Parliament and Politics: The Mellor Resignation: Peter Brooke: a traditional Tory

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Indy Politics
PETER BROOKE, appointed yesterday as Secretary of State for National Heritage, is well equipped to deal with the controversial issues of press freedom and the future of the BBC.

The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is regarded as a sagacious Conservative, who displayed the patience of Job in attempting to secure a political solution in Ulster. He won wide respect, despite being dubbed 'Babbling Brooke' in the Province.

He offered to resign in January this year, after outraging Ulster Unionist politicians by singing 'Oh My Darling Clementine' on Irish television, only hours after an IRA bomb killed seven civilians in Co Tyrone. Mr Major refused his resignation, but Mr Brooke, 58, stepped down at the general election. It was thought he would retire to the back benches, but he stood unsuccessfully for Speaker of the Commons.

Many MPs thought that his ministerial career was over but his recall underlines Mr Major's faith in his old friends, and the need for a safe and wise ally in Cabinet. Although Mr Brooke supported Douglas Hurd for the party leadership contest after Margaret Thatcher's resignation, they are close friends. Mr Brooke was one of four future Cabinet ministers who once unsuccessfully applied for Huntingdon, when Mr Major was selected for the seat.

Until this year, Mr Brooke had been in Government continuously from 1979 when he was made a junior whip. It is the second time he has filled a vacancy caused by a ministerial scandal. He served as party chairman from 1987 to 1989 in succession to Cecil Parkinson, who was brought down over his affair with Sara Keays.

Mr Major and Mr Brooke share a passionate interest in cricket. Mr Brooke, educated at Marlborough and Balliol College, Oxford, the son of Lord (Henry) Brooke, a former Home Secretary, is a member of the MCC and frequently sports a pair of MCC braces.

Mr Brooke, who is certain to be given a standing ovation at the party conference in a fortnight, is regarded as an orthodox, traditional Tory, with no trace of Thatcherite zeal. But he is open to radical ideas, and was responsible for searching for a new political settlement for the Province, while maintaining close ties with the Protestant majority.

(Photograph omitted)