Irreverent rebel Tory MP Julian Critchley dies at 69

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Sir Julian Critchley, the former Tory MP who was expelled from the party after backing rebel pro-European candidates, has died aged 69, it was announced yesterday.

Sir Julian Critchley, the former Tory MP who was expelled from the party after backing rebel pro-European candidates, has died aged 69, it was announced yesterday.

The former MP for Aldershot was one of the most colourful and witty politicians of recent times. He doubled as a journalist, branding Baroness Thatcher a "great she-elephant" and saying the modern Tory party was composed of "garagistes" who had "lost the fourth button on their cuffs".

Sir Julian was a close friend and political ally of Michael Heseltine. They met at preparatory school, attended Shrewsbury public school and became "inseparable friends" at Pembroke College, Oxford.

Yesterday Mr Heseltine said Sir Julian would have loved to have served at the Foreign Office. "I suppose he didn't really work at it and he was very much his own person. He didn't easily comply with the disciplines of a political party, he was irreverent, witty - too witty probably for his own self-interest," he said.

After 32 years as an MP, he stood down at the last election and was expelled after endorsing the Pro Euro Conservative Party at last year's European Parliament elections.

When he was knighted by John Major in 1995, Sir Julian said: "I have had an unsuccessful political career, and a knighthood in politics is the equivalent of the turnip watch that used to be given to guards on the Great Western Railway after 40 years' service. None the less, it's nice to have, and it pleased my father, pleased my friends and enraged my enemies."

Sir Julian contracted prostate cancer in 1992. Earlier this year he was found to be suffering from bone cancer and a brain tumour.

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