Papers of Sir Anthony John Charles Meyer, comprising Papers on Constituency Affairs, 1979-1990; General Political Papers, 1980-1990; and Papers on General Welsh Affairs, 1985-2006.
SIR ANTHONY MEYER, MP, PAPERS
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Sir Anthony John Charles Meyer, 3rd Baronet (27 Oct 1920 - 24 Dec 2004) was a British soldier, diplomat, and Conservative and later Liberal Democrat politician, best known for standing against Margaret Thatcher for the party leadership in 1989. In spite of his right-wing views on economic policy, his passionate support of increased British integration into the European Union led to him becoming increasingly marginalised in Thatcher's Conservative Party. He served as Conservative MP for West Flint from 1970 to 1983 and for the new constituency of Clwyd North West from 1983 to 1992.
Anthony Meyer was educated at Eton College and New College, Oxford. He joined the Scots Guards in 1941 and was seriously wounded during the battle for Caen. He joined HM Treasury post-war, where he mostly worked on winding up the affairs of the Polish government-in-exile. From 1951 to 1956 he was appointed to the British Embassy in Paris, where he became First Secretary in 1953.
Between 1958 and 1962, he worked at the Foreign Office on European political problems, at a time when the Office was changing its policy from being against the "Common Market" to in favour of joining. In 1962 he decided to enter politics to support his pro-European views, working unpaid for the Common Market Campaign. He later said that he was initially undecided whether to stand for the Conservatives or the Liberals, but his admiration for the Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan swung his choice.
In the 1964 General Election, Meyer won the Eton and Slough seat. Recognising that he would only be in the seat temporarily, Meyer made the most of his time in Parliament, advocating Britain's joining the Common Market and strengthening the United Nations. He also established himself on the liberal wing of the party: voting to abolish capital punishment and for sanctions against Rhodesia. In the 1966 General Election he lost his seat. His liberalism resulted in his applications to stand in six constituencies (including Windsor, where he lived) being rejected, but eventually fellow Old Etonian Nigel Birch recommended Meyer to replace him in the constituency of West Flintshire. He returned to Parliament at the 1970 General Election.
He became a popular MP in his new constituency, gaining a reputation for putting the interests of his constituency ahead of Conservative government policy, e.g. by voting against the closure of the Shotton steelworks, supporting the Airbus A300B whose wings some of his constituents built, against its all-British rival the BAC 3-11, while insisting on the importance of an effective pan-European technology.
When the Conservative party returned to power under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, Meyer's type of pro-Europeanism was at odds with the Euroscepticism of the bulk of the party. When his Flintshire West constituency's boundaries were expanded and redrawn to form the Clwyd North West constituency in 1983, there was an attempt by local party activists to replace him with the more Thatcherite MEP, Beata Brookes, whom Meyer managed to defeat. In November 1989, at a time of both Thatcher's and the Conservative Party's waning popularity, Meyer put himself forward as the pro-European stalking horse for the leadership of the Conservative Party, fully expecting that one of the more prominent pro-Europeans such as Sir Ian Gilmour or Michael Heseltine would take over the role; in the event, none of them did so, and Meyer had no illusions that he had any chance of success. In the leadership election Meyer was defeated by 314 votes to 33, but when spoilt votes and abstentions were added it was discovered that 60 MPs - a full sixth of the parliamentary party - had failed to support Thatcher. As Meyer said, "people started to think the unthinkable", and Thatcher was ousted the following year.
On 19 January 1990, Meyer was deselected as a candidate for the 1992 general election by the Clwyd North West constituency party. After 1992 he became policy director for the European Movement, and in 1998 he defected to the Pro-Euro Conservative Party before becoming a member of the Liberal Democrats. After 1999 he became a lecturer on European affairs until his death aged 84, in Kensington and Chelsea, London, in December 2004.
Arranged into the following: Constituency Affairs; General Political Papers; General Welsh Affairs.
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Sir Anthony Meyer MP
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Other Finding Aids
A hard copy of the catalogue is available in Flintshire Record Office. Catalogue is searchable online at: http://calmview.flintshire.gov.uk/CalmView/
Compiled by Steven Davies of Flintshire Record Office. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Flintshire Record Office, Sir Anthony Meyer MSS Catalogue; Veysey, A.G. (ed.), Guide to the Flintshire Record Office (Denbigh, 1974); Obituaries for Sir Anthony Meyer.
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Deposited by Sir Anthony Meyer.
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