Though John Biffen, who died today, later went on to be rather critical of Margaret Thatcher (and only the most slavish followers of this great political colossus would deny that there were some aspects of her policies and style which left something to be desired), he was a man of integrity and honour and intellectual rigour who managed to be fiscally on the right but socially on the left, an admirable combination which fits The Huntsman’s general outlook.

Sadly it was he who as Leader of the House of Commons who introduced the guillotine on the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986 which enacted the treaty provisions concerning the single market and steered it thereafter onto the Statute Book, which, he having voted against entry into the EEC in 1972 , must be accounted a serious lapse.

He was sacked after the 1987 election, having uttered some home truths that might have served Mrs. Thatcher well had she heeded them. Three years later, she too was kicking her heels on the back benches.

Whatever one’s misgivings about his inconsistency over Europe, he was of a stature in Conservative politics that is perhaps less common than it was.

Our political life will be the poorer for his passing today.

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