Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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Give the Tory titan Keith Joseph a plinth in Parliament Square

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OUR call for you to nominate past and present champions of British liberty and culture who still need to be honoured with statues continues to attract some fascinating candidates. Here, a TCW reader puts forward his political hero …

MY nomination is Keith Sinjohn Joseph, Baron Joseph of Portsoken, 1918-1994.

Sir Keith Joseph provided the intellectual drive to save Britain from terminal decline in the 1980s. His early life, education and military success made him eminently suitable to lead Britain, but he went on to do something much more important than that. 

He was the brilliant child of a successful business construction family. He proved himself with a First in Law from Oxford, subsequent fellowship at the exclusive All Souls College and early taking of silk when called to the Bar in 1945. 

Like many of his generation, he served in the Second World War and saw action in Italy, where he was wounded by the Germans and mentioned in despatches.

He began to crystallise his ideas that there must be a better future for Britain when he joined his family firm. He might well have continued his comfortable business life, but saw the need to change his country after the 1956 debacle of Suez.

Sir Keith took the safe seat of Leeds North East for the Tories in 1956 and rapidly joined government ranks, beginning the task of changing the economic environment as President of the Board of Trade after Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s 1962 ‘night of the long knives’, when he sacked seven of his Cabinet.  

During the wilderness years of the Wilson Sixties, Sir Keith began to expound free market principles, taking these into the manifesto on which Tory leader Edward Heath won the 1970 election.

He felt betrayed when Heath began to pursue standard Keynesian interventionist policies. After Heath was ejected, Sir Keith began a programme of major speeches vigorously restating classical economic liberalism, expounding the contemporary academic teachings of Chicago’s Professor Milton Friedman. This was to become the message of monetarism.

Many Tories wanted Sir Keith to be leader, but his brilliance was to recognise that he did not have the political antennae or flair for this, and to see that Margaret Thatcher had.

He formed an alliance with Thatcher and gave the Tories the credibility that led to her election victory in 1979. After she won, he was given overall responsibility for policy. He drove the notion that the inflationary measures of Labour, designed to abate unemployment, actually intensified it.

Sir Keith was given the key role of Secretary of State for Industry. His true worth to the nation however was in providing the intellectual backbone for the revitalisation of the economy and helping Thatcher resist all those interventionists who continued to want to hold Britain back.

He got Thatcher to agree to completely change the course of our economic direction from the widely-accepted Keynesian model of economics to the free market monetarist approach of Friedman.

This saved Britain from the spiral of decline and led to the success of the Anglo-Saxon model of economic activity so hated by the Germans and French and beloved of President Ronald Reagan and successive American administrations.

Keith Joseph’s statue is deserving of a plinth in Parliament Square.

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Jeremiah Picton
Jeremiah Picton is a health service administrator with three children and no political affiliation.

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