STEWART, Allan (1942-2016).



East Renfrewshire
3 May 1979 - 9 June 1983
9 June 1983 - 1 May 1997


Stewart was born in St Andrews on 1 June 1942 and later attended University in the city before spending a year at Harvard. He returned to Scotland and became a lecturer in Political Economy in St Andrews before embarking on a political career. In 1973 he married Susie Gourlay and they had two children.

First a member of the Liberal party, Stewart was convinced by a Conservative councillor that his liberal economic views were best suited to the Conservative party, which he joined in 1967. He unsuccessfully contested Dundee East in 1970 and briefly became a councillor in London before winning East Renfrewshire in 1979. In 1983 the seat became Eastwood which Stewart held until 1997. Stewart served as a PPS in 1981 and held junior ministerial posts in the Scottish office under Thatcher and Major.

Following an incident with demonstrators in 1995 Stewart suffered a nervous breakdown, in part due to problems with alcohol. Following treatment he retired from politics in 1997, and died in December 2017.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Allan Stewart in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

You can disagree with somebody, but you have respect for them. I, and I think people in the House of Commons generally, believe in politics. I believe that there’s only two ways to run society: you either run society by politicians or by men with sub-machine guns, there’s no other way. So I have a great respect for the process of politics, and therefore for people that practice it. Now that’s not a very fashionable [opinion]. The fashionable thing is to attack politicians and say they’re all in it for themselves, and so on. And some of them are, but generally that’s not true. Generally they are there because they believe in things, and/or because they believe in the process of politics.

Summary of interview

Track 1 [1:17:30] [Session one: 2 August 2013]  John Allan Stewart [JAS], born St Andrews, 1942.  Description of early life in market town of Cupar in Fife.  Mentions father absent until 1945 as serving in RAF.  Description of happy upbringing and family life.  Discusses education; father a teacher at Dundee High School.  Discusses memories of specific teachers at secondary school; performance in particular subjects mentioned.  Discusses extra-curricular school activities in debating society and rugby team.  Discussion of health problems; absent with bronchitis.  Description of individual school friends: Derek Barrie, subsequently Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Party and Councillor in Fife; John Todd, later a doctor in Edinburgh; Lindsay Gibson. Description of early interest in politics.  Comments on the politics of his parents, described as Liberal Unionists; parents not members of a political party.  Mentions that interest in politics overlapped with membership of debating society; not a member of a political party at school.  [07:17]  Description of JAS going to University of St Andrews to study Political Economy in 1960; explanation of choice of degree subject.  Description of involvement in student politics; comments on joining Student Representative Council, becomes President of that body 1962-63.  Description of joining Liberal Party under the influence of Willis Pickard (later editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement in Scotland).  Mentions lack of interest in Conservative politics at University. Description of relation between academic studies in economics and political outlook; influence of classical liberalism.  Description of postgraduate scholarship year in the United States at Harvard University between 1964 and 1965.  JAS mentions attendance at Barry Goldwater Republican Party rally.  Description of ease with which JAS able to find an academic position after completion of studies in 1965.  [17:25]  Description of academic career as lecturer at University of St Andrews; comments on position as warden in student accommodation.  Discussion of academic research in economics.  Description of JAS becoming disaffected with Liberal Party.  Comments that Douglas Mason [DM], a local Councillor in Glenrothes, Fife, convinced JAS that economic liberals belonged in the Conservative Party.  Comments that this argument convinced him to join Conservative Party in 1967.  [23:25]  Description of taking new position in London as Head of Regional Development at the CBI (Confederation of British Industries).  Brief description of parliamentary candidacy in Dundee East in June 1970. Description of career at CBI.  Discussion of return to Scotland in 1978.  Description of election as local Councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and election campaigning.  Comments on learning to use students to distribute leaflets.  [28:13]  Description of selection process for parliamentary candidacy in Dundee East in 1970.  Description of election campaign; comments again on use of students in campaign.  Description of selection as Conservative candidate for East Renfrewshire (later Eastwood) at 1979 General Election.  Comments on selection process during 1978.  Discussion of efforts of Reg Prentice (ex-Labour Party) to secure nomination and resultant media attention.  Discussion of relationship with predecessor as MP, Betty Harvie Anderson.  Description of constituency party and local politics in East Renfrewshire.  [38:26]  Description of the 1979 General Election campaign.  Comments on dominance of national issues in campaign.  Discussion of relationship with constituency party and campaign finance.  [43:35]  Description of first impressions of the House of Commons and life as an MP.  Discussion of importance of having a ‘pair’ for Scottish members; comment on resultant relationship with Norman Hogg, Labour MP for Cumbernauld.  Description of other Members of the Common who particularly impress