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Kenneth Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking

Kenneth Wilfred Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking, CH, PC (born 3 November 1934) is a British politician, a former Conservative Member of Parliament and cabinet minister, including holding the offices of Home Secretary, Education Secretary and Conservative Party Chairman. He is a life member of the Tory Reform Group.

The Lord Baker of Dorking

Official portrait of Lord Baker of Dorking crop 2.jpg
Kenneth Baker in 2018
Home Secretary
In office
28 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byDavid Waddington
Succeeded byKenneth Clarke
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byTony Newton
Succeeded byThe Lord Patten of Barnes
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPeter Brooke
Succeeded byThe Lord Patten of Barnes
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
21 May 1986 – 24 July 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byKeith Joseph
Succeeded byJohn MacGregor
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
2 September 1985 – 21 May 1986
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPatrick Jenkin
Succeeded byNicholas Ridley
Member of Parliament
for Mole Valley
In office
9 June 1983 – 2 May 1997
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byPaul Beresford
Member of Parliament
for St Marylebone
In office
22 October 1970 – 9 June 1983
Preceded byQuintin Hogg
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Acton
In office
28 March 1968 – 18 June 1970
Preceded byBernard Floud
Succeeded byNigel Spearing
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
16 June 1997
Life peerage
Personal details
Born (1934-11-03) 3 November 1934 (age 84)
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales
Political partyConservative
Mary Elizabeth Gray-Muir (m. 1963)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

Early lifeEdit

The son of a civil servant, Baker was born in Newport, Monmouthshire. He was educated at what was then Hampton Grammar School, a boys' voluntary aided school in West London (now Hampton School, an independent school) between 1946 and 1948. He then went on to study at St Paul's School, a boys' independent school in Barnes, London and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1958 with a BA Degree in History, and four years later with a MSc degree in International Law and Regulations. He did National Service as an army lieutenant and worked for Royal Dutch Shell before being elected as a Member of Parliament at a by-election in March 1968.[1]


Political careerEdit

Member of ParliamentEdit

Having unsuccessfully contested Poplar in 1964 and Acton in 1966, Baker was first elected to Parliament when he won Acton at a March 1968 by-election, gaining it from Labour following the suicide of Bernard Floud. However, at the 1970 general election he was defeated by Labour's Nigel Spearing. At an ensuing by-election, held on 22 October 1970—caused by the elevation to the Lords (as a life peer) of Quintin Hogg, so that he could become Lord Chancellor after the surprise Conservative victory at the 1970 election—Baker was elected for the safe Conservative seat of St Marylebone in central London. In the parliamentary seat redistribution of the early 1980s, St Marylebone was abolished and Baker was defeated by Peter Brooke for the Conservative nomination at the nearby new safe seat of Cities of London & Westminster. However he successfully obtained nomination at Mole Valley, a safely-Conservative rural seat in Surrey, which he held until his retirement in 1997. He was succeeded there by Sir Paul Beresford.

Early ministerial careerEdit

Baker's first government post was in the Heath ministry; in 1972 he became Parliamentary Secretary at the Civil Service Department, and in 1974 Parliamentary Private Secretary to Edward Heath. Having become closely associated with Heath, he was overlooked for office when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, but in 1981 he was appointed Minister for Information Technology, in the then Department of Trade and Industry. Having been sworn of the Privy Council in the 1984 New Year Honours,[2] he entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment in 1985.

Education SecretaryEdit

Baker served as Secretary of State for Education from 1986 to 1989. His most noted action in his time at the Department of Education was the introduction of the controversial "National Curriculum" through the 1988 Education Act. He also introduced in-service training days for teachers, which became popularly known as "Baker days". At this time Baker was often tipped as a future Conservative leader, including in the 1987 edition of Julian Critchley's biography of Michael Heseltine. Critchley quoted one journalist's witticism "I have seen the future and it smirks" (a reference to the famous line "I have seen the future and it works" written by Lincoln Steffens, an American visitor to Lenin's USSR in 1921). Baker's mannerisms were unpopular with some people: he dressed his hair with Brylcreem, and by the late 1980s he had come to be portrayed by the satirical programme Spitting Image as a slimy slug.[3]

Party ChairmanEdit

In the July 1989 reshuffle Baker was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, with the intention that he should organise a fourth consecutive General Election victory for Margaret Thatcher. He managed to steer the government through the otherwise disastrous local elections of May 1990 by stressing the good results for Conservative "flagship" councils in Westminster and Wandsworth, i.e. supposedly demonstrating that the poll tax—a source of great unpopularity for the government—could be a vote-winner for Conservative councils who kept it low. He was still Party Chairman at the time Margaret Thatcher resigned in November 1990.

Home SecretaryEdit

After the change of regime, Baker was promoted to Home Secretary, dealing with prison riots and introducing the Dangerous Dogs Act.[4]

After his term of office he was also found (M v Home Office 1994) to have been in contempt of court for having deported a man back to Zaire in 1991,[5] in breach of an interim injunction and while proceedings were pending. "It would be a black day for the rule of law and the liberty of the subject", the Court of Appeal ruled, "if ministers were not accountable to the courts for their personal actions." This was the first time the courts had reached such a finding against a minister for exercise of Prerogative Powers, something previously thought to be impossible.

After 1992Edit

After the 1992 general election Baker left the government rather than accept demotion to the job of Welsh Secretary.[citation needed] He was appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) on 13 April 1992.[6] He proposed the Loyal Address in the Queen's Speech debate on 6 May 1992, following the general election. He chose not to stand for re-election to the House of Commons in 1997, and on 16 June was created a Lord Temporal as Baron Baker of Dorking, of Iford in the County of East Sussex.[7][8]

He was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[9][10]

In the 2000s Baker was described as one of the members of an unofficial 'club' of high Tories whose task was to entertain and look after Baroness Thatcher in her declining years.[citation needed]

Baker Dearing Educational TrustEdit

Baker was co-founder along with the late Ronald Dearing of the Baker Dearing Trust, an educational trust set up to promote the establishment of University Technical Colleges in England as part of the free school programme. He is also Chair of the independent education charity Edge Foundation which campaigns for a coherent, unified and holistic education for all young people.

In 1994 Baker was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Richmond, The American International University in London.[11]

In 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Plymouth University.[12]

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Brunel University in 2016.[13]

Personal lifeEdit

Until 1995 Baker lived in Station Road in the village of Betchworth, 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Dorking. He now lives in the hamlet of Iford near Lewes, East Sussex.

In 2005 he published a book on King George IV, George IV: A Life in Caricature, followed by King George III: A Life in Caricature in 2007 (Thames & Hudson). Other publications include several compilations of poetry,[14][15][16][17] a history of political cartoons and his autobiography.

In 2006 Lord Baker announced that he was introducing a bill into the House of Lords to address the West Lothian question.[18] This would prevent Scottish and Welsh MPs from voting on legislation which affects England alone as a result of devolution to the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.

Baker's son, Oswin, is a leading member of the Greenwich and Woolwich Labour Party.[19]

In the mediaEdit

Baker was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!. Baker was portrayed as a slug in the political satire television show Spitting Image.

Titles, Styles, Honours & ArmsEdit

  • 1934–1968: Mr Kenneth Baker
  • 1968–1970: Mr Kenneth Baker MP
  • 1970: Mr Kenneth Baker
  • 1970–1984: Mr Kenneth Baker MP
  • 1984–1992: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker MP
  • 1992–1997: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker CH MP
  • 1997: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker CH
  • 1997–present: The Rt Hon The Lord Baker of Dorking CH PC
Coat of arms of Kenneth Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking
Upon two closed books each fesswise the upper Azure the lower Gules both garnished and titled Or a cock also Or combed jelopped and legged Gules.
Gyronny of eight Gules and Azure a roundel also Azure surmounted by an annulet enfiling the rings of the chains of three portcullises in pairle points inwards Or.
On either side a male griffin reguardant Azure armed forelegged and rayed Or the dexter grasping in the beak a thistle flowered Gules slipped and leaved Or and the sinister a daffodil slipped and leaved Or.
Bene Tentare [20]


  • George IV: A Life in Caricature (2005 Thames & Hudson ISBN 0-500-25127-4)
  • George III: A Life in Caricature (2007 Thames & Hudson ISBN 0-500-25140-1)
  • 14–18 – A New Vision for Secondary Education (2013 Bloomsbury Academic ISBN 978-1780938448)


  1. ^ "OPC Committee list". Old Pauline Club. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  2. ^ "No. 49583". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1983. p. 1.
  3. ^ Macdonald, Marianne (15 May 1996). "Baker spits back at 'Image' cartoonists". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Lord Baker of Dorking". St Paul's School Website.
  5. ^ "Baker rejects contempt ruling: Former minister says he had judicial". The Independent. 14 May 1993.
  6. ^ "No. 52911". The London Gazette. 5 May 1992. p. 7755.
  7. ^ "No. 54811". The London Gazette. 19 June 1997. p. 7123.
  8. ^ "Lord Baker of Dorking - UK Parliament". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Oral history: BAKER, Kenneth (b.1934)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Baron Baker interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Honorary Graduates". Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  14. ^ Faber Book of English History in Verse, 1989, ISBN 9780571150625
  15. ^ Faber Book of War Poetry, 1997, ISBN 9780571174546
  16. ^ Faber Book of Childrens English History in Verse, 1999, ISBN 9781422390122
  17. ^ Faber Book of Landscape Poetry, 2000, ISBN 9780571200719
  18. ^ "Baker seeks end to West Lothian question". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Politics Diary". The Guardian. 11 October 2002. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  20. ^ Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage. 2000.

External linksEdit