Politician and teacher;
Born: May 11, 1925; Died: August 28, 2012.
Sir Rhodes Boyson, who has died aged 87, was a flamboyant Tory MP who served in Margaret Thatcher's Government without ever reaching the Cabinet, attracting much public interest for his forthright views on social affairs, education and Europe.
He was a diehard who believed in caning pupils, was against gay rights and a severe critic of "mindless sociologists": he hated "trendy, lefty theories" that, he maintained, had produced the permissive society. But he was a conscientious and popular MP until he lost Brent North in the Labour landslide of 1997.
He was a former headmaster who regularly appeared on television where his strong Lancashire brogue and robust views were popular with rank-and-file Tory members. As a school master he was no less controversial, standing for old-fashioned methods – the three Rs, morning assembly, sport and strong discipline.
He is thought to have beaten the boxer Frank Bruno, who was a former pupil. Throughout his career Sir Rhodes rather enjoyed being a Pickwickian figure, sporting whiskers, gaudy waistcoats and watch chains.
Sir Rhodes was the son of a cotton-spinner and attended Haslingden Grammar School, leaving to serve in the Royal Navy in the last months of the war. He then read Greek and philosophy at Cardiff University and in 1950 became a teacher.
He was appointed headmaster of Lea Bank School in Lancashire, and then in 1961 head of a multi-faith school in the London's East End. In 1966 he was appointed to a new comprehensive school in north London, Highbury Grove, where he cut a deal with the senior male pupils: if they cut their (then fashionably) long hair he would grow sideburns. The mutton chops remained for the rest of his life and became very much the Boyson trademark.
His methods remained controversial. He took a hard line on truancy, smoking, dress and unruly behaviour. But he was popular with parents and the school was one of the most oversubscribed in the area.
After standing unsuccessfully as a Tory in the 1970 General Election, Sir Rhodes won Brent North four years later. Margaret Thatcher viewed her colourful colleague as a promising addition to the party and teamed him with the no less ebullient Norman St John-Stevas in the opposition education team. But the pair did not get on: St John-Stevas referring to "the Colossus of Rhodes".
After the 1979 election Sir Rhodes enjoyed eight years as a junior minister: education (1979-83), social security (1983-84), Northern Ireland (1984-86) and local government (1986-87).
But in 1987 he was dropped from office. And, although he supported John Major in the 1990 leadership election, Sir Rhodes became a member of the backbench "awkward squad" that caused him problems over Europe. He voted against the Government on 12 occasions during the fraught reading of the Maastricht Bills and called for referendums on the agreement and the UK's future membership of the EEC. After the 1997 election he retired from active politics.
He was often seen on television, airing his uncompromising opinions in his own colourful manner. He did get involved in some unexpected television appearances. He was a guest on the BBC's comedy Have I Got News For You, clearly without any notion of its satirical nature. He also did an interview with Ali G, who referred to him throughout as "Sir Rhod, man".
He was knighted in 1987 and published his memoirs, Speaking My Mind, in 1995. He married Violet Burleston in 1946 and they had two daughters. That marriage was dissolved and in 1971 he married Florette MacFarlane, with whom he had one daughter.
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