GRANT, Sir Anthony (1925-2016).



Harrow Central
15 October 1964 - 9 June 1983
Cambridgeshire South West
9 June 1983 - 1 May 1997


Sir Anthony Grant was born in Surbiton on 29 May 1925. Educated at St Paul’s and Brasenose College, Oxford, he served as a Captain in the Third Dragoon Guards, 1943-48. On his return to Britain he became a solicitor. He married Sonia Isobel and had a son and daughter.

A former Young Conservatives chairman, Grant first contested Hayes and Harlington for the in 1959, before winning in Harrow Central in 1964. He held the seat until it was abolished in 1983. Although he hoped to become the candidate for the enlarged Harrow East constituency, he lost out to incumbent Hugh Dykes. He was selected for the Conservatives in Cambridgeshire South West and held the seat from 1983 until retirement in 1997.

In Parliament, Grant served as an opposition whip 1966-70 before holding junior ministerial posts in the Board of Trade and Department of Trade and Industry in Edward Heath’s 1970-74 government. He later became Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party and held executive positions on the backbench 1922 Committee. Sir Anthony passed away in October 2016.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Sir Anthony Grant in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

I became a whip before then with Willy Whitelaw. That was the happiest time of my parliamentary career: 1964 I was elected, in 1966 I became an opposition whip. The happiest time I had in Parliament was as a whip because it’s the only time you work as a team, honourably. All of my background had been based on that – at school, at sport, or in the army, you work as a team, back each other up, help each other. Afterwards in politics, and in the city, the professions, there’s no such thing. You do each other down, certainly in politics, certainly. In the whips office in those days, under Willie Whitelaw, it was absolutely trustworthy. He always used to say … “There are only two places where you know what is happening in the building: the cabinet, and the Tory whips office. There’s one big difference. The Tory whips office you keep it all to yourself, work as a team. Cabinet: it’s as leaky as a sieve.”

Summary of interview

Track 1 [01:40:55] [6 January 2012] Sir Anthony Grant [AG] talks about happy, quintessentially middle class childhood. Two parents, no money. Father was an academic. Comments on the impact on AG’s family of the First World War, remarks that father never regained health. Sent to St. Paul’s School in 1938. Tells story of family reaction to the declaration of the Second World War. Describes cricket match and sounding of the first air raid siren. Mentions evacuation of St. Paul’s School to Wellington College. [00:03:57] Describes interest in military service and difficulty of getting into the Navy. Comments on the Officer Training Corps and gaining of rank of sergeant. Tells story of visit by Field Marshal Montgomery [FMM] when FMM revealed that Germany had invaded Russia. Mentions going to Reading to swear the Oath of Allegiance. [00:06:38] Describes taking the Oath of Allegiance.  AG was accepted as a cadet and began University Short Course at Brasenose College, Oxford. Describes short course and mentions that Brasenose was based in Christ Church College. AG took rooms in Meadow Buildings. [00.08.16] Tells anecdote about meeting Lord Lindemann. [00:09:05] Discussion of AG’s parents’ jobs. AG’s father was a Professor of Physics. Mentions that mother studied English. Father volunteered to rejoin the army but was not fit enough. Describes father’s view of education. Father died in 1943. Describes father’s funeral and impact of his death. Describes father’s interest in mathematics. Discussion of father’s influence. Describes relationship with mother. Discussion of younger sister, sister’s children and grandchildren. Describes marrying local girl, Sonia [SG]. SG died in 2009. Had two children, Julian and Isobel. Describes Julian and Isobel’s lives. [00:15:54] Discussion of birthplace. Born at Surbiton. Describes being wheeled by nurse to look at fields. Remembers house lived in at age five. Describes moving to Teddington and starting at kindergarten. Describes how AG’s father wanted the best education for him and enrolled AG in a Roman Catholic school run by nuns. Remembers the state school opposite and the rivalry between the two. Recalls affection between AG and one of the nuns, Sister St. Benedict. Describes the different arrangements for Catholic and Protestant pupils at the school. [00:20:31] Discussion of next school. AG went to Denmead School, remarks that was badly behaved. Went to Kingston Grammar School, remarks that he enjoyed sport. Then went to St. Paul’s School. Discussion of AG’s academic prowess. AG had good school reports, but sport was greatest joy. Describes grandfather’s interest in cricket. Mentions enjoyment of football and rugby and disappointment that he was an adequate, not a natural, player. Describes friend Stuart Westgate [SW] who was a brilliant sportsman and tells story of SW asking AG for answers in exams. Describes knowing Denis Compton. [00:25:12] Discussion of education at St. Paul’s School. Recalls ‘Matric’ and ‘Higher’ exams. Describes doing well in Maths and regret that did not pursue English. Recalls studying anything of use to a military career. Mentions studying science and law at Oxford. [00:26:45] Discussion of University Short Course [USC]. Describes USC as a mixture of subjects. Describes first experience of politics as demonstration at Christ Church College against awful food. Mentions wrote an article for ‘The Brazen Nose’ magazine. Describes going into the army and the usefulness of AG’s school and university experience. Mentions basic training at Bovington and decision to specialise in tanks. Tells story of going to the War Office. Describes hellish training, respect for discipline and first meeting with Sergeant-Major. Mentions Pre-OCTU training (Pre-Officer Cadet Training Unit). Discussion of Sandhurst. Explains that some of those rejected from training were killed on D-Day. Describes training and sports at Sandhurst. Mentions famous Physical Training (PT) instructors at Sandhurst. Describes Sir Matt Busby and C. B. Holmes. Tells story of rugby match.  Tells story about the Regimental Sergeant-Major [RSM] at Sandhurst. [00:36:14] Discussion about duration of time at Sandhurst. Describes gaining commission and stationing in Morecambe. Describes hearing stories about the war in Europe. Mentions posting to Far East via a sea journey from Liverpool to Bombay. Remembers battle course in Snowdonia and posting in Pune. Describes first experience of race problems on a street in India. Mentions Operation Zipper and the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. [00:41:36] Mentions going to Singapore and Malaysia. Describes being sent into jungle to capture Japanese prisoners of war. Describes conditions in Singapore under the Japanese. Remarks that AG’s regiment was disbanded and that AG went back to the Carabiniers stationed on the North-West Frontier. [00:43:53] Describes responsibility for train journey from Madras to Bombay. [00:45:40] Describes four day train journey to North-West Frontier. Mentions Partition of India and appointment of Mountbatten as Viceroy of India. Describes heat. Mentions posting back to Singapore. Mentions murder of Gandhi. Describes train journey from Peshawar to Delhi and seeing Sikhs murdered. Describes the trial of Kempeitai members. [00:51:36] Mentions promotion to captain and appointment as Adjutant of the GHQ. Describes first trial as Adjutant. Describes trial of the Christmas Island prisoners. Describes meeting a man AG had prosecuted years later in London. Mentions that AG got good write-ups from his commanding officers [COs][00:56:00] Describes decision to pursue career in law. Qualified as a solicitor in 1952. Describes early career. Describes partnership in a City law firm. Mentions dissatisfaction with Attlee government. Mentions role as Young Conservatives chairman. [01:00:13]Discussion of meeting wife. Married in 1963. Describes becoming involved in 1950 general election campaign. Tells story of resignation of [Ian] Harvey as MP for Harrow East. Describes selection of Commander Courtney in Harrow East. Describes selection of AG in Hayes and Harlington. Long description of AG’s campaign in Hayes and Harlington in 1959 general election. Mentions that Arthur Skeffington held the seat. Mentions being put on candidates list. Tells story of Harold Macmillan visiting Hayes and Harlington and endorsing AG. Tells story of Commander Courtney scandal. [01:08:32] Mentions Pat Bishop wanted to resign as MP for Harrow Central. Describes speaking at Conservative Party conference in Llandudno. Mentions Sir John Fletcher-Cooke and Jill Knight. Describes selection for Harrow Central. Describes election addresses and importance of photographs to election campaign. [01:13:35] Mentions 1970 general election and first ministerial job. Describes role as Conservative whip under Willie Whitelaw [WW] and WW’s views of Conservative whips’ office. [01:16:12] Discussion of experience as new Member in the Commons. Tells story of Mark Carlisle and Francis Pym. Mentions 1964 general election and appointment of Alec Douglas-Home as leader of Conservative Party. Describes Conservative leadership campaign in 1963 and support for Alec Douglas-Home. Describes Conservative leadership campaign in 1965 and regrets support for Edward Heath. Mentions appointment by Heath as junior minister. Discussion of House Magazine article about AG and cartoon. [01:22:57] Describes abolition of Harrow Central seat by Boundary Commission. Mentions considered retirement. Describes view of role of MP. Mentions creation of Cambridgeshire South West seat. Mentions considered becoming Member of the European Parliament [MEP].  Describes MEP selection meeting. Describes selection in Cambridgeshire South West. Describes differences between Harrow Central and Cambridgeshire South West. Describes favourable view of parliamentary system. [01:28:25] Discussion of representation of constituents. Tells story of return to the Commons as MP for Cambridgeshire South West. Compares being MP for Cambridgeshire South West and MP for Harrow Central. Describes decision to leave the Commons in 1997. Tells story of discussing career with Peter Hordern. [01:32:37] Discussion of AG’s unfavourable view of current role of MP. Remarks on the professionalization of politics. Mentions position as Vice-Chair for Conservative candidates. Remarks on the MPs’ expenses scandal. Mentions role of Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher in expenses system. [01:37:02] Discussion on balance between constituency and ministerial role. Remarks that cannot be a full-time MP and a minister. Comments that MPs no longer resign. Tells story of 1975 European Community referendum campaign with Labour MP and Woodrow Wyatt.
Track 2 [00:58:15] Anthony Grant [AG] reads out letter he published on views on parliamentary candidate selection. [00:02:06] Discussion of impact on AG’s life of career as politician. Remarks that effect was profound, especially financially. Comments that he had paid for having fun and interest. [00:03:26] Discussion of funding of election campaigns. Mentions Maxwell Fyfe Report on Conservative Party Organisation. Remarks on Chips Channon’s [CC] diaries and CC giving money to constituents. Talks about declaration of campaign expenses. Tells story of Sir Stephen James McAdden and his Southend Conservative Association. Talks about Labour Party’s reliance on trade union funding. Remarks that he could not earn money outside Parliament. [00:06:51] Discussion of constituency party in Harrow Central and Cambridgeshire South West. Remarks that they were both very supportive, but very different. Talks about impact on Harrow Central of Ugandan refugees. Tells story of meeting with Hindu constituent who offered AG support. Story of meeting Asian supporters on 1970 general election day. Mentions admiration for Asian community in Harrow. Talks about Idi Amin and racism. [00:11:32] Discussion of local party and agent. Remarks that best majority in Harrow Central was four thousand and worst was fifteen hundred. Remarks that majority in Cambridgeshire South West was nineteen or twenty thousand. Describes village organisation of Cambridgeshire South West and agreeable change from Harrow seat. Mentions token Labour candidate in Cambridgeshire South West. [00:13:47] Discussion of campaigning. Mentions feeling fit, tiredness and driving. Remarks that was glad when campaign over. Describes how issues emerge and are narrowed down over a campaign. Mentions Churchill’s quotation about democracy. [00:15:57] Discussion of time as a minister. Remarks that enjoyed that time very much, but had little power. Mentions ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI]. Mentions Michael Noble (Lord Glenkinglas) as President of the Board of Trade. Remarks that Peter Walker [PW] joined the DTI as Secretary of State after a reshuffle. Mentions Michael Heseltine, Geoffrey Howe and Cranley Onslow. Talks about PW’s approach to ministerial meetings. Remarks that got on well with civil servants. Remarks that knew parliamentary party better than civil servants. Talks about parliamentary question time. [00:19:53] Describes bill committees as tedious. Talks about taking papers home and Question time. Mentions importance of timing in the House. Describes Francis Pym as Chief Whip winding up speeches. Remarks that took seven bills through the House. Remarks that last Private Member’s Bill became the Treasure Act. [00:22:03] Discussion of other committees. Describes party committees and the 1922 Committee. Mentions election to the 1922 Committee. [00:23:24] Mentions introduction of select committee system. Describes select committee process. [00:24:58] Mentions impact of television on parliamentary committees. Served on Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Trade and Industry Select Committee. Talks about Council of Europe and role as Chairman of the Council of Europe’s Finance Committee. Describes wanting to be Chairman of the Trade and Industry Select Committee. Tells story of Nicholas Winterton prevented from becoming Health Select Committee chairman. [00:27:41] Discussion of highlights of parliamentary career. Mentions first day at the Commons. Describes making maiden speech while Churchill was dying. Mentions first question time as a junior minister. Mentions winning a vote over a Labour majority of one hundred. Mentions Alec Douglas-Home going, Edward Heath’s defeat, Margaret Thatcher’s victory. Tells story of viewing of ‘The Day of the Jackal’ with John Stonehouse [JS] and of JS faking his own death. Mentions IRA bomb in the House of Commons. [00:33:10] Mentions killing of Airey Neave in the House of Commons car park. [00:33:49] Tells story of Welsh minister dying at the despatch box. [00:34:36] Mentions Norman Tebbit and Tom Swain fighting. [00:35:30] Tells story of parliamentary exchange with Harold Wilson. Describes Wilson’s descent into Alzheimer’s Disease. [00:38:00] Tells story of meeting Margaret Thatcher at Jeffrey Archer’s summer party in 2009. Describes Margaret Thatcher’s poor health. Mentions Dennis Thatcher. Discussion of film ‘The Iron Lady’. [00:40:09] Describes relationship with Margaret Thatcher [MT]. Mentions that MT had no sense of humour. Mentions Barbara Castle. Looks for letter from MT. [00:45:08] Describes admiration for Iain Macleod. [00:46:37] Tells story of Bill Elliott seeing Reggie Maudling [RM] in the Commons Smoking Room after RM’s defeat to Edward Heath in the 1965 Conservative leadership election. [00:47:52] Tells story of parliamentary office allocation and colleague who did not want to share with Edwina Currie. [00:50:06] Describes parliamentary office near St. Stephen’s Entrance of House of Commons. Describes view of State Opening of Parliament and of demonstrations. [00:51:12] Describes staffing arrangements. Mentions shared a secretary with Marcus Fox. Describes friendship with last secretary. [00:53:38] Discussion of life after Parliament. Remarks that was fairly easy adjustment. Mentions stayed on in South West Cambridgeshire after 1997. [00:54:56] Long description of wife’s illness and death. [00:57:36] Remarks that wife’s contribution to career was seventy per cent.