Sir Edwin Leather

Forceful Conservative politician

Edwin Leather was a larger-than-life figure, a Conservative MP who was enormously popular within the party for his forceful performances at party conferences, but more importantly for the shrewd and often witty contributions that he made to the BBC radio programme
Any Questions.

Edwin Hartley Cameron Leather, politician, diplomat, writer and broadcaster: born Toronto, Ontario 22 May 1919; MP (Conservative) for North Somerset 1950-64; Kt 1962; member, National Executive Committee, Conservative and Unionist Associations 1963-70, vice-chairman 1967-69, chairman 1969-70; Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda 1973-77; KCMG 1974; KCVO 1975; married 1940 Sheila Greenlees (died 1994; two daughters); died 5 April 2005.

Edwin Leather was a larger-than-life figure, a Conservative MP who was enormously popular within the party for his forceful performances at party conferences, but more importantly for the shrewd and often witty contributions that he made to the BBC radio programme Any Questions.

He held no ministerial office, although when he returned to politics after ill-health had forced him from the House of Commons, he became a vice- chairman of the National Union, the mass organisation of the Conservative Party, and presided over the victory conference after the Conservatives returned to power in 1970. Subsequently, he served a four-year term as Governor of Bermuda, where his extrovert ways did not win him universal popularity. Nicknames like "Imperial Leather" or "Hell for Leather" tell their own story.

Edwin Hartley Cameron Leather was born in Toronto in 1919, but his parents were migrants from Manchester, who had settled in Hamilton, Ontario. He was educated at Trinity College School, Port Hope, where his principal reputation was made as a gymnast, and he completed his education at the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario.

He was commissioned into the Canadian Army in 1939 and was one of the original officers of the 1st (Canadian) Parachute Battalion. He was injured when his parachute failed in a training exercise and spent nine months in a plaster cast. Subsequently he served with the Toronto Scottish and Royal Artillery. In the years which followed, he devoted considerable time to organising gymnastics, training and managing several Canadian army athletics teams, and also baseball and football for the troops in southern England, while they awaited the decision to launch an invasion of Europe.

This led to a weekly programme for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the job of commentating on two football matches organised between the Canadian and American forces shortly before D-Day. Leather served through the campaign in north-west Europe, but he was already interested in making a political career and in remaining in Britain to do so. He fought Bristol South unsuccessfully in 1945 and then entered the City as an insurance and banking broker.

While the Conservative Party was in opposition, he spoke regularly at Speaker's Corner, an invaluable training in those days of mass meetings and one which left him well able to deal with hecklers in a way that immediately gained him the support of his audience. Selected to fight the highly marginal constituency of Somerset North, he won it by 903 votes in the 1950 general election, extended his majority to 2,548 in 1951, and held the seat until 1964, when ill-health drove him from the Commons.

Ted Leather had begun his political career as an out-and-out champion of Britain's imperial role and he was a stern critic of the American role in the Suez crisis, which he thought was deliberately calculated to undermine Britain's position. In fact, he went out of his way to proclaim his support for Eden by renaming his house at Batheaston Eden Park. But in his latter years in the Commons he accepted the need to speed up the pace of decolonisation.

In 1962 he was knighted, but he had to become a British citizen to accept the honour. Leather campaigned for Rab Butler in 1963 but, struck down by two serious illnesses and short of cash, he determined not to fight his seat in 1964 and instead took employment as Managing Director of John James Industrial, a leading engineering firm in the South-west.

Always an active speaker for the party - as an MP he was accustomed to speak in more than 200 constituencies a year - and a member of both the National Executive and the Conservative Board of Finance since 1963, he was a natural choice to become a vice-chairman of the National Union in 1967 and the usual cursus honorum took him to the chair in 1969. He was skilled at handling tricky debates on Rhodesia, but it was behind the scenes where he was most valuable, raising large sums to finance the party.

Still an ardent supporter of the Commonwealth, he was a natural choice to go to Bermuda as Governor to replace a former colleague in the House of Commons, Richard Sharples, who had been assassinated in March 1973, but his informality in the role did not make him altogether popular. Leather became a KCMG in 1974 and a year later received the KCVO.

After the end of his term as Governor in 1977, Leather settled in Bermuda. "If one has been ordered to come to paradise, why leave it?" he observed and he settled down as a director of N.M.Rothschild (Bermuda), but developed also a new career as a thriller writer. The Vienna Elephant was published in 1977, The Mozart Score in 1979 and The Duveen Letter in the following year.

John Barnes



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...

Urgently looking for Qualified Teachers and NQT's

£110 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Urgently looking for Qua...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform