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Geoffrey Howe, old ally to Margaret Thatcher, has died

Howe, former chancellor of the exchequer among other things, has died from a heart attack aged 88.

Geoffrey Howe in 2013
Geoffrey Howe in 2013
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

FORMER BRITISH CHANCELLOR Geoffrey Howe, a prominent figure in Margaret Thatcher’s government who helped bring about her downfall after they parted ways over policy towards Europe, has died aged 88.

Howe died suddenly of a suspected heart attack yesterday at his home in Warwickshire, north of London, after returning from a jazz concert with his wife Elspeth, his family said.

Current Tory Prime Minister David Cameron called Howe “the quiet hero of the first Thatcher government” that held power from 1979 until 1990.

He praised Howe as a “kind, gentle and deeply thoughtful man” who nonetheless had “huge courage and resolve.” He singled out Howe’s action to lift exchange controls in the early 1980s as a crucial move that helped save Britain’s economy.

“(He) was vital in turning the fortunes of our country around, cutting borrowing, lowering tax rates and conquering inflation,” Cameron said. “Lifting exchange controls may seem obvious now, but it was revolutionary back then.”

Howe was Thatcher’s longest-serving Cabinet minister but also helped to end her time in office with a critical speech in 1990 as he was resigning from Parliament after a series of policy disagreements with her.

Britain Obit Howe _Acos (1) Howe in October 1981 Source: AP

In a dramatic speech, Howe accused Thatcher of undermining economic and monetary policies that had been supported by her Cabinet and the Bank of England chief. He called on other Conservatives to reconsider their backing for Thatcher, who was seen as increasingly imperious after being in power for more than a decade.

He used a famous cricket comparison that has since become part of Britain’s political lexicon to describe Thatcher’s tactics.

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Britain Obit Howe _Acos (2) With the famous red budget box in 1980 Source: AP

“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.

Britain Obit Howe _Acos With Margaret Thatcher and George Bush Sr in 1984 Source: AP

Thatcher resigned three weeks later after losing the Conservatives’ backing.

Howe was chancellor of the exchequer from 1979 until 1983, and later served in many senior positions, including deputy prime minister. He was a member of the House of Lords.

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