Obituary: Michael Clark Hutchison

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The Independent Online
Alan Michael Clark Hutchison, colonial servant and politician: born Edinburgh 26 February 1914; called to the Bar, Gray's Inn 1937; Member, Military Mission Washington 1945-46, Palestine 1946-48, Aden 1949-1955; MP (Conservative), Edinburgh South 1957-79; Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty 1959, to the Lord Advocate 1959-60, to the Secretary of State for Scotland 1960-62; Chairman, Scottish Conservative Members' Committee 1970-71; married 1937 Anne Taylor (died 1989; one son, one daughter); died Pangbourne, Berkshire 21 March 1993.

ONE MORNING in July 1962, when he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jack Maclay (later Viscount Muirshiel), Michael Clark Hutchison settled into his seat in the Flying Scotsman and opened his newspaper. Listening to the wireless was not something that he did before or during breakfast. He discovered that Maclay, his boss, had been sacked by Harold Macmillan in the 'Night of the Long Knives'. So disturbed was he that he pulled the communication cord as the great train rumbled through Portobello, four miles into the 400- mile journey, and demanded to be taken back to Edinburgh Waverley. He was. Promptly.

By the time he was elected a Member of Parliament in 1957, Clark Hutchison seemed to be a personage of mind-boggling self-importance. In the far-off days when political epithets and abuse were selective, a Labour colleague, in understandable shock at Clark Hutchison's reactionary views, snapped at him that he was 'an antique dinosaur' who ought no longer to be in the House of Commons. Clark Hutchison, to the younger man's fury, pretended to be as pleased as Punch. 'Lot to be said for dinosaurs in Westminster,' he chuckled. 'They have their place too in the political firmament.' For weeks, he would greet me - I was not the perpetrator of the abuse - by saying out of the side of his mouth that the weather was good for dinosaurs today.

As an MP, Clark Hutchison by the normal criteria must be considered an inconsequential failure, but he did accurately represent that section of his constituents who were staid legal Edinburgh of the Fifties and Sixties. He had his place in Parliament, and his crusty views were not entirely predictable, but maybe he was an example of a man who came too late for his own good to the House of Commons. Because, before Westminster, his life had been eventful and extremely successful. Born in Edinburgh at the outbreak of the First World War, Hutchison came from a distinguished political and legal family. His father, Sir George Clark Hutchison KC, represented North Midlothian in the 1920s as a supporter of Bonar Law and Baldwin. His elder brother, Sir Ian Clark Hutchison, represented West Edinburgh from 1941 until he retired in 1959, full of plaudits. Michael Clark Hutchison went to Eton, which he told me he didn't like, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read Law and which he adored. He was called to the English Bar in 1937. However, rather than following a hallowed legal path, being of an adventurous nature he went to South America and made himself extremely useful to a number of British companies who had huge investments there.

The start of the Second World War found him in Australia working for a shipping company. Immediately he enlisted, like his friend Enoch Powell, also then in Australia, as a private soldier. Having catapulted up through the ranks of the Australian Army, he went to North Africa and was highly thought of by people who fought with him in the desert. In 1944 he was posted to the Far East, where he was mentioned in despatches during the war against the Japanese, and left the army with the rank of Major. So successful had he been that he was picked to serve on a military mission to Washington.

After Washington he joined the Colonial Service and spent 1947-48 in Palestine. Dick Crossman, who was very involved as a member of the Anglo-American Commission on Palestine, once told me that 'that dry old stick, as the House of Commons sees him' had been an officer of great imagination and humanity in the fraught difficulties of the formation of the Jewish State.

For six years, from 1949 to 1955, Hutchison served as a Political Officer and then Assistant Secretary in the protectorate and colony of Aden. As an indication of his independence of mind, Hutchison told me that almost alone in the Conservative Party he as a right-winger had doubts about the good sense of the British military operation in the Crater region of Aden. Colonel Colin Mitchell, dubbed 'Mad Mitch', a key figure in the Crater operation, joined Clark Hutchison in the Commons in 1970, and the two of them had long discussions about the might-have-beens of the Aden operation. Clark Hutchison, who cared about it, took an uncharacteristically liberal view. But then he was by no means an identikit reactionary, and it said a lot about him that he was a scholar of his political hero Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th-century Conservative prime minister. He arranged in Edinburgh the first 'Disraeliana' exhibition, which included sketches, prints, cartoons and busts.

In 1955 Clark Hutchison resigned from the Colonial Service to concentrate on politics, and fulfil his ambition of becoming an MP like his brother. He fought Motherwell, unsuccessfully. This was the beginning of his vehement dislike of Scottish nationalism. I believe it was brought about by the fact that Motherwell was then the one constituency which had ever sent a Scottish Nationalist as an MP to Westminster (Dr Robert McIntyre, briefly, in 1945). A by-election in South Edinburgh in 1957 brought Clark Hutchison his reward. He was selected on account of his war record and Colonial Service record, and his association with a successful engineering firm in Edinburgh.

As a Member of Parliament he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to a number of Defence and Scottish ministers. He introduced a Private Member's Bill, the Solicitors Scotland (Wills) Act, and later the Intestate Succession (Scotland) Act. He was deeply interested in the question of legacies and did valuable work in this and other specialised fields.

He was a passionate though not very energetic opponent of Scottish devolution, and a bitter opponent of anything and everything to do with Europe and the Common Market. Indeed, such was his opposition to the EEC that it led to a challenge to his candidacy for the South Edinburgh seat before the 1974 general election. In 1975 Clark Hutchison helped to found a new anti-EEC party, Scottish Conservatives Against the Treaty of Rome. He was an honorary vice-president alongside his then Scottish colleague Sir Teddy Taylor, now MP for Southend. In 1978 it became apparent that he would not be re-adopted for South Edinburgh, and he decided to bow out gracefully, or, as he put it to me, wither away.

He was denied the knighthood which he would so much like to have had not for his own sake but for the sake of his wife, Anne, who had been a wonderful helpmate throughout his life.

(Photograph omitted)