Obituary: Sir John Rodgers Bt

John Charles Rodgers, politician and businessman: born York 5 October 1906; staff J. Walter Thompson 1931-70, Director 1936-70, Deputy Chairman, 1962-70; MP (Conservative) for Sevenoaks 1950- 79; PPS to Sir David (later Viscount) Eccles 1951-57; Parliamentary Secretary, Board of Trade, and Minister for regional development and employment 1958-60; Chairman, New English Library 1961- 70; Bt 1964; UK Delegate and Leader of the Conservatives to Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe and Vice-President, Western European Union 1969-79; Chairman, Independent Group Council of Europe 1974-79; Chairman, Radio Luxembourg 1979-83; married 1930 Betsy Aikin-Sneath (two sons); died 29 March 1993.

JOHN RODGERS will be remembered by many friends and colleagues not just for a long and distinguished career in business and politics but above all as a good companion with a zest for life which for many years belied his age.

He was convivial with a great sense of fun, but his purposes remained serious. He was an innovator with ideas and objectives often ahead of his time.

His early venture into the university world as a lecturer at Hull University was soon replaced by a more stimulating life as a pioneer in advertising, joining J. Walter Thompson in 1931 when it had a tiny staff and at a time when advertising was regarded with considerable suspicion.

John Rodgers's innovative drive in his new field was fully utilised when he undertook important duties during the Second World War first as Director of Commercial Relations in the Ministry of Information and then in increasingly important positions in other departments in disseminating industrial information and planning or post-war export trade.

One way and another he did much to make advertising an acceptable occupation both directly and through his leading role in such bodies as the British Market Research Bureau, the Administrative Staff College (of which he was a founding governor) and the Institute of Directors, whose Parliamentary Panel he chaired until Harold Macmillan persuaded him in 1958 to enter the Government, at considerable financial sacrifice, as Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade and minister responsible for regional development and employment. He was extremely proud of his work there but he did not attach particular importance to political office and it was his own decision to return to the back benches and business life after he felt he had completed the particular task he had been given.

Subsequently he did not envy the promotion of others and he had malice towards none. Indeed he had many friends on both sides of the House and enjoyed a rare capacity for bringing together many people serving a wide variety of causes, both at home and abroad.

The truth was that John Rodgers had a remarkable range of interests which made him reluctant to be tied down to any one line of activity.

He was a great communicator, serving at various times on the General Advisory Council of the BBC, as a governor of the British Film Institute, and as chairman for many years of Radio Luxembourg in London. This experience made him an early and powerful advocate of independent television.

He maintained throughout his life all his intellectual interests, whether doing book reviews for the Criterion when is was edited by TS Eliot, writing books and pamphlets or founding History Today with Brendan Bracken.

The work of the British Council, the National Trust and the New English Library, which he chaired for nine years, all commanded his active support. Nor did he ever forget that he came from York, of which he wrote a history, and he valued becoming President of the Society of Yorkshiremen in London.

When he entered the House of Commons in 1950 as MP for Sevenoaks, he played a much more active and positive role than is perhaps generally recognised in the creation and development of the policies of the One Nation group - a set of new members, including Iain Macleod, Enoch Powell and Robert Carr, who were determined to modernise the Conservative Party and bring its ideas into line with the second half of the century. Rodgers was one of the founders and a prime mover in the early days and remained a most assiduous member, contributing at meetings, always bubbling with ideas and encouraging new members as they came along. He had a gift for inspiring and there were many fledgling members like myself who were befriended and helped by him in the early stages of their careers, including Kenneth Clarke, John Gummer and Kenneth Baker.

Rodgers was one of the first to campaign from the time of the Messina Conference and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Rome, for Britain's membership of the European Community. His vision, however, embraced the wider Europe, which he saw stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to Finland. In this connection, through the Conference of European Documentation and Information (CEDI) and other organisations, he did much to bring together Conservative thinkers and politicians in many European countries. It was fitting, therefore, that he should serve for 10 years as leader of the UK delegation to the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union.

While he pursued all these manifold activities, the bedrock of his life was his family; Betsy, to whom he was married for 63 years, and his two sons, Tobias and Piers.

I remember him as a happy man who in a long life did many good things.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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 People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

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...

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