Sir Rhodes Boyson

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Famed for his unshakeable self-belief, he was a popular hate figure with his Victorian values, love of caning and hard-right views.

His claim to fame?

A leading writer and editor of the Black Papers which led the charge against comprehensive education back in the 1970s; a cane-wielding head; founder of the Assisted Places Scheme, promoter of testing, league tables, vouchers, selection. Against: abortion, gays, the European Union. Pro: death penalty, Zionism.

HoW did he see himself?

"A natural number one".

How did others see him?

He was known for having unshakeable self-belief, and conspicuously Victorian politics and appearance. "Blunt, impatient, and imbued with astonishment at the failure of anyone in the world to see that the great unbarbered Boyson is right." (Hugo Young, the Guardian) "The Wackford Squeers of the Conservative party." (Colin Brown, the Independent) "He is able to voice the prejudices of the puritanical hard right with the assurance of a PhD. Old-fashioned educational elitist for the able, upward-aspiring working class." (Roth's Parliamentary Profiles.) What did he do after joining the back benches?

He voted with Labour against the football identity card Bill; pposed the poll tax, Maastricht and lowering the age of consent for homosexuals.

And after losing his seat at the last election?

He wrote his autobiography, Speaking My Mind, and bounced up regularly for "rent-a-quote" comments whenever exam results got better ("The exams are getting easier."); and occasional TV appearances.

What does he do now?

"I enjoy being alive. I do a bit of speaking, but I've cut a lot of that out - I don't want to bore myself. I've managed to keep my sense of humour. I take long walks, spend time with my three grandchildren, and I'm organising another educational conference with the National Council for Educational Standards in October."


Born: 1925 in Rossendale, Lancashire

Education: Haslingden grammar; University College, Cardiff; Manchester University; London School of Economics, Royal Navy

1955-61: head, Lea Bank secondary modern,

1957-61: Labour councillor, Haslingden, 1969-77: joint editor of Black Papers on education

1967-74: head, Highbury Grove

1974-97: Tory MP, Brent North

1976-79: opposition education spokesman

1979-83: Department of Education and Science minister

1987: knight and privy councillor

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