British Conservative politician and Businessman
Born 1932 Died 2006
Anthony Beaumont-Dark was the idiosyncratic and independent minded Conservative Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak from 1979 to 1992. Regarded by the press as the perennial 'Rent-a-Quote', he could normally be relied upon to respond with some suitably indignant, forthright and frequently politically incorrect comment on almost any subject, which could then be used to enliven some otherwise dull piece of reportage. Anthony himself always denied that he was a publicity-seeker insisting that "there are always at least three issues that make my blood boil, that I feel I must comment on", and comment he did. There is the quite possibly apocryphal story of the young journalist working for The Sun had just submitted a piece that included just such a Beaumont-Darkism. When challenged regarding the authenticity of the quote the journalist sighed and confessed that in the circumstances he supposed that he should "ring him up and tell him what he has said".
Anthony Michael Beaumont-Dark was born at Hall Green in Birmingham on the 11th October 1932, where his father was the managing director of an engineering firm. He was educated at the Cedarhurst School in Solihull, Shirley College, Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts, and finally at Birmingham University where he read economics and political philosophy. He appears to have formed the ambition to become a Member of Parliament at an early age, but took the advice of his friend Peter Walker, "to make enough money to be independent before you become an MP", and so trained as an investment analyst and began his stockbroking career as a clerk. He became a member of the Birmingham Stock Exchange in 1958, and a partner in the stockbrokers Smith, Keen, Barnett (later Smith Keen Murray) in the following year, later a senior partner from 1970 to 1985 but remained as a consultant for a further ten years.
Anthony was first elected to Birmingham City Council in 1956 where he became chairman of the housing committee, famously suggested that the Roman Catholic Church should make a contribution to financing council housing on the grounds that its opposition to contraception was to blame for the pressure. He remained on the City council until 1967, being later elected to the West Midlands County Council in 1973, where he served as chairman of the finance committee from 1977 to 1983 and also spent six years a member of the central housing advisory committee at the Department of the Environment.
Finding a suitable Commons seat to further his political ambitions proved a slightly trickier task. He contested Birmingham Aston in both the 1959 and 1964 General Elections but lost out on both occasions to Julius Silverman of the Labour Party. In 1970 he failed to be adopted as candidate at Birmingham Handsworth in succession to Edward Boyle. He was finally adopted as the Conservative PPC for Birmingham Selly Oak, at the time a winnable marginal seat, and at the 1979 General Election defeated the sitting member, Thomas Litterick of the Labour Party,
Having won election to the House of Commons he appears to have had no interest in political office; as he later put it himself "I believe a backbench MP who is prepared to stick his neck out plays just as important a part as a cabinet minister whom nobody remembers". Rather he saw it as his duty to represent the interests of his constituency and of promoting the interests of the manufacturing industry in the West Midlands, an issue of particular concern since the Land Rover plant was in his constituency. In June 1982 he loudly complained that the Secretary of State for Industry, Patrick Jenkin had decided to exclude the West Midlands from the list of those areas eligible for regional aid, and when one of his successors, David Young, the Lord Young of Graffham, suggested that Britain could survive quite happily without a manufacturing sector he accused him of "not being in touch with reality". When subsequently it was proposed in 1986 to sell Land Rover to General Motors he threatened to resign his seat and fight a by election over the issue.
Neither was he shy in opposing government policy in other areas and when Margaret Thatcher announced that the introduction of the Community Charge was to be the government's flagship policy he retorted with the words "Why not choose the Titanic instead?" and argued that this proved that the government was "out of its tiny mind". He similarly opposed Thatcher's plans to abolish the metropolitan councils and the Greater London council in 1984. The story is also told that he once met Margaret Thatcher in the corridor at Westminster when she asked him "Will you be voting for us tonight, dear?" On being assured by Anthony that he would indeed be supporting the government at the next division, she replied "Jolly good, that makes a nice change". He was however scrupulously loyal to the leadership when it came to the crunch and took a dim view of those who sought to undermine Margaret Thatcher's position and famously dubbed Anthony Meyer as a "stalking donkey".
He also famously loathed Edwina Currie (a not uncommon attitude amongst his fellow MPs) and when she began lecturing her fellow members on the virtues of healthy eating, he set up the 'Currie Club' dedicated to the cause of the consumption of calorie laden lunches. Such feelings were reciprocal and Edwina once sent a get-well card to a rotweiller that was reported as having bit Anthony.
His parliamentary career came to an end at the 1992 General Election when he was defeated by Lynne Jones of the Labour Party, although he does not appear to have been that disappointed at the result; when his name appeared on the honours list later that same year he claimed that "At least I've got my knighthood to keep me warm". Denied the platform of the House of Commons he continued to express his forthright opinions by writing letters to the press, but largely returned to the business of making money and became a consultant to Brewin Dolphin between 1995 and 2002, and deputy chairman of J Saville Gordon from 1994 to 1999. He died of pneumonia on the 2nd April 2006 and was survived by his wife Sheelagh, whom he married in 1959, and by a son and a daughter.
As far as his own political career was concerned he was entirely dismissive; "I certainly don't feel I shall have left footprints in the sands of time, and I hate the pomposity of politicians who think they have." His one tangible political achievement was apparently inspiring Norman Lamont's decision to abolish the halfpenny in 1984, although he was also to be immortalised by The Fall in their song Solicitor in Studio from the Room to Live LP which features the lines "Along came Beaumont-Dark, Ripped his argument to shreds".
- Obituary from the The Daily Telegraph, 04/04/2006
- Obituary from the The Times, April 04, 2006
- Andrew Roth, Obituary from theThe Guardian, April 5, 2006
- 1984: Halfpenny coin to meet its maker
- Guido Fawkes