Profile: Michael Ancram

Michael Amcram's illustrious political career was badly damaged by the expenses scandal. He quits parliament at the next election.

By Liz Stephens

Former Tory party chairman Michael Ancram has announced he will step down at the next election.

Ancram has had an illustrious political career but his reputation received a battering recently after it emerged he had charged the taxpayer for repairs to his swimming pool.

He has been involved in politics for 35 years - prior to that he was a practising barrister. He has a hereditary title as the Earl of Ancram but he dropped the title after becoming a lawyer, because he believed it might confuse the jury if the judge called him "My Lord". He is said to prefer the nickname "Crumb".

Ancram is only the third person to have sat in the House of Commons whilst simultaneously being a hereditary peer. He does not, however, have the right to sit in the Lords thanks to the House of Lords Act of 1999.

His first election victory was the seat of Berwickshire and East Lothian in 1974 - he became the first Conservative Catholic Scottish MP since the Reformation.

He also has the distinction of beating current prime minister Gordon Brown to be MP for Edinburgh South in the 1979 election.

He became MP for Devizes in 1992 and his seat is one of the safest in the country, with a majority of nearly 11,000.

As minister for Northern Ireland he was the first British minister to meet with Sinn Fein and the IRA for 25 years. He was chair of the Conservative party from 1998 to 2001 when he resigned his position to contest the leadership election. He came last. Ancram also contested the leadership election of 2005 and lost again. He stood down from the shadow cabinet after this.

Despite being a founding signatory of the Henry Jackson Society principles, which advocate spreading liberal democracy world-wide, and by military force if necessary, he was one of the first senior Tories to call for British troops to withdraw from Iraq in 2006.

Earlier this year it was revealed by the Daily Telegraph that he had submitted expenses claims running to thousands of pounds for gardening and cleaning at his country house, for repairing the boiler for his swimming pool, and for servicing his Aga.

He agreed to pay back the swimming pool charges but insisted that "none of the other items were extravagant or luxurious." The Ancram family have a property portfolio of £8 million. Much of it is in the name of his wife, Jane who is the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.

Mr Ancram said the decision to end his parliamentary career was taken for medical reasons.


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