Thatcher's 'quiet hero' dies at 88

Former British finance and foreign minister suffers suspected heart attack

Lord Geoffrey Howe died on Friday at home after attending a jazz concert with his wife.
Lord Geoffrey Howe died on Friday at home after attending a jazz concert with his wife.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Former British finance minister Lord Geoffrey Howe has died at the age of 88, the BBC reported yesterday.

Mr Howe, who was also a former foreign secretary, died late on Friday after suffering a suspected heart attack, the BBC said, citing his family.

He was the longest-serving Cabinet minister in Lady Margaret Thatcher's government.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Mr Howe, who served as finance minister - or Chancellor of the Exchequer - from 1979 to 1983, saying he was "the quiet hero" of Margaret Thatcher's first government.

"His time as chancellor of the exchequer was vital in turning the fortunes of our country around, cutting borrowing, lowering tax rates and conquering inflation," he said. "Lifting exchange controls may seem obvious now, but it was revolutionary back then."

Mr Howe was born Richard Edward Geoffrey Howe in Port Talbot, South Wales, on Dec 20, 1926.

His father was a solicitor who was also the local coroner.

Mr Howe served as foreign secretary from 1983 to 1989.

He was at the Foreign Office for the second-longest period of the 20th century, the BBC said.

"Possessed of an owlish gaze and courteous manner, he was seen as an effective if somewhat plodding member of the Thatcher administration," the British broadcaster said.

"It was therefore something of an irony that it was his measured tones that precipitated the downfall of one of the highest-profile prime ministers in British history."

His resignation speech in 1990 was widely seen as a central factor in Lady Thatcher's downfall as prime minister. Mr Howe remained prominent in British politics. He took a high-profile role in the battle against Mr Tony Blair's attempts to diminish the power of the House of Lords, the BBC said.

Mr Howe died at his home in Warwickshire after attending a jazz concert with his wife Elspeth.

The BBC quoted a statement as saying: "There will be a private family funeral, followed by a memorial service in due course. The family would be grateful for privacy at this time."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Thatcher's 'quiet hero' dies at 88'. Subscribe