Sir Teddy Taylor: populist Tory MP and Eurosceptic who was a thorn in the side of successive leaders

Sir Teddy Taylor, who has died aged 80, was the Conservative MP whose fervent Euroscepticism cost him his post as a Scottish Office Minister in 1971, when Edward Heath decided to take Britain into Europe. Such was his disdain for the idea of the country joining the European Economic Community that he chose to resign rather than remain in Heath’s government.

But this would not be the last time Taylor clashed with the leadership of his party over the issue of Europe. In 1994, eight Tories – including Taylor – had their whip withdrawn by John Major for refusing to support votes on the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty. With a Conservative majority of just seven seats, the “whipless eight” potentially held, for a short time at least, considerable power. Heath, by now a backbencher but still fiercely supporting his pro-EU position, even went as far to suggest that “If they want an election on Maastricht, they can form their own party”.

The following year, Taylor voted for the equally Eurosceptic John Redwood, in preference to John Major, in the party’s leadership election. Taylor remained consigned to the backbenches, whence he maintained his disdain for the European project.

Edward Taylor was born in Glasgow in 1937 and educated at Glasgow High School and Glasgow University, where he joined the Scottish Unionist Party, later to become the Conservative Party. He had initially worked as a journalist before turning his focus to politics. 

Taylor with his wife Sheila and their sons the House of Commons in 1980 (Getty)

Taylor first ran for election to the Glasgow Springburn constituency in 1959 but lost against Labour’s John Forman. He won at Glasgow Cathcart in 1964, becoming the youngest MP in the house, aged just 26. He soon gained a reputation for his formidable memory for facts and figures, outspokenness and consistency of his opinions.

As a staunch advocate of capital punishment, he sought in 1974 to introduce a bill to restore the death sentence that had been abolished nine years earlier. When, the following year, a police officer in London was murdered by an IRA gunman, Taylor again insisted that “the answer was return of capital punishment”.

A popular MP, who was re-elected four times to Glasgow Cathcart, Taylor was eventually defeated in the 1979 general election by Labour’s John Maxton. He stood again in 1980, this time at the Southend East by-election, and won. He remained MP for this constituency…

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