Tuesday, April 04, 2023
LONDON: Nigel Lawson, a former British finance minister who was an architect of Margaret “Thatcher's economic reforms but fell out with her over what would become the European Union, has died at the age of 91, British media reported on Monday.
Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, Lawson championed lower personal taxes, wider share ownership and free market economics, forming the backbone of Thatcher's vision for Britain.
But he was ultimately blamed for failing to control a boom that ended in a surge in interest rates and a deep recession.
"I misjudged the strength of the boom," Lawson said in a 1992 interview with the Guardian newspaper. “Optimism on the whole is a good thing, much better than pessimism, much better than gloom. But ... things went too far."
Lawson's resignation in October 1989, after years of disagreement with Thatcher on key aspects of policy - especially over Europe - plunged her Conservative government into a crisis from which it did not recover until she resigned a year later.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Lawson as "a fearless and original flame of free market Conservatism" and a fellow supporter of Britain's departure from the EU.
"He was a prophet of Brexit and a lover of continental Europe. He was a giant," Johnson said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the Conservative Party grandee - the son of a well-to-do tea merchant, who studied at London's elite Westminster School and Oxford University - as a "transformational Chancellor and an inspiration".
Lawson's time in government was marked by the economic boom of the 1980s and the growing tension over Britain's relationship with the European Community, which became the EU.
His opposition to the plans of the bloc for closer economic union worsened splits in the Conservative Party over the issue.
Lawson was often publicly at odds with Thatcher's personal economic adviser, Alan Walters, especially on his policy of using interest rates to allow the pound to shadow the German mark before Britain's entry into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), the currency system Walters opposed.
Lawson bowed out of front-line politics in 1992 but remained a critic of John Major who succeeded him as finance minister and went on to become prime minister. Lawson sat in the House of Lords for 30 years.
A journalist with the Financial Times and the Sunday Telegraph before entering politics, he had six children including the television chef and writer Nigella, and the journalist Dominic.