John Moore, Baron Moore of Lower Marsh

The Right Honourable
The Lord Moore of Lower Marsh

Moore in 1985
Secretary of State for Social Security
In office
25 July 1988  23 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Himself (Social Security)
Kenneth Clarke (Health)
Succeeded by Tony Newton
Secretary of State for Social Services
In office
13 June 1987  25 July 1988
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Norman Fowler
Succeeded by Himself (Social Security)
Kenneth Clarke (Health)
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
21 May 1986  13 June 1987
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Nicholas Ridley
Succeeded by Paul Channon
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
19 October 1983  21 May 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Nicholas Ridley
Succeeded by Norman Lamont
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
13 June 1983  19 October 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Jock Bruce-Gardyne
Succeeded by Ian Stewart
Member of Parliament
for Croydon Central
In office
28 February 1974  9 April 1992
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Paul Beresford
Personal details
Born (1937-11-26) 26 November 1937
Kentish Town, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Sheila Tillotson
Alma mater London School of Economics
Profession Stockbroker

John Edward Michael Moore, Baron Moore of Lower Marsh PC (born 26 November 1937) is a British politician who was Member of Parliament for Croydon Central from February 1974 until 1992. During the Premiership of Margaret Thatcher he enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of government which culminated in him serving as Secretary of State for Social Services from 1987 to 1989. For a time, he was considered a rising star of the Conservative Party and a potential leadership contender.

He was particularly noted for his "filmstar good looks" and an American background. Moore's wife was American and he had lived for several years in the USA. He brought aspects of American corporate culture to government and was reported to speak with a slight American accent. His first political experience was as a Democratic Party organiser in Illinois during the early 1960s.

However, his fortunes in government waned after 1987 when he was made responsible for the highly sensitive portfolios of health and social security. His earlier success had been as a facilitator of the Thatcher government's privatisation programme. In this capacity he became known as "Mr Privatisation". When Moore attempted to extend this concept into the management of the National Health Service and the wider provision of social services, he encountered opposition from all sides. After losing credibility he was effectively demoted in 1988 (through loss of the health portfolio) and then sacked from his cabinet post in 1989.

The Times diary (13 January 1988) described him as follows;

His face it is blank, his blue tie is neat; A slight flush can be seen on his cheek; But though his jaw juts and his gestures are tough; His impression of strength comes out weak.

He left the House of Commons in 1992 and subsequently held a number of corporate directorships and chairmanships.

Early life

Moore was born in Kentish Town, London. His father was a factory worker who later became a publican. He attended the Licensed Victuallers' School in Slough, an independent school supported by his father's trade body.[1] After leaving school Moore undertook two years of National Service from 1955 to 1957. He served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and spent some time in Korea.

He enrolled at the London School of Economics in 1958 and followed a three-year degree course. He was active in student politics and held the position of President of the LSE Students' Union. During this time he met fellow student Sheila Tillotson. Moore accompanied Tillotson back to her native Chicago after the two had both completed their studies. Here the couple married and Moore found work initially as a financial analyst with a Chicago investment bank. He became a stockbroker and achieved a senior position at the Chicago office of the Dean Witter brokerage. Dean Witter catered to a mainly middle class clientele with the typical client holding only a modest portfolio of stock.

While in Chicago, Moore became a Democratic Party activist and served as a "precinct captain". In this capacity he gained experience of American political campaigning which he later applied in the UK. He was reportedly much impressed by President John F. Kennedy and adopted him as a role model.

In 1968 Moore returned to the UK and took up an appointment in London as Chairman of Dean Witter (International). The Moores set up residence in the suburb of Wimbledon where their three children (one daughter and two sons) were born. Moore became active in local Conservative politics and was elected to serve as a Councillor in the London Borough of Merton in 1971. He initially gave the impression of being a liberal conservative. For example, he opposed the withdrawal of free school milk from the Borough's children which was happening as the result of the policy of Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education.

In October 1973 he was adopted as the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Croydon Central constituency. At this time he was described as being "an investment banker and stockbroker, age 36".[2]

Early political career

Croydon Central was a new constituency and was initially a very marginal Conservative seat. Moore won the seat in the February 1974 general election by a majority of 1,300 votes over Labour. His majority was reduced to 150 in the October 1974 general election. However, he was able to strengthen his position in the constituency and the last time he contested the seat (in the 1987 general election) he achieved a majority of over 10,000.[3] His wife, Sheila, acted as his constituency secretary, speech writer and political adviser. She combined her duties in this regard with studying for a law degree and acting as a local magistrate. Observers commented that Sheila was very much the driving force behind his rise in politics.[4]

Moore projected the image of a young, vigorous politician. He would usually rise at 5.30am and be at his desk by 7 a.m. He was a member of the House of Commons football team and the House skiing team. It is reported that his wife "... kept him on a strict regime of camomile tea, decaffeinated coffee and health food...."[5] He was frequently seen performing early morning jogging in the Westminster area and he was reported to spend 30 minutes each day on an exercise bicycle. Conservative MP Julian Critchley described him as being;

Handsome, with the sort of looks that would have appealed to J. Arthur Rank, personable and polite, he looks ten years younger than his 49 years.[6]

In March 1975 Mrs Thatcher appointed Moore as one of five Conservative Party vice-chairmen. Moore's remit was "youth". He held this position until the Conservatives were returned to office in 1979, at which time he was appointed as Under Secretary of State for Energy. In this capacity, one of his main duties was responsibility for the nationalised British coal industry.

After the 1983 general election Moore was appointed Economic Secretary to the Treasury under Chancellor Nigel Lawson. At the Treasury, Moore was charged with fronting government policy on privatisation. Most notably, he oversaw the privatisation of British Telecom in 1984 and that of several other major concerns. The privatisation of state owned industries was a major feature of the Thatcher governments. These privatisations were popularised by small parcels of shares in the privatised entities being made available to members of the public at deeply discounted prices. This promoted a form of popular capitalism along the lines of the Dean Witter business model. Moore gained an extremely high profile and became known as "Mr Privatisation".

Cabinet career

He joined Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Transport. His tenure of office at Transport was brief but coincided with the completion of major developments such as the M25 London orbital motorway and the privatisation of British Airways. The capsize of the Herald of Free Enterprise car ferry outside Zeebrugge harbour on 6 March 1987 gave Moore considerable media exposure. These events served to raise Moore's profile even further and he played a prominent campaign role in the 1987 general election.

... what probably clinched his promotion to the DHSS yesterday was his TV performance in the party political broadcast that attacked the loony left. It was Thatcher herself who suggested that Moore be used on it. The broadcast was, according to one observer, considered "sharp, nasty – and effective".[7]

By now, Moore was being widely spoken of as a future Prime Minister. The commentator Brian Walden wrote "... he has future Tory leader written all over him".[8] After the 1987 election he was appointed as Secretary of State for Social Services. In this capacity he was responsible for the National Health Service's £66 billion annual spend and the payment of over £50 billion annually in the form of social security benefits. These were highly sensitive portfolios which were intended be very much at the centre of policy initiatives in the 1987 government.

However, there were some early misgivings about the appointment. Julian Critchley described Moore's earlier career in government as "The script had been written for him, and he had only to learn his lines".[9] Other commentators noted that his previous experience had been in implementing policy rather than in creating policy.

Once established in his new job, Moore delivered a series of speeches on policy in the social services. These speeches appeared to indicate a move to a healthcare system based on private insurance along the American model. Specific proposals included making private healthcare insurance contributions tax deductible and allowing nurses' wage rates to be established by local bargaining rather than by central negotiation. Moore quickly encountered opposition from various interest groups including the Royal College of Physicians. Many Conservative backbench MPs had misgivings about what was being proposed. Furthermore, some of the speeches suggested that Moore was positioning himself to be leader of the Conservative Party. During a visit to the US in October 1987, he delivered a speech to the Mont Pelerin Society in which he appeared to suggest that he had been the prime mover behind privatisation in the UK. This displeased his fellow Ministers and other senior Party figures.[10]

Moore did not seem to engage comfortably in the public estimate procedures by which departmental spending budgets were set. The then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Major, was reported to have found Moore to be "a soft touch". The then Health Minister, Edwina Currie, is reported to have described Moore as being "useless". An entry in her diary dated January 1988 reads "It became apparent during the first ten days ... that Moore just didn't know what to do".[11] Moore found difficulties in his relationships with senior civil servants. Not all the latter were comfortable with a working day that started at 7 a.m. Moore's wife (and political adviser) Sheila had clashes with civil servants and Moore was privately warned that she did not understand the British way of doing things. It is believed that Sheila may have drafted some of Moore's more controversial speeches.[12]

In November 1987 Moore was struck down with bacterial pneumonia. He initially tried to ignore the illness and attended a cabinet meeting before he had recovered. During the meeting he became unconscious. He was subsequently admitted to the Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon. The fact that this was a private clinic owned by a German healthcare company (reportedly charging patients up to £2,000 per day) attracted bad publicity. Union leader Rodney Bickerstaffe stated "How can a social services secretary claim to care about the National Health Service when he does not even trust his own health care to an NHS hospital?".[12]

End of political career

After two months absence due to illness, Moore returned to work. But by now his political prospects were much diminished. On 25 July 1988, he lost the health portfolio to Kenneth Clarke. Moore retained his social security portfolio and stayed in cabinet as Secretary of State for Social Security for a further year. However, his credibility was further damaged by speeches in which he appeared to suggest that poverty had been abolished in modern Britain. His attempt to target state assistance towards poorer families while freezing child benefits provoked a major rebellion by Conservative backbench MPs.

In July 1989, Moore was sacked from the cabinet. Most commentators at the time considered him to have been a weak politician who had been promoted beyond his ability[13]

He was written off by one Tory as 'like a frightened rabbit mesmerised by oncoming headlights'.[14]

He gave up his parliamentary seat at the time of the 1992 general election and subsequently held a number of directorships with large concerns including Credit Suisse Asset Management and Rolls Royce plc. He has recently retired as Chairman of the Monitor Group, Europe.[15]

After leaving the Commons in 1992 Moore became a life peer as Baron Moore of Lower Marsh, of Lower Marsh in the London Borough of Lambeth.[16] A BBC feature in August 2011 reported that after 20 years in the House of Lords, Moore had still to make his maiden speech;

While he worked behind the scenes as a political operator he was very effective ... but he was suddenly thrust into the spotlight in the mammoth task of defending the government on the issues of health and social security ... and he just bombed[17]


  1. LVS :homepage
  2. The Times, 6 October 1973
  3. 1987 general election result :see Croydon Central
  4. The Times, 30 July 1989
  5. The Times, 30 July 1989
  6. The Times, 29 September 1987
  7. The Times, 14 June 1987
  8. The Times, 14 June 1987
  9. The Times, 29 September 1987
  10. The Times, 29 September 1987
  11. The Times, 30 September 2002
  12. 1 2 The Guardian, 22 December 1988
  13. The Daily Mail, :How Thatcher adored useless pretty faces
  14. The Guardian, 22 December 1990
  15. The Times, 30 September 1991
  16. The London Gazette: no. 52985. p. 11491. 8 July 1992. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  17. BBC feature :The silent peers in the House of Lords
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Croydon Central
Succeeded by
Paul Beresford
Political offices
Preceded by
Jock Bruce-Gardyne
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Ian Stewart
Preceded by
Nicholas Ridley
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Norman Lamont
Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Paul Channon
Preceded by
Norman Fowler
Secretary of State for Social Services
Succeeded by
as Secretary of State for Social Security
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
as Secretary of State for Health
Preceded by
as Secretary of State for Social Services
Secretary of State for Social Security
Succeeded by
Tony Newton
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