STEWART, Allan (1942-2016).



East Renfrewshire
3 May 1979 - 9 June 1983
9 June 1983 - 1 May 1997


Stewart was born in St Andrews on 1 June 1942 and later attended University in the city before spending a year at Harvard. He returned to Scotland and became a lecturer in Political Economy in St Andrews before embarking on a political career. In 1973 he married Susie Gourlay and they had two children.

First a member of the Liberal party, Stewart was convinced by a Conservative councillor that his liberal economic views were best suited to the Conservative party, which he joined in 1967. He unsuccessfully contested Dundee East in 1970 and briefly became a councillor in London before winning East Renfrewshire in 1979. In 1983 the seat became Eastwood which Stewart held until 1997. Stewart served as a PPS in 1981 and held junior ministerial posts in the Scottish office under Thatcher and Major.

Following an incident with demonstrators in 1995 Stewart suffered a nervous breakdown, in part due to problems with alcohol. Following treatment he retired from politics in 1997, and died in December 2017.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Allan Stewart in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

You can disagree with somebody, but you have respect for them. I, and I think people in the House of Commons generally, believe in politics. I believe that there’s only two ways to run society: you either run society by politicians or by men with sub-machine guns, there’s no other way. So I have a great respect for the process of politics, and therefore for people that practice it. Now that’s not a very fashionable [opinion]. The fashionable thing is to attack politicians and say they’re all in it for themselves, and so on. And some of them are, but generally that’s not true. Generally they are there because they believe in things, and/or because they believe in the process of politics.

Summary of interview

Track 1 [1:17:30] [Session one: 2 August 2013]  John Allan Stewart [JAS], born St Andrews, 1942.  Description of early life in market town of Cupar in Fife.  Mentions father absent until 1945 as serving in RAF.  Description of happy upbringing and family life.  Discusses education; father a teacher at Dundee High School.  Discusses memories of specific teachers at secondary school; performance in particular subjects mentioned.  Discusses extra-curricular school activities in debating society and rugby team.  Discussion of health problems; absent with bronchitis.  Description of individual school friends: Derek Barrie, subsequently Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Party and Councillor in Fife; John Todd, later a doctor in Edinburgh; Lindsay Gibson. Description of early interest in politics.  Comments on the politics of his parents, described as Liberal Unionists; parents not members of a political party.  Mentions that interest in politics overlapped with membership of debating society; not a member of a political party at school.  [07:17]  Description of JAS going to University of St Andrews to study Political Economy in 1960; explanation of choice of degree subject.  Description of involvement in student politics; comments on joining Student Representative Council, becomes President of that body 1962-63.  Description of joining Liberal Party under the influence of Willis Pickard (later editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement in Scotland).  Mentions lack of interest in Conservative politics at University. Description of relation between academic studies in economics and political outlook; influence of classical liberalism.  Description of postgraduate scholarship year in the United States at Harvard University between 1964 and 1965.  JAS mentions attendance at Barry Goldwater Republican Party rally.  Description of ease with which JAS able to find an academic position after completion of studies in 1965.  [17:25]  Description of academic career as lecturer at University of St Andrews; comments on position as warden in student accommodation.  Discussion of academic research in economics.  Description of JAS becoming disaffected with Liberal Party.  Comments that Douglas Mason [DM], a local Councillor in Glenrothes, Fife, convinced JAS that economic liberals belonged in the Conservative Party.  Comments that this argument convinced him to join Conservative Party in 1967.  [23:25]  Description of taking new position in London as Head of Regional Development at the CBI (Confederation of British Industries).  Brief description of parliamentary candidacy in Dundee East in June 1970. Description of career at CBI.  Discussion of return to Scotland in 1978.  Description of election as local Councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and election campaigning.  Comments on learning to use students to distribute leaflets.  [28:13]  Description of selection process for parliamentary candidacy in Dundee East in 1970.  Description of election campaign; comments again on use of students in campaign.  Description of selection as Conservative candidate for East Renfrewshire (later Eastwood) at 1979 General Election.  Comments on selection process during 1978.  Discussion of efforts of Reg Prentice (ex-Labour Party) to secure nomination and resultant media attention.  Discussion of relationship with predecessor as MP, Betty Harvie Anderson.  Description of constituency party and local politics in East Renfrewshire.  [38:26]  Description of the 1979 General Election campaign.  Comments on dominance of national issues in campaign.  Discussion of relationship with constituency party and campaign finance.  [43:35]  Description of first impressions of the House of Commons and life as an MP.  Discussion of importance of having a ‘pair’ for Scottish members; comment on resultant relationship with Norman Hogg, Labour MP for Cumbernauld.  Description of other Members of the Common who particularly impressed JAS.  Discussion of relationship with MPs from other parties, especially Dennis Canavan, Donald Dewar and Tam Dalyell.  Discussion of relationship between MPs from Scotland.  [51:50]  Description of social life at the House of Commons.  Description of the atmosphere in the House of Commons during debates.  Description of travel arrangements as a Scottish MP.  Discussion of support available for MPs at the House of Commons.  Discussion of difficulty in balancing constituency and parliamentary work.  Comment that unable to attend constituency party meetings due to parliamentary commitments.  Brief discussion of parliamentary committees on which JAS served.  Description of constituency work and the difficulties facing MPs.  Comment on the use MPs can make of the media.  Discussion of broader relationship with the media.  Description of importance which JAS attached to speaking in the House of Commons.  [1:03:45]  Description of the impact that becoming an MP had on family and personal life.  Discussion of residence and office arrangements in the Commons and at constituency level.  Description of interests and employment outside Parliament during time as an MP.  [1:07:46]  Description of changing relationship between JAS and constituency party in Eastwood, with particular reference to the impact of disquiet over the issue of local rates.  Comment on the role of the press in constituency politics.  Description of how JAS organised surgeries in the constituency.  Comment on the difficulties that arose.  [1:13:54]  Description of advice and assistance received by JAS from other MPs.  Description of relationship with Conservative Party Whips.  Comment on specific incident where JAS voted against the government.  Discussion of friendships within the Conservative Party.

Track 2 [0:27:52] [Session one: 2 August 2013]  Discussion of how friendships with other Conservative MPs changed between 1979 and 1997.  Comment on prevalence of friendships and respect between Members of Parliament from different political parties.  Discussion of changing social and educational background of Members during JAS’s time in Parliament.  [04:31]  Description of the 1992 General Election campaign and result, and the success of JAS in increasing his majority in Eastwood.  Discussion of the resignation of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.  JAS comments that he considered resigning over the issue of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.  [06:42]  Description of MPs whom JAS was particularly impressed by in Parliament; mentions both Tam Dalyell and Robin Cook.  [08:41]  Description of ministerial career of JAS; appointment as junior Minister at the Scottish Office in 1981.  Discussion of how ministerial role affected relationship with other MPs.  Discussion of relationship between the government and Parliament; difficulties for the Conservative Party in Scotland.  Description of difference between Scottish Questions in the Commons and appearing before a select committee.  Comment that former highly political in comparison to the latter.  Discussion of difficulties in presenting government policy in the House of Commons.  Description of relationship with civil servants at the Scottish Office.  Comment on specific problems; suggestion that civil servants can be resistant to change.  Discussion of ministerial career between 1981 and 1986, and 1990 and 1995.  Comment that JAS did not enjoy first period of ministerial office.  Description of health problems suffered by JAS; advised to decline ministerial office by doctor between 1986 and 1990.  [22:30]  Description of reasons for JAS declining to stand for re-election as MP for Eastwood at 1997 General Election.  Discussion of personal issues behind this decision.  Discussion of how JAS has adjusted to life outside Parliament.  Description of what JAS considers to be the achievements in Parliament of which he is proudest; specifically mentions the reorganisation of Scottish local government in 1995.