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Obituary: Donald Box

Donald Stewart Box, businessman and politician: born Cardiff 22 November 1917; MP (Conservative) for Cardiff North 1959-66; married 1940 Margaret Bates (marriage dissolved 1947), 1948 Peggy Farr (nee Gooding; marriage dissolved 1973), 1973 Rose Davies; died Cardiff 12 July 1993.

THE SUCCESS of the Conservative government's efforts to increase the spread of share ownership owes as much to the unobtrusive work of people like Donald Box as to glossy television commercials and blizzards of direct mail.

Box's time as a Conservative MP at Westminster was comparatively short, spanning seven years from 1959. He won the seat with a 10,683 majority in a four-cornered fight at a time when Harold Macmillan's declaration that people were never having it so good propelled the Conservatives to victory. In 1966, the Wilsonian landslide saw Box's removal in a straight fight with Labour by 672 votes.

Educated at Llandaff Cathedral School, St John's School, Pinner, and Harrow County School, Box started out as a stockbrokers' clerk in his native Cardiff before he was 18. Five years' war service in the RAF, mainly in the Middle East, saw him rise to the rank of flight lieutenant. On demobilisation in 1945 he returned to Wales to join the Cardiff stockbrokers Henry J. Thomas. Later he became as senior partner in Lyddon & Company, and in 1988 he joined NM Rothschild as a non-executive director; he persuaded the company to open an office in the Welsh capital - only its second outside London - and was very active in going around Wales outlining to clubs and groups the benefits of share ownership.

A champion of Welsh business, Box's advice was frequently sought by captains of industry in Wales and beyond. He was an ardent supporter of plans to develop Cardiff's old docklands, a scheme which is taking rather longer to mature than its proposers at first envisaged. His expertise was available to successive Welsh Secretaries grappling with the problems and opportunities presented in a Wales facing an economic and social sea-change.

Keenly interested in politics, Box won his spurs the hard way, starting at ward level and later moving up to hold office at branch and divisional level. He was unsuccessful in an attempt to enter the Commons when he contested Newport at the 1955 election; he was denied again the following year when the death of the incumbent Labour member led to a by- election.

Said to be a clubbable person, Donald Box was an ardent student of the turf - an activity some regard as being not too far removed from more conventional risk-taking. He was much in demand by radio and television producers anxious to unravel the mysteries of business and finance.