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Tory veterans lead tributes to 'brilliant' Geoffrey Howe

By David Wilcock

Published 12/10/2015

Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe fell out over European policy
Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe fell out over European policy

Geoffrey Howe, the minister whose devastating resignation speech effectively ended Margaret Thatcher's premiership, has been hailed by his former colleagues after his death, aged 88.

Lord Howe was Baroness Thatcher's longest-serving Cabinet minister and their close partnership was crucial to many of her economic reforms.

But tensions over Europe eventually drove him to quit the government in November 1990, famously deploying a cricketing simile in his parting shot in the House of Commons.

In his devastating departure speech in the Commons, he criticised Mrs Thatcher for undermining policies on economic and monetary union in Europe that were backed by her colleagues and the Governor of the Bank of England. "It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain," he declared.

Lady Thatcher was forced to resign shortly after his speech - contradicting Denis Healey's memorable 1978 jibe that coming under fire from Howe was like being "savaged by a dead sheep".

David Cameron described Lord Howe as a "kind, gentle and deeply thoughtful man" who had "never stopped giving strong and sound advice".

Chancellor George Osborne said: "I will miss Geoffrey Howe. He was a great source of advice to me; a quietly-spoken radical, whose bitterly contested budgets rescued Britain."

Former chancellor Lord Lamont said he was "deeply saddened".

He added: "He was a truly brilliant Chancellor of the Exchequer. Behind the quiet, unassuming demeanour there was steely determination, dogged consistency and a sense of direction."

Another ex-chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, was parliamentary private secretary to Lord Howe in the 1970s Heath government.

He told the BBC: "I have regarded myself as an acolyte of Geoffrey Howe throughout my career - free market economics, a special conscience, internationalism, pro-European - and I always admired his pleasant demeanour, his unflappability as well as his steely resolve and his very, very good mind."

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