Obituary: Lord Newton

Peter Richard Legh, politician, born 6 April 1915, MP (Conservative) Petersfield 1951-60, PPS to Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1952-53, Assistant Government Whip 1953-55, a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury 1955-57, Vice-Chamberlain of the Household 1957-59, Treasurer of the Household 1959-60, succeeded 1960 as fourth Baron Newton, Captain Yeomen of the Guard and Government Assistant Chief Whip 1960-62, (Joint) Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Health 1962-64, Minister of State for Education and Science 1964, married 1948 Priscilla Viscountess Wolmer (nee Egerton-Warburton; two sons), died 16 June 1992.

PETER NEWTON was one of those politicians who are natural whips. Though he held junior office both in the Department of Health and the Treasury he was most at home occupying such offices redolent of history as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard - not to mention Treasurer of the Household. All these titles are discreet, and dignified, covers for men (and, very occasionally, women) whose job it is to quell rebellion among either MPs or peers, and make sure of a maximum turnout of government (or opposition) supporters when the issue of the moment requires it. Newton, having been a Major in the Grenadier Guards in the Second World War, was admirably suited to the tasks that befell him in his later political life.

Peter Legh was the fourth baron of his line. He went to Eton and, later, to Christ Church, Oxford. He was always a steady and reliable, rather than a brilliant, performer in anything he undertook. But reliability is not, after all, a quality to be despised. When he joined the Army he rose steadily and, the war being over, entered politics. It was inconceivable that he would be other than a Conservative.

Having served in minor offices - and most notably as a whip - in the House of Commons, he succeeded his father in 1960. He had a brief moment of near glory when he became Minister of State for Education in April 1964: but the Conservative Party lost the general election in October of that year, and Newton's ministerial career was over.

Parliamentary whips are a curious political breed. The old cliche of the velvet glove and the iron fist might well have been designed for them. Most whips start young, and are eager to move on to better things, the present Prime Minister being a perfect example. A really good whip's office has men with the ability to be both persuasive and tough. Newton was of the latter disposition.

But he had other facets to his personality. He was as enthusiastic a photographer as Denis Healey. He loved to repair old clocks; and he invented Heath-Robinson-style gadgets. Like many who present a stern face to the public, Peter Newton had an endearing side to him.

British politics in general has always had an endearing whiff of eccentricity about it. This is not only true of Conservatives: one has only to think of Roy Mason's penchant for designing ties to realise that the attraction of the odd cuts across party boundaries. However, it is surely appropriate that a party whip, for whom timing is all, should have had an interest in repairing clocks.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn