An encounter at a dinner in 1975 with the then leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, converted Alistair McAlpine from just another wealthy Tory backer into one of the most prominent political fundraisers of his day.
The young property developer and the future Prime Minister hit it off immediately and within a matter of days he was appointed party treasurer – a position he was to hold until 1990 when Mrs Thatcher was ousted from Downing Street.
In that time, and in his role of deputy chairman, he amassed a vast war chest from a variety of sources. Donors included the disgraced tycoon Asil Nadir, whose donation Lord McAlpine later called for to be returned. But the money he generated helped propel the Tories to three electoral victories.
The son of Sir Robert “Concrete Bob” McAlpine, the construction magnate, he became a devoted follower of the former Tory leader, naming his autobiography The Servant (after Machiavelli’s The Prince) and dedicating it to “the most magnificent, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven”.
Fiercely loyal, discreet and highly effective, he refused to give up on his mistress, helping to re-establish her after her downfall while denouncing as traitors those who had had the temerity to unseat her.
In 1984 he was rewarded for his loyalty with a life peerage, and remained a thorn in the side of Lady Thatcher’s successor, briefly joining Sir James Goldsmith’s anti-Europe Referendum Party.
Married three times and with three children, his interests include art collecting, gardening and travel. He has lived in Italy in recent years and is said to be in poor health. A noted bon viveur, he was forced to slow down in 1987 after undergoing a heart bypass operation.