Obituary: Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe

Charles Edward Mott-Radclyffe, politician, born 25 December 1911, Honorary Attache Athens and Rome 1936-38, MP (Con) Windsor 1942-70, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Secretary of State for India 1944-45, Junior Lord of the Treasury 1945, Conservative whip 1945- 46, Chairman Conservative Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee 1951-59, Kt 1957, married 1940 Diana Gibbs (died 1955; three daughters), 1956 Stella Harrisson, died 25 November 1992.

CHARLES Mott-Radclyffe was one of the most engaging figures in the House of Commons, from his election for Windsor in 1942 to his retirement in 1970. He was immensely jovial; a splendid raconteur; and a kind, patient and informed guide to newly elected members, bewildered by the complicated procedures - and even more complicated geography - of the House. His bluff and jolly manner, however, belied his possession of a shrewd and intelligent mind and a formidable capacity for hard work: those who were so vastly entertained by him in the smoking-room often found it hard to grasp that his conviviality concealed - probably deliberately - his more formidable qualities. While he never held high office in government, he gave sterling service to the Conservative Party and his country.

If ever the cliched description 'knight of the shires' could be applied to an MP it could justly applied to Charlie Mott-Radclyffe. He was born on Christmas Day 1911, the scion of two landed Norfolk landed families. When he was four years of age his father was killed at the Battle of Loos. Brought up by his mother, he went to Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he evinced a serious interest in politics.

Then, with the war, having served as an unpaid attache to the British ambassadors in Athens and Rome, he joined his father's old regiment, the Rifle Brigade. Between 1940 and 1941 he served - as a liaison officer - with the Allied Military Mission to Greece. When Germany decided to reinforce Italian troops pinned down by the Greek army and irregular forces, he escaped the ensuing debacle in a tiny boat. He was, eventually, evacuated to Egypt and from thence was posted, again as a liaison officer, to Damascus. In 1941, however, he rejoined his regiment. The tide of the war was beginning, albeit slowly, to turn. Mott-Radclyffe fought in the desert battles of North Africa, and the grim and painful battle for Italy.

With victory for the Allies assured, Mott-Radclyffe went into politics. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Leo Amery, the Secretary of State for India in the coalition government headed by Winston Churchill. At the formal end of the war and after the heavy Conservative defeat in the general election of 1945 he became a junior whip for his party. He was, perhaps, too genial, and too understanding of MPs' problems, to be altogether effective at this most demanding of jobs.

But, when he went to the back benches, he was able to indulge in his two passions - defence, and foreign policy, with particular reference to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. For eight years from 1951 he was Chairman of the Conservative backbench Foreign Affairs Committee. In a sense, he was an unofficial whip during the Suez war of 1956, and he sought valiantly, and reasonably successfully, to heal the divisions within the Tory Party created by that unfortunate misadventure. His knighthood was, at least in part, a reward for his efforts.

He was, speaking in general terms, on the right wing of his party. But his bump of irreverence saved him from being strident. He wrote an exceptionally intelligent prognosis of the developing crisis in Cyprus. Alas, the Government did not attend to it. He was one of the more radical members of the Plowden Commission on British representation overseas. Again, his recommendations were not heeded. In 1970 he decided to retire.

But, if this decision marked his departure from politics (his friends thought he was disappointed not to have received serious minsterial office, but, if so, he did not show it) he had still much to offer in public life. He became a High Sheriff of Norfolk, and its Deputy Lieutenant. He had been, until he left Parliament, deeply involved in the preservation of historical buildings.

There are two other things to be noted about him as a public figure. The first (not in chronological order) was his stout opposition to the renewal of sanctions on the rebel government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. The other - much earlier, in 1963 - was his resignation from the board of Norwich Union Insurance. The chairman of the company, Lord Mancroft, was forced out of office by the pressure of Arab financial interests, because he was a Jew. Mott- Radclyffe went too. While his Rhodesian decision might be put down to his right-wing views, the other could not: it was a statement of principle; and principle governed his life.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future