Obituary: Tony Leavey

TONY LEAVEY was a Lancashire businessman bitten by the political bug as a result of his experience of socialist government after the Second World War who went on to become a Conservative Member of Parliament.

He was the son of George Leavey, chairman of the family engineering firm, Smith and Nephew, and before he entered politics served as its managing director. He was a director also of companies with interests in weaving and matchmaking which were located in Colne and Rawtenstall.

Born in 1915, he was educated at Mill Hill and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read Economics. Conscious that war was imminent, he joined the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and served with them in France and Belgium in 1939-40. He was one of the last to be evacuated from Dunkirk and he returned with his regiment soon after D-Day, serving throughout the campaign in north-west Europe. He was mentioned in despatches and ended the war a major. Between these two campaigns his regiment trained in the Midlands and Leavey entertained himself by organising a pack of hounds and coaxing the head of a girls' boarding school into providing the venue for a memorable hunt ball.

After the war, as a local businessman who was politically active, Leavey was a natural choice to fight Barbara Castle in Blackburn East. Although he lost by 4,818 votes in 1950, he cut her majority by more than 2,000 in 1951 and was subsequently adopted to fight Heywood and Royton where the sitting Tory member was retiring. He held it with a reduced majority in 1955 and despite the intervention of a Liberal candidate, held it by 2,154 votes in 1959. In 1964, however, Joel Barnett edged him out by 818 votes in a three-cornered contest and Leavey, who had just undergone major abdominal surgery, decided to call it a day.

He had been an active backbencher and a loyal one, except where the interests of the cotton industry were at stake. His first question in the House was to the President of the Board of Trade, about the action he was taking to help the industry, and three years later, on 30 June 1958, when he felt that not enough was being done to help, he and six other Lancashire members abstained. No action was taken against them.

Passage of the Cotton Industry Act in 1959 may have helped him save his seat in the election that year, but there was need for further rebellious action in 1962. Leavey blamed the industry's foreign competitors for "cheating like the devil".

More normally he was to be found on the Government's side and he was a trenchant critic of the Manchester Guardian's stand over Suez. In the build-up to the Suez crisis he also wrote a lead letter to The Times criticising Edith Summerskill for supporting President Nasser.

He was a forceful supporter of the right of peers to renounce their titles, the banning of Latin in schools and the silencing of noisy exhausts. On one occasion, against all evidence to the contrary, he insisted that there had been flying saucer activity over Lancashire. On another, he wanted to know if girls going topless would be arrested.

He was popular with his fellow MPs and twice served as PPS, to the Minister of Defence (Sir Walter Monckton) in 1956-57 and to Derick Heathcoat Amory as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1959-60. Subsequently he served as joint Secretary of the Conservative 1922 Committee from 1961 to 1964, a measure of the regard in which he was held. He shared an interest in hunting with its equally robust chairman, John Morrison, and was one of the few to express admiration for Macmillan's ruthlessness in the "Night of the Long Knives".

After he left the Commons, Leavey pursued his business interests with considerable success. He had remained a director of Smith and Nephew Associated Companies and served as deputy chairman from 1962 to 1972. In addition he took on the chairmanship of a Midlands building firm, Wilson (Connolly) Holdings, 1966-82, of Robert Moss, 1981-82, and Edward Barber & Co, 1982- 88. He was a member also of the SE London Industrial Tribunal from 1978 to 1984.

He had married Lesley Homfray, the daughter of Mr Justice Ormerod, in 1952 and in his leisure time, apart from hunting and taking part in point- to-point races, he took an active interest in the Outward Bound Movement. He was a Council member of the Outward Bound Trust and a trustee of the Kurt Hahn Trust. For many years he served on the political committee of the Field Sports Association and he is said to have made a major contribution to the design of the Triathlon.

J

John Anthony Leavey, politician and businessman: born 3 March 1915; MP (Conservative) for Heywood and Royton 1955-64; PPS to Minister of Defence 1956-57, to Chancellor of the Exchequer 1959-60; married 1952 Lesley Homfray (nee Ormerod; two stepdaughters); died 9 July 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits