British Conservative politician, born in Scotland. As secretary of state for Northern Ireland, he introduced the concept of power sharing. He was chief Conservative whip 1964–70, and leader of the House of Commons 1970–72. He became secretary of state for employment 1973–74, but failed to conciliate the trade unions. He was chair of the Conservative Party in 1974 and home secretary 1979–83, when he was made a peer. Lord Whitelaw occupied the posts of Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Lords 1983–87.
Whitelaw was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge. A farmer and landowner, he was first elected Conservative MP for Penrith and Border in 1955. He became a government whip in 1959 and was parliamentary secretary in the ministry of labour 1962–64. From 1964 to 1970 he was opposition chief whip, becoming Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Commons in 1970. In 1972 he became secretary of state for Northern Ireland, following suspension of the Stormont parliament and the imposition of direct rule from Westminster.
He made strenuous efforts to secure a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland: the ‘no-go’ areas of Belfast and Londonderry were cleared and a constitutional settlement appeared to have been reached between the Unionist Party and the SDLP at the Sunningdale Conference of 1973, but the agreement was to break down later.
Prior to the miners' strike of 1974 he was appointed secretary of state for employment, but was unable to avert the strike. In 1975 he unsuccessfully contested the Conservative leadership.
His autobiography The Whitelaw Memoirs was published in 1989.
The first secretary of state for Northern Ireland (1972-3). Popularly known as ‘Willie’ and a brilliant negotiator, he came within a...
It is never wise to try to appear to be more clever than you are. It is sometimes wise to appear slightly less so. The...