Peter Temple-Morris, the original founder of the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body and who resigned from the Conservative Party over its initial failure to support the Good Friday Agreement and because of its anti-Europeanism, died last week aged 80.
Peter, who was known as Lord Temple-Morris in the House of Lords, had been the quintessential One Nation Tory MP and barrister for much of his career until, in 1997, he could take no more of his party’s increasing lurch to the right and anti-European English nationalism. From 1997-98 he sat on the government Labour benches but did not take the whip instead sitting as a one-man ‘Independent One-Nation Conservative’ group.
On Saturday 20 June 1998 he joined the Labour Party having sat for 24 years as a Tory MP. Mindful he had been elected to a traditionally Tory seat he stood down as an MP at the 2001 General Election.
He was made a life peer on 22 June 2001 as Baron Temple-Morris of Llandaff in the County of South Glamorgan and of Leominster in the County of Herefordshire and sat as a Labour peer.
The late Martin McGuinness described him as “one of the most honourable British politicians I have ever met”.
Former Taoiseach and co-architect of the Good Friday Agreement Bertie Ahern called him: “A key player in the work of delivering peace.”
In the 1980s, at the height of so-called megaphone diplomacy between Margaret Thatcher’s government and Dublin – despite the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement – he came up with the idea of getting British and Irish backbenchers talking to each other face to face to earn each other’s confidence. Out of that was born the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body which, although initially derided as little more than “talking shop”, succeeded in cutting through the mutual demonisation generated by the tabloids and even generated some unlikely personal and political friendships.
Its successor is the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly whose Irish and UK co-chairs, Sean Crowe TD and Andrew Rosindell MP, paid tribute to him in a joint statement: “It is with deep regret that we hear of the passing of Lord Peter Temple-Morris. Playing a vital role in the establishment of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in 1990, he recognised that in the difficult times of the Troubles the way forward was dialogue.
“As first UK co-chair, he helped foster closer relations between our parliaments and enabled us to look at the issues facing our islands together.
“We aim to continue his work and to ensure that all parliaments and assemblies in the UK and Ireland work for closer understanding.
“Peter was a dedicated and much-respected politician, and our thoughts are with his family.”
Two years ago he published he published his memoirs, Across the Floor: A Life in Dissenting Politics in which the longtime one-nation Tory and supporter and ally of Michael Heseltine admitted of Margaret Thatcher: “She was not my type, nor did she ever share my politics … I could not stand being lectured and hectored by someone who would not let you get a word in edgeways.”
He said had the once pro-European party into which he had been born and served for so many years not taken such a lurch to right-wing, anti- Europeanism: “I would not have been a rebel but rather a team player, stayed longer at the bar and then used the Commons for advancement as opportunities arose. This would have meant a totally different life and probably a less enjoyable one, even if I had gained high office.”
In 1964 he married his beloved wife Taheré Khozeimé-Alam who instilled in him a life-ling interest in Iranian affairs. They had two daughters and two sons. His death was announced in the Lords by Lord Speaker Lord Fowler, his life-long friend dating back to their student days in Cambridge and the university’s Conservative Association. He paid tribute to “his very good friend” and offered condolences to his family.
• Peter Temple-Morris, Lord Temple-Morris, born 12 February 1938; died 1 May 2018 RIP