John Hoskyns

Sir John Leigh Austin Hungerford Hoskyns (23 August 1927 – 20 October 2014) was best known as a Policy Advisor to Margaret Thatcher while head of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit from May 1979 and April 1982.[1] Prior to this he acted as a Policy Adviser to her and the Shadow Cabinet from 1975–79, during which time he produced the important "Stepping Stones" report of November 1977.


Hoskyns was educated at Winchester College, an independent school in Winchester in Hampshire.

Life and careerEdit

Hoskyns' paternal grandfather was Dean of Christchurch and Archdeacon of Chichester, while his maternal Grandfather, Austin Taylor, was MP for Toxteth and crossed The House in 1904 from Conservative to Liberal (over Free Trade) with Winston Churchill. [2] Hoskyns served as a regular soldier in the Rifle Brigade (1945–57). He then started a business career at IBM UK Ltd (1957–64), before founding the Hoskyns Group Ltd where he was Chairman and Managing Director (1964–75). He was Director-General of the Institute of Directors (1984–89), and served on the boards of a number of public companies. He died at home in Suffolk on 20 October 2014 and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Edwardstone.

The grave of Sir John Hoskyns in Edwardstone churchyard

The Stepping Stones Report, 1977Edit

Without any political experience, he dedicated the year of 1977 to analysing what he considered to be wrong with the UK; this was a large part of the Stepping Stones Report. He created this report for the Tory party, working with Norman S. Strauss, then at Unilever. He created a diagram that showed how all these problems were interlinked.

For example, he claimed trade union power increases the level of unemployment as they raise wages above market clearing levels, which will eventually cause wages to be unsustainably and inefficiently high. This encourages politicians to run budget deficits and print money; this causes inflation, which makes unions more militant, as their members suffer under increased inflation, and also, workers will be more inclined to join unions for protection from the rising inflation. Thus, the TU's power increases as they gain members. The report states: 'The one precondition for success will be a complete change in the role of the trade unions movement'. When Margaret Thatcher, who read chemistry at Oxford, saw the diagram, she reportedly remarked it looked like a chemical plant.

Thatcher was an admirer of Hoskyns, writing in her autobiography that John's background was in business and computers; but over and above that experience, he had strong powers of analysis and had helped formulate our economic strategy in Opposition. He propagated the theory that a 'culture of decline' was the ultimate cause of many of Britain's economic problems... He kept our eye on the ball. [3]

The EUEdit

He attacked the EU's "out-of-touch politicians, undemocratic institutions, dubious electoral systems and legal processes, financial corruption, creative accounting, secrecy, administrative incompetence, mercantilist instincts, foreign-policy confusion, institutionalised animosity towards the United States and Charlemagne-flavoured delusions of empire. "[4] Hoskyns was knighted in 1982 and published a memoir, "Just in time, inside the Thatcher revolution" in 2000.

30-year rule and official documentsEdit

At the end of 2011, the release of confidential documents under the UK Government's 30-year rule revealed Hoskyns' thoughts regarding the Liverpool Riots. He saw little point in spending more money on Liverpool saying "this money is likely to be money wasted".[5]

In the mediaEdit

Hoskyns was interviewed about Stepping Stones and the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.

See alsoEdit

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