18 Facts About John Biffen


The son of Victor William Biffen, a tenant farmer, of Hill Farm, Otterhampton, Bridgwater, Somerset, and his wife Edith Annie, John Biffen was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, in 1930.


John Biffen then earned a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in history.


John Biffen was a Eurosceptic and voted in a parliamentary division in 1972, opposing his own party, against the UK's entry into the EC.


John Biffen championed tight fiscal policy and opposed state intervention in economic management.


John Biffen served in Thatcher's government in the successive positions of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Trade, and as Leader of the House of Commons.


Edward Pearce has written that John Biffen "was widely thought the best post-war floor leader".


In 1981 John Biffen gave a speech to a fringe meeting at that year's Conservative Party Conference in which he argued the party was "within touching distance of the debacles of 1906 and 1945".

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Bernard Ingham

John Biffen further claimed that far from cutting public spending, the government had increased it by two per cent since 1979 and that the government was part of an all-party consensus in favour of the welfare state and public spending: "We are all social democrats now", Biffen concluded in his speech.


On 9 February 1986, he said that Toryism was "not a raucous political faction" and after the Conservative Party's losses in the 1986 local government elections, and poor performances in the two parliamentary by-elections held simultaneously, John Biffen was interviewed on Weekend World by Brian Walden on 11 May as the government's spokesman.


John Biffen's dismissal was no surprise, in that Thatcher's press secretary Bernard Ingham had already famously called him a "semi-detached" member of the Cabinet.


John Biffen voted against the Maastricht Treaty and was in favour of a referendum on the EU Constitution so he could vote "No".


John Biffen had one stepson, Nicholas Wood, a correspondent with The New York Times and International Herald Tribune, and a stepdaughter, Lucy.


John Biffen opposed the tightening of laws restricting abortion and voted in 1990 to preserve the limit at 28 weeks.


Brian Walden noted that John Biffen was the "most honest" politician he had interviewed.


John Biffen died on 14 August 2007, aged 76, after a short illness.


John Biffen had suffered from kidney failure for many years.


John Biffen was survived by his wife, stepson and stepdaughter.


John Biffen was portrayed by Roger Brierley in the 2004 BBC production of The Alan Clark Diaries.