The Royals and the Press: 'Sun' editor calls Tory MP stooge of Establishment

SIR IVAN LAWRENCE, the leading Tory advocate of legislative controls on the press, was attacked yesterday by the editor of the Sun as a 'lickspittle for the Establishment'.

Kelvin McKenzie telephoned a BBC Radio phone-in programme on the Calcutt report to denounce Sir Ivan's views. 'He is a lickspittle for the Establishment - that is why he is trooped out so often,' Mr McKenzie said.

That was news to the Government whips, who regard Sir Ivan, a barrister and Tory MP for Burton, as something of a rebel in spite of his knighthood and a preference for striped morning trousers. His views on controls on the press do not echo those from No 10.

Sir Ivan, a buccaneering right- winger and chairman of the cross- party Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, appeared to be too independent for promotion to ministerial rank during Baroness Thatcher's term of office, although he had impeccable credentials as a member of the Monday Club, a supporter of South Africa, a Zionist and a supporter of capital punishment.

One of the longest-serving Tory backbenchers - he has toiled in the background for 19 years - he rebelled against the 'softly softly' approach to the unions by Lord Prior in the early 1980s and fought against fluoridation, making the longest speech in the Commons in years. His most recent rebellion came in November last year when he abstained on the Maastricht debate and John Major narrowly survived with a majority of three votes. That was only four months after receiving his knighthood for 'political services' in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The whips pleaded with him to vote with the Government but Sir Ivan sat tight on the back benches where he has been since 1974.

(Photograph omitted)

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