Friday, 8 September 2017

Edward du Cann has died

Sir Edward du Cann, bounder, smoother than silk, once the seemingly perpetual Chairman of the 1922 Committee (the Tory backbenchers' trade union), has died. Simon Hoggart in Punch said that, asked the time, he replied: 
What time do you want it to be, dear boy?
Alan Watkins, whose Observer column brightened my Sunday mornings, said
Talking to Edward du Cann was rather like walking downstairs and somehow missing the last step. You were uninjured but remained disconcerted.
I remember the Private Eye headline, over a story of an Edward Du Cann City scandal, was:

Du Cann Of Worms.
I well remember that for years it was understood that one day Du Cann, who always professed oleaginous loyalty, would be Edward Heath's nemesis. In the end he was and
Airey Neave offered to make him party leader. Du Cann said his wife would not like that and Neave's choice fell on Margaret Thatcher, whom du Cann then approved.

He was a very well known politician in my adolescence and early adulthood, always on TV, but is now utterly forgotten. Vanity of vanities saith the preacher, all is vanity. 

Mr. Heath himself is remembered now mostly for completely untrue charges that he interfered with children. His great achievement, British membership of the EEC, is about to be dismantled.

As I suspected, without knowing any details, Du Cann resembled a character in a Simon Raven novel. The Daily Telegraph supplies those details here, behind its pay wall.

A habitual bad payer and bouncer of cheques, he was repeatedly sued by tradesmen and professionals who had undertaken work for him; one local builder was said to have a writ delivered with every invoice. It was testimony to Tiny Rowland’s sometimes ill-judged loyalty to close associates – and contempt for conventional proprieties – that du Cann continued as chairman of Lonrho, a major public company, long after his personal unreliability had been exhaustively exposed. 

Du Cann finally stepped down from the Lonrho chair in August 1991, when the aftermath of his involvement in yet another controversial business, Homes Assured, conclusively terminated his business career. Homes Assured was a mortgage-broking company which used hard-sell methods to persuade council tenants to buy their homes. Against advice from friends, du Cann joined the board in 1988.

I wish I had realised in the 1970s that England was not classless, as I and my family and many people (Margaret Thatcher included) supposed. The old social comedy and the world of Trollope were still in full swing in my teen years. They still, no doubt, are now.

I was surprised that the golden-tongued, silken Du Cann was, like me, a grammar schoolboy. Who would have guessed?

From Edward Pearce's obituary of Du Cann in the Guardian.

Du Cann was, if anything, a man of the right – over the aftermath of Suez, and on moral issues (he had worried about the growth of strip clubs) – and he had been an early opponent of entry into the Common Market on the reasonable, if narrow, grounds that it would harm horticulture.

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