Former Conservative MP Sir Julian Critchley dies

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Former Conservative MP Sir Julian Critchley, one of Westminster's most colourful characters, has died aged 69.

Former Conservative MP Sir Julian Critchley, one of Westminster's most colourful characters, has died aged 69.

His son Joshua said that Sir Julian, who fought a long battle against cancer, died peacefully surrounded by his family yesterday morning.

The former Aldershot MP, who left the Commons at the 1997 general election, was noted during his later years for his acerbic political journalism.

He also wrote two murder mysteries set in Westminster and at a Conservative Party conference, which mercilessly lampooned the party's right wing - particularly Margaret Thatcher and Jeffrey Archer.

Sir Julian was MP for Rochester and Chatham from 1959 to 1964, and then for Aldershot for the remainder of his time in the Commons.

He was a childhood friend of Michael Heseltine, whom he supported in the 1990 Tory leadership contest.

The former Aldershot MP was always a keen supporter of the European Union and was often dismayed at the attitude of Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister - describing her on one occasion as a "great she-elephant".

His views on Europe eventually led to his departure from the Conservative Party, as a result of his support for unofficial pro-EU Tory candidates at the 1999 European parliament elections.

Charles Kennedy, leader of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, paid tribute to Sir Julian and said he had been "very saddened" to learn of the former MP's death.

Mr Kennedy added: "Julian was one of those rare creatures who actually made people feel better about politics.

"He was a great friend and mentor to me. He had that acute understanding of the fact that politics is a serious business, but the politicians to worry about are the ones that take themselves too seriously."

He never achieved ministerial rank and confessed his disappointment at remaining a backbencher for the duration of his long career in Parliament.

Mrs Thatcher is famously reported to have snorted "never" when a knighthood was suggested for him, but he received the honour from John Major in 1995, three years after he had contracted prostate cancer.

Earlier this year Sir Julian was diagnosed with bone cancer and doctors also discovered he was suffering from a brain tumour.

His son Joshua said: "The last few months he had gradually lost lucidity, but he died very peacefully yesterday morning and the family were with him."

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