PRICE, Sir David (1924-2014).



26 May 1955 - 9 April 1992


Sir David Price was born in London on 20 November 1924 and attended Eton. He won a scholarship to Cambridge which was interrupted by the Second World War, when he served in the Scots Guards as a staff officer in Trieste. On his return he read history at Trinity College, Cambridge and became president of the Cambridge Union in 1948, and spent a year in Yale. He became an economist and married Rosemary Evelyn in 1960, they have one daughter. Rosemary suffered an accident in 1964 which led to Sir David’s political interest in disability.

Price was shortlisted for Grantham before becoming the first (Conservative) MP for the new seat of Eastleigh in 1955. In his own eyes a ‘radical Tory’, he held junior ministerial posts in the board of Trade, before becoming opposition spokesman on education and science in 1964. He returned to a government in 1971, as a junior minister for aerospace. Sir David held his seat in Eastleigh until his retirement in 1992, and died in January 2014.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Sir David Price in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

During all my time, there was a gradual liberalisation of what were late Victorian impediments on freedom and behaviour. I’m talking about all the questions of homosexuality, the question of penal sanctions, flogging, capital punishment. The interesting thing is between being severe or being lenient, is not, in my view, a steady state with any English voter. It varies, according to his [mood] and how it’s presented by the press. At one point they may be screaming “hang this man, this rapist”. If they were going to hang him, four months later there’s a great plea to save his life. You’re trying to respond to your constituents, but how consistent are the constituents? How clear are you which is the right way to go? On these sort of issues you’d often get a big division between the so-called experts and the mass of the ordinary voter.

Summary of interview

C1503/0019 – David Price
This interview consists of four tracks.
Track 1 – introduction/test
Track 2
[00:15] Comments on World War II, Home Guard, and school at Eton. [01:56] Recruitment into Army and deployment to Italy. [03:20]Comments on campaigning in Italy and terrain. [04:29] End of war move to Staff Officer at Trieste preparing defences against possible Tito attack. [05:17] Comments on Cambridge University education and beginning to become involved in politics through Cambridge Union. [07:51] Story about Cambridge Union appearing in Press. [08:18] Fellowship to Yale and story of going to America. [09:40] Motivation for getting into politics. [10:20] Story about causalities and friends in Italy campaign, Robin Howard dance company. [11:50] Comments on social experience of war and motivation for going into politics. [12:30] Denial of politics in the army and 1945 election. [14:00] Going to the Brighton Conservative Conference and involvement with Conservative Students Society as Vice President. [14:45] Impressions of conference. [15:30] Story of getting job at ICI and ‘work study.’ [17:30] Work as an assistant for Vice-Chairman and Chairman. [20:00] Story of 1951 election campaign in Pembrokeshire. [20:48] Remarks on Conservative College at Swinton and driving. [22:20]Comments on Industry and politics.[23:10] Selection by Eastleigh constituency and 1955 campaign. Description of constituency. [26:25] Comments on relationship with local government and change to boundaries. [27:20] Remarks on nature of 1955 campaign meetings and change. [30:00] Comments on Conservative Agents. [31:30] Relationship with constituency party and visits to the constituency. [33:20] Effect of population growth on constituencies and community. [36:20] Comments on English social community and society. [38:50] Comments on work units, example of infantry. [43:50] Atmosphere of the House of Commons. [45:08] Lack of facilities and money for members and sharing secretary. [47:00] Remarks on Part-time members and carrying on external work. [48:00] Poor ministerial pay and having to give up work. [48:25] Comments on Parliamentary Pairs and structure of Parliamentary week. [51:00] ICI’s feelings on becoming as an MP and relationship with industry. [52:26] Members associations with major industry in their consistencies. [54:09] Social during votes and all night sittings. [55:40] House of Commons social life including smoking room and Annie’s Bar. [56:50] Journalists and MPs relationships. [58:55] Remarks on relationships with opposition members and select committees. [59:46] Comments on relationship with fellow party members and loyalty on party issues. [01:01:50] Comment on Europe and Conservative party policy. [01:04:32] Decolonisation and immigration and Conservative right wing. [1:06:10] Comments on Liberalisation of laws during the 1950s/1960s. [1:09:04] Remarks about MPs relationship with the public and public opinion. [1:09:50] Comments on constituency correspondence. [01:10:55] Comments on Prime Minister’s questions and cabinet government. [01:14:44] Story of first speech to the House of Commons. [01:15:40] Backbench responsibilities including select committees and voting against the government. [01:21:18] Incomes policy and economic problems. [01:21:58] Comments on Edward Heath. [01:23:38] Comments on being a junior minister at the board of trade, visits and relationship with civil service. [01:28:17] Backbenchers feelings about career politicians, frustrations and involvement in all-party groups. [01:29:53] Comments on Council of Europe and involvement in Space program. [01:32:27] Experience of 1921 committee and party leaks.
Track 3
[00:01] Parliamentary Science Society pamphlet. [00:30] Comments on patent law seminar. [02:30] Remarks on Peers, elevation to the House of Lords, and relationship between the two. [05:18 – dog barking] Technical knowledge of scrutinising proposals. [07:15] Comments on becoming involved in all-party groups and committees. [08:00] Interest in space research, House of Commons library, and all-party space committee. [09:40] Memories of Sir David’s role in Council of Europe delegation. [15:00] Campaigning for a yes vote in Europe Referendum, and Conservatives regarding Europe as an economic issue. [16:15] Comments on relationship with parliament after having been a junior minister. [17:48] Remarks on Home office liberalisation of laws. [18:35] Comments on the role of religion in politics. [20:26] question on Sir David’s relationship with religion and views on disestablishment. [24:15] Comments on appointment to junior minister and appointments in general. [26:50] Sir David and the press (earlier articles suggest he worked for the Telegraph). [27:20] Comments on being called to the house as a junior minister to answer questions. [29:00] Asking questions in opposition. [30:00] Tactics in opposition and comments on whips and MPs influence. [32:47] Comments on contact with ministers and PPS and experience of leading a bill through Parliament. [36:50] Concessions in Commons committee stage. [37:00 – dog barking] [38:40] Comments on television coverage effect on politics. [40:00] Collective responsibility and judgement, example of Afghanistan.
Track 4
[00:01] Comments on pressure group contact and anti-hunting lobby. [01:28] Remarks on contact with local press. [02:20] Memories of BBC Any Questions Panel. [03:12] Reflections on winning elections and personality [06:10] Feelings on election being called. [06:56] Comments on campaigning itself, meetings and opponents. [10:50] Remarks on rumours in Parliament. [12:00] Boredom in Parliament, spending time in the chamber, the Parliamentary day and committee fact-finding visits.[16:28] Comments on influential MPs. [17:58] Comments on Military background of MPs. [19:00] Remarks on deciding party leadership. Story of being invited to Marples house to establish opinion on Eden’s successor. [21:10] Comments on Rab Butler and Macmillan. [25:30] Memories of Macmillan’s resignation. [27:44] Comments on fall of Edward Heath and Thatcher’s election. [38:50] Comments on Keith Joseph. [35:10] Influence of family on politics media and intellectualism and practicalities. [39:52] Comments on institutions and continuity. [40:30] Identity as Tory Radical and looking back at career and life.