David Cameron must be balanced by at least three critiques from UKIP supporters.

As I get older it gives me a sense of history to see ministers that were running the country when I was young sadly pasing away. I think its a shame that people are arguing over John Biffen and Margaret Thatcher. Today ought to be the time to be giving respect to a man who served our country in government.

"he opposed Capital Punishment "

Not sure that that counts as a "nutty" view...

Today ought to be the time to be giving respect to a man who served our country in government.
I don't think that when people die that they should be given unconditional praise - in the case of John Biffen he did a lot of good things, he was certainly honest and mean't well, made some useful points, but he had some shortcomings too.

I've deleted some stupid comments by someone (Comstock) impersonating me, and some referring to those comments.

"Let me try again - Thatcher hated Biffen when he was alive. She teated him badly and without respect. She had little time for anyone who did not share her opinions. She had little regard for other human beings."

Oh yes, that evil Mrs Thatcher! I heard a rumour she was born without a heart :O

John Biffen was a very principled man, and, more importantly, a lot of his principles were right. It's a great shame that he has passed away.

I've deleted some stupid comments by someone (Comstock) impersonating me, and some referring to those comments.
Given that he has just impersonated editing staff on this site then surely he should be banned forever.

Thatcher hated Biffen when he was alive
She was very critical of him, but I don't get the impression that she hated him.

Baroness Thatcher's tribute: "John was an outstanding Parliamentarian, a widely respected Leader of the House of Commons and a great British patriot."

Sam is in New Zealand YNA but I'll ask him what Comstock might have done when he awakens and take appropriate action then.

Actually, John Biffen was almost a pure Powellite. Enoch himself had argued for the legalisation of homsexuality; opposed the M.A.D. policy on the basis that the USSR was no real threat and voted several times for the abolition of the death penalty.

Indeed. Enoch Powell was pretty socially liberal.

Very sorry to hear of John Biffens death.He was a good bloke in every way.I was sorry when Mrs Thatcher and he fell out but as someone else stated, he was a British patroit. That's good enough for me.

John Biffen was one of my out-and-out political heroes. It is one of the few black marks against Mrs T that she fell out with him. A Leader of the House SHOULD be semi-detached from the Government - it is to the shame of the Brown Labour Party that they think the job can be combined with Party Chairman.

When I was a young student I wrote to John Biffen, in about 1975, asking him some obtuse point about monetarist theory (he was Shadow Trade & Industry at the time and a leading monetarist (and anti-marketeer) in the Party after the departure of Enoch to Ulster). He replied with an eight page hand-written letter, of lucid, erudite and eloquent prose explaining everything from first principles. To my shame I have lost the letter, but I have never forgotten it. There are few leading politicians who would have taken so much trouble and who were so grounded in principled analysis (Keith Joseph might have been the only other).

He also made some wonderful speeches in the early 70s from the back benches - someone should trawl Hansard and re-publish them. Maybe I will!

Where are the John Biffens of today, one wails? Sadly without any reporting of parlimentary debates in the papers (to their shame) we wouldn't even know if there was such a person today because it would be entirely unreported.

John was a great friend over 50 years. I've left a few memories about him on my blog.

I was interested to read Londoner's comments.

As a student in the late 70's I remember John Biffen coming to speak to a public meeting in the Student Union. The usual crowds of baying Trots and other lefties were there shouting and throwing flour bags etc. But he persisited in given his speech and answering questions from the floor.

At lunch afterwards I found him to be a charming, erudite and witty man, who treated us students as equals.

It is because of him (and also Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson who also braved the screaming hordes to bring the Conservative message to a younger generation) that I became and still am a Tory.

Are our present Shadow Cabinet speaking at public meetings on Student campuses now in a similar effort to win over the hearts and minds of young people? I hope so.

"Enoch Powell was pretty socially liberal."

Ooh I think you might find that one pretty tricky to defend, Sean

Enoch Powell was pretty socially liberal.

Well he had a very soft spot for homosexuals.

I remember chairing a meeting addressed by Enoch, and I said I was very sorry to hear that a mutual acquaintance (Stephen Eyres - some may remember him) had recently died of AIDS.

Enoch looked very upset and his eyes filled with tears. He said 'It's terrible. So sad. All these young men.'

He was also opposed to capital punishment for murder, although curiously not for treason.

""Enoch Powell was pretty socially liberal."

Ooh I think you might find that one pretty tricky to defend, Sean"

He was the health minister who put the pill on the NHS and he was supportive of easier divorce on the grounds that he saw "no reason why two people should continue to live together in misery".

Fairly social liberal for his time then.

Well done to Iain Dale for setting up the Facebook group as a place to leave tributes and I hope that the posts left there will be of a rather more adult nature than one or two of the more puerile comments on this thread as they will be passed on to Sarah Biffen as a form of "Book of Condolence".John Biffen was a highly principled politician who will be sadly missed! I didn't always agree with what he had to say but I do recall him and his wife Sarah from my time working in Speakers Department in the late 1980s. They were both unfailingly kind and courteous people.

Biffin's death reminds us that there was a time when the party was privileged to be led by men of intellect, substance and honour as opposed to a gimmick-obsessed bunch of overgrown schoolboys whose notion of culture is encapsulated in the moronic selection of pop ditties chosen by Cameron on Desert Island Discs.

Sad indeed.

I was John Biffen's last private secretary in the Commons. No man a hero to his valet is particularly true of our working relationship. My blog has a tribute!

I was lucky enough to spend one day with John Biffen. I had been an election monitor in Ukraine at the birth of the Orange Revolution and was returning to my home in America.
As I had been on two previous monitoring missions with his wonderful wife Sarah, I had hoped to visit them. However, Sarah happened to be out of town, so she asked her husband to show me around Parliament.
He arranged to meet me at the Lords entrance of the Parliament building. We chatted for about 45 minutes, then entered Lords for a session of question time, I think it is called.
I watched for several hours, taking careful notes so I could compare and contrast Parliament with our U.S. Congress, which I used to cover as a journalist.
As the session appeared to be running down, John took me for tea in the Members restaurant. We chatted about all sorts of things. Although I had met him for the first time just that day, I felt as if I had known him for years.
The day ended, and I walked into the evening air, my head full of new enthusiasm and affection for Great Britain. It was a day I shall never forget.

Better late than never! I want to add my tribute to a gentleman who was dignified, honourable and humble in the truest sense. I remember talking to him about obituaries before his passing and he humorously commented on his own. My experience of this great man was not based on politics, but on how he was as a human being in these changing times. I am greatful to have known him even briefly.

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