Obituary: Stephen Milligan

Stephen David Wyatt Milligan, journalist and politician: born Godalming, Surrey 12 May 1948; Industrial Relations Correspondent, the Economist 1972-75, Brussels Correspondent 1975- 79, Editor, Foreign Report 1980-81, European Editor 1982-83, Britain Editor 1983; Presenter, The World Tonight, Radio 4 1980-83; Foreign Editor, Sunday Times 1984-87, Washington Correspondent 1987-88; Europe Correspondent, BBC TV 1988- 90; MP (Conservative) for Eastleigh 1992-94; died London 7 February 1994.

STEPHEN MILLIGAN had all the qualities required of a successful parliamentarian, including an unquenchable enthusiasm for the workings of politics, a serious approach to issues, fluency in broadcasting and public speaking, and the intellectual capacity to assimilate and analyse large volumes of information. And at the time of his death he had taken the first step on the path to ministerial office as PPS to Jonathan Aitken, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement.

Milligan was never lacking in ambition, but at 45 he might already have progressed much further on this path if he had not delayed his entry into the House of Commons by abandoning the Conservative Party in 1981 to join the SDP. For the next decade he feared that he had 'burnt his boats' with the Tories, as he put it, and it was not until 1992, after returning to his original political home on the Left of the Tory party, that he stood for Parliament and was elected MP for Eastleigh.

Milligan's flirtation with the SDP was one of the few false moves in a driven career in journalism and politics. His election to the House was the fulfilment of a dream he had held since being President of the Oxford Union in 1970, but it had been a delayed fulfilment. He had followed a well-trodden journalistic route to politics via the Economist, the Sunday Times and the BBC, and it was a long-awaited homecoming to find himself in the Commons with colleagues from Oxford University days including Gyles Brandreth and Edwina Currie.

Milligan was born in 1948. His father was Company Secretary of the House of Fraser Group and his mother a ballet teacher. Her death when Stephen was eight years old overshadowed the rest of his life. He was born with a squint for which he was teased as a small boy at school, where he found relief by concentrating hard on his studies. He was educated at Bradfield College, the Berkshire public school, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

At Oxford a tutor told him that with hard work he could take a First Class degree. Milligan, who had a well-organised rather than an academic mind, doubted this assessment and devoted himself to winning the presidency of the Oxford Union; his successful election was his first demonstration of aptitude for political manoeuvring. It was the end of the Sixties and Milligan was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association at a time of student unrest when university politics were dominated by the Left. He was part of a group who went ahead when political opponents wished to prevent Enoch Powell from addressing a meeting at Oxford Town Hall.

Milligan joined the Economist in 1970, fresh from university. He had a successful career at the magazine and stayed there for 13 years. One of his contemporaries at the Economist was Andrew Neil. Neil was appointed editor of the Sunday Times in 1983, and Milligan followed him there as Foreign Editor in the following year. However, he went to the United States as the paper's Washington Correspondent in 1987. He had presented The World Tonight on Radio 4 in the early Eighties, while still at the Economist, and took the decision during his time in the US to go into television, as the BBC's Europe Correspondent, as a means to getting his face known before breaking into politics.

His break, when it came, was impressive. Despite his past association with the SDP, he was adopted by Eastleigh, near Southampton, his first choice, and a safe seat. Once adopted as a candidate, he went back to the Economist for a year before winning his seat at the last election with a majority of 17,702.

In politics as in journalism Milligan made friends easily and was popular with his contemporaries. He was an ungainly but enthusiastic sportsman: he ran, rowed and played squash and had regular golfing companions. But he was ultimately a very reserved man. He was correct and thorough, he was careful with money, and had a profound sense of right and wrong. He was a creature of habit and attended his local church in London every Sunday. He described himself as being of the professional class, and there was something very English about the reassuring image he gave to voters, that of a competent but worldly-wise solicitor. Yet there was also something very un-English about his unabashed display of seriousness and political ambition.

If politicians can be divided into cavaliers and roundheads, Milligan was very much a roundhead.

(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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution