Douglas Hurd

Douglas Hurd
The Right Honourable
The Lord Hurd of Westwell
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
26 October 1989 – 5 July 1995
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Malcolm Rifkind
Home Secretary
In office
2 September 1985 – 26 October 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Leon Brittan
Succeeded by David Waddington
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
27 September 1984 – 2 September 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by James Prior
Succeeded by Tom King
Minister for Europe
In office
4 May 1979 – 9 June 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Malcolm Rifkind
Member of Parliament
for Witney
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Shaun Woodward
Member of Parliament
for Mid Oxfordshire
In office
28 February 1974 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Personal details
Born 8 March 1930 (1930-03-08) (age 81)
Marlborough, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Relations Anthony Hurd (father)
Percy Hurd (grandfather)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Douglas Richard Hurd, Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (born 8 March 1930), is a British Conservative politician and novelist, who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major between 1979 and his retirement in 1995.

Born in Marlborough, Wiltshire, Hurd first entered parliament in February 1974, as MP for the Mid Oxfordshire constituency (Witney from 1983). His first government post was as Minister for Europe, from 1979-83 (being the post's inaugural holder), and served in several cabinet posts from 1984 onwards, including Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1984-85), Home Secretary (1985-89) and Foreign Secretary (1989-95). He stood unsuccessfully for Conservative Party leadership in 1990, but retired from frontline politics during a cabinet re-shuffle in 1995.

In 1997, Hurd entered the House of Lords. Viewed as one of the Conservative Party's senior elder statesmen, he is a patron of the Tory Reform Group, and remains an active figure in public life.


Early life

Douglas Hurd was born in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, in 1930. His father Anthony Hurd (later Baron Hurd) and grandfather Sir Percy Hurd had both been Members of Parliament. Hurd attended Twyford School, Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society and graduated with a first class degree in History.[1] In 1952 he joined the Diplomatic Service, during which time he was posted to China, the United States and Italy, leaving the service in 1966 to enter politics as a member of the Conservative Party.

Member of Parliament

He became secretary to the then Conservative leader Edward Heath, and was first elected to Parliament in February 1974 to represent the constituency of Mid Oxfordshire. At the 1983 general election the seat was replaced by Witney, and he remained MP for the seat until he retired from the House of Commons in 1997 after 23 years in Parliament. (The seat has been occupied by Conservative Party leader David Cameron since 2001.)

In government, 1979-90

Hurd was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office upon the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election, and remained in that post for the duration of the parliament. After the 1983 election Thatcher moved Hurd to the Home Office, but just over a year later he was promoted to Cabinet rank, succeeding James Prior as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In this position, his diplomatic skills paved the way for the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland, which marked a turning point in British-Irish co-operation on the political situation in the troubled region. A month before the agreement was signed, however, Hurd returned to the Home Office, this time as Secretary of State, following the demotion of Leon Brittan to the Department of Trade and Industry. Widely seen as a 'safe pair of hands' and a solid, loyal member of the Cabinet, Hurd's tenure as Home Secretary was largely uncontroversial, although he was notably of the view that the British prison system did not work effectively and argued for more rehabilitation of offenders and alternative sentencing.

Candidacy in the 1990 leadership election

After a sound performance as Home Secretary, Hurd's Cabinet career developed further during the turbulent final months of Margaret Thatcher's premiership. On 26 October 1989, Hurd moved to the Foreign Office, succeeding John Major, whose rapid rise through the Cabinet had seen him become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the wake of Nigel Lawson's resignation. This was the post in which Hurd made the greatest political impression.

In November 1990, he supported Margaret Thatcher's candidacy as Conservative Party leader against challenger Michael Heseltine, but on her withdrawal from the second round of the contest, Hurd decided to enter the race as a moderate centre-right candidate, drawing on his reputation as a successful 'law-and-order' Home Secretary. He was seen as an outsider, lagging behind the more charismatic Heseltine and the eventual winner, John Major, who shared the moderate centre-right political ground with Hurd but had the added advantages of youth and political momentum. Hurd came third, winning 56 of the 372 votes cast and, together with Heseltine, conceded defeat to allow Major, who had fallen just three votes short of an outright majority, to return unopposed and take over as Prime Minister on 27 November 1990. Hurd was gracious in defeat and, on the formation of Major's first Cabinet, was returned to his position as Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary

Hurd was seen as a statesmanlike Foreign Secretary[citation needed] and his tenure was particularly eventful. He oversaw Britain's diplomatic responses to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as the first Gulf War to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Hurd cultivated good relations with the United States under President George Bush Sr., and sought a more conciliatory approach to other members of the European Community, repairing relationships damaged during the increasingly Eurosceptic tone of Margaret Thatcher's final years. Hurd welcomed a reunified Germany into the European political community in 1990.

One of the defining features of Hurd's tenure as Foreign Secretary was the British reaction to the increasingly vicious Yugoslav Wars. During the war in Bosnia, Hurd was seen as a leading voice among European politicians arguing against sending military aid to the Bosniaks and for maintaining the arms embargo, in defiance of the line taken by US President Bill Clinton, and arguing that such a move would only create a 'level killing field' and prolong the conflict unduly. Hurd also resisted pressure to allow Bosnian refugees to enter into Britain arguing that to do so would reduce pressure on the Bosnian Government to sue for peace Media. Douglas Hurd described his and British policy during that time as 'realist'.[2] During this period the fractious relations between European and US leaders threatened the stability of the trans-Atlantic alliance and delayed any co-ordinated response to the bloodshed taking place in the collapsing Yugoslavia. Shortly after his retirement from politics, Hurd travelled to Serbia to meet Slobodan Milošević on behalf of the British bank NatWest (see below), fuelling some speculation that Hurd had taken a pro-Serbian line. There has been criticism of Hurd's policies in relation to the war. The Bosnian government even threatened to charge Hurd as an accomplice to genocide before the war tribunal in The Hague, though this came to nothing. In 2010, Douglas Hurd told a reporter that he was troubled by his Bosnia policy but still doubted that intervention would have brought about an earlier end to the war.[3]

Hurd was involved in a public scandal concerning Britain's funding of a hydroelectric dam on the Pergau River in Malaysia, near the Thai border. Building work began in 1991 with money from the British foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around £1 billion worth of arms from Britain. The suggested linkage of arms deals to aid became the subject of a UK government inquiry from March 1994. In November 1994, after an application for Judicial Review brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court High Court of Justice held that the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd had acted ultra vires (outside of his power and therefore illegally) by allocating £234 million towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people. [1] In 1997, the administration of the UK's aid budget was removed from the Foreign Secretary's remit (previously the Overseas Development Administration had been under the supervision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). The new department, the Department for International Development (DfID), has its own Secretary of State who is a member of the Cabinet.

In 1995, during the Cabinet reshuffle widely seen as setting up the Conservative team which would contest the next election, Hurd retired from frontline politics after eleven years in the Cabinet and was replaced by Malcolm Rifkind.


Hurd was generally a well-respected politician and parliamentarian, seen as an intellectual and old-school party grandee. After his retirement as Foreign Secretary, he remained a key supporter of John Major, and kept a range of active political involvements as well as taking on some business appointments, most notably as a deputy chairman of NatWest Markets and a board Director of the NatWest group, posts he held from October 1995 until 1999.

He left the House of Commons at the 1997 general election, and was created Baron Hurd of Westwell, of Westwell in the County of Oxfordshire, entitling him to remain in Parliament as a member of the House of Lords.

In December 1997 he was appointed Chairman of British Invisibles (now re-named International Financial Services London or IFSL). He was Chairman of the judging panel for the 1998 Booker Prize for Fiction. He became a member of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords in February 1999, and in September 1999 he was appointed High Steward of Westminster Abbey, reflecting his long active membership of the Church of England. He later went on to chair the Hurd Commission which produced a review of the roles and functions of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the 2005 Conservative Party leadership contest, Hurd supported David Cameron, the eventual winner, who is the incumbent MP for Hurd's former seat of Witney.

Hurd is currently a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world.[4] He is also Chairman of the Advisory Council at FIRST,[5] an international affairs organisation.

On 17 July 2009 Lord Hurd was bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Aston University in their Degree congregation.[citation needed]

Hurd is currently a member of the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation, established in October 2009.[6]

Personal life

Hurd is a writer of political thrillers including Scotch on the Rocks (1971, with Andrew Osmond), Truth Game (1972), A Vote To A Kill (1975), Palace of Enchantments (1985, with Stephen Lamport), The Shape of Ice (1998) and Image in the Water (2001), plus 10 Minutes to Turn the Devil, a collection of short stories. His non-fiction works include The Arrow War (1967), An End To Promises (1979), The Search for Peace (1997), Memoirs (2003) and Robert Peel, a Biography (2007).[7] Choose your Weapons (2010).

One of Hurd's sons, Nick Hurd, is also a Conservative politician and was elected Member of Parliament for Ruislip-Northwood at the May 2005 general election. On 14 May 2010 he was appointed Minister for Civil Society.[citation needed]

Another of Hurd's sons, Thomas, whose wife committed suicide, joined the Diplomatic Service. His name appeared on a list of suspected MI6 operatives which was published on the Internet, as did Hurd himself, supposedly the work of disgruntled former SIS (MI6) or Security Service (MI5) employees. The authenticity of several entries on the list is questionable, leading to speculation that it was in fact compiled by a poorly informed amateur. The format of the list is taken from The Diplomatic Service List - an annual official publication (known within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as 'The Green Book') listing all members of the Diplomatic Service.

In 1988, Hurd set up charity Crime Concern.[8] Crime Concern worked to reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime by working with young people, their families, and adult offenders offering opportunities through training and employment. Crime Concern merged with young people's charity Rainer in 2008 to become Catch22.[9]



  • "We should be wary of politicians who profess to follow history while only noticing those signposts of history that point in the direction which they themselves already favour."
  • "People are very interested in politics, they just don't like it labelled 'politics'."
  • "Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse."

Further reading

  • Memoirs by Douglas Hurd (Little, Brown, 2003)
  • The Search for Peace by Douglas Hurd (Little, Brown, 1997)

See also

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mid Oxfordshire
Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament for Witney
Succeeded by
Shaun Woodward
Political offices
New title Minister for Europe
Succeeded by
Malcolm Rifkind
Preceded by
James Prior
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Tom King
Preceded by
Leon Brittan
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
David Waddington
Preceded by
John Major
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Succeeded by
Malcolm Rifkind

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  • Douglas Hurd — Nom de naissance Douglas Richard Hurd, baron Hurd de Westwell Naissance 8 mars 1930 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Douglas Hurd — Douglas Richard Hurd, Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (* 8. März 1930 in London) ist ein britischer Politiker und Diplomat. Er gehörte als Mitglied der Konservativen Partei zwischen 1979 und seinem Rückzug 1995 s …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Douglas Hurd — Cockney Rhyming Slang Turd (shit) I need to dump a Douglas . Douglas Hurd is a politician …   English dialects glossary

  • Douglas Hurd * — Noun. 1. A lump of excrement. Rhyming slang on turd . 1980s 2. A third (class degree). Rhyming slang. 1980s * Douglas Hurd, Tory government minister during the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, and later John Major …   English slang and colloquialisms

  • Douglas Hurd — • Modern Rhyming Slang for turd . Normally shortened to Douglas . eg. Just nipping out for a Douglas mate …   Londonisms dictionary

  • Hurd — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Douglas Hurd (Douglas Richard Hurd, Baron Hurd of Westwell; * 1930), britischer Politiker, Außenminister 1989–1995 und Diplomat Gale Anne Hurd (* 1955), US amerikanische Filmproduzentin Mark Hurd (* 1956) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hurd (disambiguation) — Hurd is a surname, and may refer to:* Andrew Hurd, a Canadian Olympic swimmer * Anthony Hurd, a former British politician in the Conservative Party * Clement Hurd, an American illustrator of children s books * David Hurd, a composer, concert… …   Wikipedia

  • Douglas Alexander — For other people named Douglas Alexander, see Douglas Alexander (disambiguation). The Right Honourable Douglas Alexander MP …   Wikipedia

  • Douglas Hogg — This article is about the contemporary Conservative politician. For his grandfather, see Douglas Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham. The Right Honourable The Viscount Hailsham PC QC …   Wikipedia

  • Douglas — n British a 3rd, a third class university honours degree. A student witticism of the late 1980s playing on the name, Douglas Hurd, of a long serving member of Mrs Thatcher s Conservative cabinet (a Rich ard is a synonym). Compare Desmond; Pattie; …   Contemporary slang

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