Lord Hailsham, former Lord Chancellor and political giant of the Tory party, dies aged 94

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Indy Politics

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, who served as Lord Chancellor under Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, has died aged 94 after a long illness.

Once seen as a potential Conservative Party leader and prime minister, Lord Hailsham served in six governments, including Sir Winston Churchill's wartime administration, and was the longest-serving Lord Chancellor of the 20th century.

Senior figures from politics and the law paid tribute yesterday to a career that spanned 50 years. Lord Irvine of Lairg, the present Lord Chancellor, said Lord Hailsham's record surpassed those of all modern holders of the office.

His son, Douglas Hogg, a Tory MP, said Lord Hailsham died at his London home on Friday, a few days after his 94th birthday. "He had a very distinguished life. This is the end of a chapter, and it is very sad for everyone."

Quintin Hogg was born in 1907 into a political and legal dynasty and followed his father by becoming Lord Chancellor, starting his public life by winning the 1938 Oxford by-election in support of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy. He retained the seat after the war against a Labour challenge from Lord Longford.

He inherited his father's title in 1950 and moved to the Lords, where he concentrated on his legal career until he was made First Lord of the Admiralty. When Harold Macmillan stepped down in 1963, Lord Hailsham, by then the party chairman, was thought his most likely successor and he gave up his peerage to stand.

However he had alienated elder Tory statesmen by party conference behaviour that included early morning photocalls swimming in the sea, and ringing a bell that he declared tolled for Labour. The Tory grandees believed he could be too unpredictable and he lost to Alec Douglas-Home. Edward Heath later made him Lord Chancellor with a life peerage. He is said to have wept when Lady Thatcher became leader. However, they had a respectful working relationship and he later accepted that her right-wing policies had been justified

Lord Heseltine, a former cabinet colleague, said yesterday that Lord Hailsham was one of the "giants" of the Thatcher government and one of the few people she was not prepared to confront. "Lady Thatcher was wary of him. She held him in great respect and she always sought his opinion in cabinet before taking decisions in which he might have an interest."

One of his successors as Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, said: "Throughout his long life, Lord Hailsham transcended politics and the law as no modern Lord Chancellor has done. A characterful and combative politician, a powerful intellect and a very strong advocate and judge, his breadth of achievement is remarkable."

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: "I was very sorry to hear about the death of Lord Hailsham. He combined a brilliant intellect and acute political instinct with a profound patriotism and commitment to his country. He was a remarkable man. Cherie and I send our deepest sympathy to his family at this sad time."

Matthias Kelly, QC, the chairman of the Bar Council's public affairs group, said: "This is a great loss. Though we may have had our occasional differences, Lord Hailsham was none the less someone who appreciated the fundamental importance of a strong, vigorous and independent bar."

Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar, who was Lord Privy Seal in Lady Thatcher's first administration, said: "He was the cleverest man in Parliament in my time there. He was extraordinarily amusing and always very good company and beneath an occasional rough exterior he was a very kind man."

Baroness Castle of Blackburn, a former Labour minister, said: "I crossed swords with him politically many times, but I never had any bitterness towards him.

"I used to find him someone with whom I enjoyed having public battles, because there was nobitterness or malice."