Francis Noel-Baker -2009

Francis Noel-Baker died on 25 September aged 89. He won the seat of Brentford and Chiswick from the Conservatives in the Labour general election landslide of 1945, and he seemed, like his near contemporary Tony Benn, to be destined for high office. Aged 25, he quickly made his mark in the House of Commons, yet he never rose higher than parliamentary private secretary at the Admiralty (1949-50).

He was born in London and educated at Westminster school, where he won an exhibition to King’s College, Cambridge, where he spent a year reading history before embarking on military service in 1940. Meanwhile, his father, who had become Labour MP for Derby in 1936, was serving in Churchill’s war government.

Though Francis duly lost his seat in the 1950 election, he won Swindon by a small majority in 1955 and increased it beyond the 10,000 mark over the two following elections. Vociferous in parliament, diligent in his constituency, he also gradually took charge at the family estate on the large Aegean island of Euboea. Fluent in modern Greek, in 1956 he played a semi-official part in the Tory government’s dealings with the Greek Cypriot leader Archbishop Makarios and the Enosis independence movement in Cyprus. In 1959 his father won a Nobel peace prize, and when Harold Wilson became Labour prime minister in 1964, both Philip and Francis were led to expect jobs in the new administration. However, the telephone calls never came. Francis was bitterly disappointed at being overlooked.

In 1968 he announced his intention not to contest the 1970 election, and retired from parliament the following year. Francis’s first marriage, to Ann Saunders, daughter of a House of Commons librarian, ended in divorce. In 1957, he married Barbara (Barbro) Sonander, of the Swedish diplomatic service, who died in 2004. He is survived by his daughter and three of his four sons.

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