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Rhodes Boyson

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Rhodes Boyson
Boyson on After Dark in 1989
Minister of State for Local Government
In office
10 September 1986 – 13 June 1987
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byWilliam Waldegrave
Succeeded byMichael Howard
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
In office
11 September 1984 – 10 September 1986
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Earl of Mansfield
Succeeded byNicholas Scott
Minister of State for Social Security
In office
13 June 1983 – 11 September 1984
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byHugh Rossi
Succeeded byTony Newton
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
7 May 1979 – 12 June 1983
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byMargaret Jackson
Succeeded byBob Dunn
Member of Parliament
for Brent North
In office
28 February 1974 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byBarry Gardiner
Personal details
Rhodes Boyson

(1925-05-11)11 May 1925
Haslingden, Lancashire, England
Died28 August 2012(2012-08-28) (aged 87)
Harefield, London, England
Political partyConservative
Other political
Labour (before 1964)
Violet Burleston
(m. 1946; div. 1971)
Florette MacFarlane
(m. 1971)
Children2 (by Burleston)
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Navy

Sir Rhodes Boyson (11 May 1925 – 28 August 2012) was an English educator, author and Conservative Party politician who served as Member of Parliament for Brent North. He was knighted and made a member of the Privy Council in 1987.

Early life[edit]

Born in Haslingden, Lancashire, the son of cotton-spinner and Alderman William Boyson MBE JP, and his wife Bertha,[1] Rhodes Boyson was educated at Haslingden Grammar School, University College Cardiff, the University of Manchester, the London School of Economics, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

He was awarded a PhD in 1967 by London University, his thesis being on Henry Ashworth, a Victorian Lancashire cotton manufacturer, brother-in-law of Richard Cobden, and a Radical campaigner who also had a reputation as a model employer. It was published in 1970 by Oxford University Press as The Ashworth Cotton Enterprise. The Rise and Fall of a Factory Firm. 1818–1880.[2]

Early career[edit]

Called up towards the end of the Second World War, Boyson served with the Royal Navy, based in India at the time of Independence, and from his late 20s, he was a Methodist lay preacher.

He became a teacher in 1950, and later a head teacher, first at Lea Bank Secondary Modern School in Cloughfold, Rossendale (1955–61), then at Robert Montefiore Secondary School, Stepney, London (1961–66),[3] and finally from 1967 to 1974 at Highbury Grove School, a new all-boys' comprehensive in Islington, North London, of which he was the founding head teacher; in this capacity, and subsequently as an MP, he was outspoken in support of the retention of corporal punishment in British schools. He opposed what he perceived to be lax discipline, both in modern education and in the wider society, and at Highbury Grove he introduced an unfashionably traditional regime, with strictly enforced uniforms, caning for misbehaviour, and a house system. He said that this proved so popular with local parents that the school was consistently oversubscribed.[4]

From 1957 to 1961, Boyson was a Labour councillor in Haslingden, where his father was at that time a Labour alderman and had been a trade union secretary. His father was a cotton spinner, and had been imprisoned as a conscientious objector in the First World War.

Boyson left the Labour Party in 1964, joining the Conservative Party three years later.[5] He later wrote:

My own move to Conservative party membership arose from the effect of my research into the cotton industry and the Manchester school of liberal economic philosophy. Here was a body of men who believed that a free enterprise economy was not only efficient but brought moral growth to all men. The employer risked his capital on his judgement and must care for his workers as part of his stock in trade, and the workers would be enabled to become prosperous and through their own industry, thrift and moral courage could establish their own business enterprises and their personal independence to the advantage of themselves, their families and society. Cobden had a moral view of society and believed that free enterprise would not only bring prosperity but social harmony at home and peace abroad within a system of universal free trade.[6]

In 1977, he was co-author (with Brian Cox) of one of the series of Black Papers on education,[7] criticising many aspects of the comprehensive schools system.

Boyson was a severe critic of what he regarded as the influence of "mindless sociologists" who produced "mush which has corrupted the national character", noting in 1978 that; "it has not gone unnoticed that crime has increased parallel with the number of social workers". The Daily Mirror responded with an editorial comment "that crime has also increased parallel with speeches from Dr. Boyson".[8]

He served as chairman of the National Council for Educational Standards.

Parliamentary career[edit]

Appearing with Margaret Simey on the Channel 4 programme After Dark in 1989

Having stood unsuccessfully at Eccles in 1970, Boyson was first elected to the House of Commons in February 1974 for Brent North, and was Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science 1979–1983. In this capacity he sought to uphold schools' right to use the cane, and was nicknamed the "Minister for Flogging" by the anti-corporal-punishment campaign STOPP.[citation needed] He was Minister of State for Social Security 1983–1984, for Northern Ireland 1984–1986 and for Local Government 1986–1987.

Boyson was a strong opponent of homosexuality,[9] and a supporter of Section 28. He said:

It is wrong biblically, is homosexuality. It is unnatural. AIDS is part of the fruits of the permissive society. The regular one-man, one-woman marriage would not put us at risk in this way. If we could wipe out homosexual practices, then Aids would die out.[10]

Boyson was a supporter of the Conservative Monday Club and frequently addressed them.[11] At the Conservative Party Annual Conference at Blackpool on 10 October 1991 he was the principal speaker at a Club fringe meeting on the subject of A Conservative Revolution in Education.

In 1994, he appeared on the BBC topical panel TV show Have I Got News for You. He also appeared on Brass Eye[12] and was an early interviewee of Ali G.[13]

Boyson lost his Brent North seat in the Labour landslide of 1997, his 24% majority turning to a 10% majority for the opposition, partly because of his perceived lack of commitment to the campaign to retain Edgware General Hospital;[citation needed] in 2001, the seat, no longer contested by Boyson, swung a further 9% to Labour.

Personal life[edit]

Distinctive personal features were his mutton chop whiskers and strong Lancashire accent. The whiskers dated from an occasion when he rebuked pupils for having long hair at the school where he was headmaster: the students retorted jokingly, "Why don't you grow your hair, Sir, if we cut ours."[14]

In 2007, he received an honorary degree from the University of Buckingham.[15]

Boyson married Violet Burletson in 1946, and they had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1971, after which he married Florette MacFarlane,[16] a teacher.[17] He and his second wife lived in Pinner, northwest London,[citation needed] until he moved into Cedar House nursing home in Harefield, where he died aged 87.[16] He left more than £2,000,000 in his will, the majority of it going to his widow.[18] She died in 2018.[19]


  1. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/aug/30/rhodes-boyson
  2. ^ Robert Eccleshall, English Conservatism Since The Restoration. An Introduction and Anthology (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), p. 229.
  3. ^ "BOYSON, Rt Hon. Sir Rhodes," Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008.
  4. ^ Boyson, Rhodes, Oversubscribed: The Story of Highbury Grove School, London, 1974. ISBN 0-7062-3385-9
  5. ^ Eccleshall, p. 229.
  6. ^ Eccleshall, pp. 230–231.
  7. ^ Cox, C.B.; Boyson, Rhodes. "Black Paper 1977: Fight for Education", Critical Quarterly, 1234.
  8. ^ Pearson, Geoffrey, Hooligan: A history of respectable fears, Macmillan Education, 1983.
  9. ^ "Prohibition On Promoting Homosexuality By Teaching Or By Publishing Material - Tuesday 15 December 1987 - Hansard - UK Parliament". hansard.parliament.uk.
  10. ^ The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life, Jeffrey Weeks, Routledge, 2007. ISBN 1134101759 (p. 99).
  11. ^ Moshe Maor (10 August 2005). Political Parties and Party Systems: Comparative Approaches and the British Experience. Routledge. p. 205. ISBN 978-1-134-89008-8.
  12. ^ "Rhodes Boyson". IMDb.
  13. ^ "Early Ali G Interview Sir Rhodes Boyson". YouTube. 3 December 2006. Archived from the original on 30 August 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Last Word, BBC Radio 4". BBC. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2012.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Honorary Degree for Sir Rhodes Boyson, The Independent, University of Buckingham, Winter 2007
  16. ^ a b "Sir Rhodes Boyson". The Telegraph. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  17. ^ Obituary, The Guardian, 31 August 2012.
  18. ^ "Ex-MP Rhodes Boyson's £2m". 3 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Florette BOYSON Obituary (2018) - London Bridge, City of London - The Times". www.legacy.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boyson, Rhodes, Centre Forward – A Radical Conservative Programme, Temple Smith, London, 1978. ISBN 0-85117-148-6
  • Boyson, Rhodes, Oversubscribed: The Story of Highbury Grove School, Ward Lock Educational, London, 1974. ISBN 0-7062-3385-9
  • Boyson, Rhodes, Speaking My Mind, Peter Owen, London, 1995. ISBN 0-7206-0983-6
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1991, 172 edition, East Sussex, ISBN 0-905702-17-4.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Brent North
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of State for Social Security (Minister for the Disabled)
Succeeded by