Kenneth Baker, Baron Baker of Dorking

The Right Honourable
The Lord Baker of Dorking
Official portrait of Lord Baker of Dorking
Home Secretary
In office
28 November 1990  10 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Waddington
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
16 June 1997
Life Peerage
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
24 July 1989  28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Tony Newton
Succeeded by The Lord Patten of Barnes
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
24 July 1989  28 November 1990
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Peter Brooke
Succeeded by The Lord Patten of Barnes
Secretary of State for Education and Science
In office
21 May 1986  24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Keith Joseph
Succeeded by John MacGregor
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
2 September 1985  21 May 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Patrick Jenkin
Succeeded by Nicholas Ridley
Member of Parliament
for Mole Valley
In office
9 June 1983  2 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Paul Beresford
Member of Parliament
for St Marylebone
In office
22 October 1970  9 June 1983
Preceded by Quintin Hogg
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Acton
In office
28 March 1968  18 June 1970
Preceded by Bernard Floud
Succeeded by Nigel Spearing
Personal details
Born (1934-11-03) 3 November 1934
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales
Political party Conservative
Mary Elizabeth Gray-Muir (m. 1963)
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford

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.

Early life

Born in Newport, Monmouthshire, son of a civil servant, 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, and thereafter 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 career

Member of Parliament

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 career

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 Secretary

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 an slimy slug.[3]

Party Chairman

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 Secretary

After the change of regime Baker was promoted to Home Secretary. His time at the Home Office was marred by prison riots, and by bad publicity over the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

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, 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 1992

After the 1992 general election Baker left the government rather than accept demotion to the job of Welsh Secretary. He was appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) on 13 April 1992.[4] 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.[5][6]

He was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[7][8]

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.[9]

Baker Dearing Educational Trust

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 2013 Baker was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Plymouth University.[10]

Personal life

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,[11][12][13][14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

In the media

Baker was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!. Singer-songwriter Bill Pritchard criticized Baker from the left in his 1989 pop song "Kenneth Baker". The lyrics include a litany of names, in which Baker, along with Margaret Thatcher and several other world figures from that period, is accused of being "a sick man." Baker was notably portrayed as a slug in the political satire television show Spitting Image.

Styles of address

  • 19341968: Mr Kenneth Baker
  • 19681970: Mr Kenneth Baker MP
  • 1970: Mr Kenneth Baker
  • 19701984: Mr Kenneth Baker MP
  • 19841992: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker MP
  • 19921997: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker CH MP
  • 1997: The Rt Hon Kenneth Baker CH
  • 1997present: The Rt Hon The Lord Baker of Dorking CH PC


  • 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. "No. 52911". The London Gazette. 5 May 1992. p. 7755.
  5. "No. 54811". The London Gazette. 19 June 1997. p. 7123.
  6. "Lord Baker of Dorking - UK Parliament". Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  7. "Oral history: BAKER, Kenneth (b.1934)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  8. "Baron Baker interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  9. Levy, Geoffrey (11 July 2009). "Can Maggie REALLY have cut out Carol from her will?". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  11. Faber Book of English History in Verse, 1989, ISBN 9780571150625
  12. Faber Book of War Poetry, 1997, ISBN 9780571174546
  13. Faber Book of Childrens English History in Verse, 1999, ISBN 9781422390122
  14. Faber Book of Landscape Poetry, 2000, ISBN 9780571200719
  15. "Baker seeks end to West Lothian question". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  16. "Politics Diary". The Guardian. 11 October 2002. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bernard Floud
Member of Parliament for Acton
Succeeded by
Nigel Spearing
Preceded by
Quintin Hogg
Member of Parliament for St Marylebone
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mole Valley
Succeeded by
Paul Beresford
Political offices
Preceded by
Patrick Jenkin
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded by
Keith Joseph
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
John MacGregor
Preceded by
Tony Newton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Preceded by
David Waddington
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
Party political offices
Preceded by
Peter Brooke
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
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