The peer, his late wife and a storm over obit­u­ary that praised her ‘end­less legs’

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Si­mon Wal­ters

A FOR­MER Tory min­is­ter whose de­fec­tion to Labour helped pro­pel Tony Blair into power is locked in an ex­tra­or­di­nary row over an obit­u­ary of his late part­ner

Lord Howarth, whose switch dur­ing the fi­nal days of John Ma­jor’s gov­ern­ment caused a sen­sa­tion, is fu­ri­ous over com­ments on Baroness Hol­lis car­ried in the Times.

The griev­ing fam­ily of the Labour peer, who died aged 77 last month, are also in­censed af­ter the pair – who were mar­ried to other peo­ple when he de­fected – were ef­fec­tively ac­cused of be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship at the time.

The obit­u­ary said Lady Hol­lis was a ‘sexy Leftie’ who used her ‘fem­i­nine skills to or­ches­trate Lord Howarth’s po­lit­i­cal se­duc­tion’. He was de­scribed as a ‘Tory traitor’.

Friends of the cou­ple said they were shocked by the ‘deeply dis­taste­ful’ obit­u­ary and have urged him to sue over the dam­age to his rep­u­ta­tion – and to clear the name of his late part­ner. As Alan Howarth, he served as an ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter un­der Mr Ma­jor, but re­signed as Strat­ford on Avon MP in 1995 and was given a safe Labour seat in Newport, South Wales, by Tony Blair in 1997 in grat­i­tude for help­ing to wreck the Tories.

Pa­tri­cia Hol­lis was a Labour coun­cil­lor in Nor­wich be­fore be­ing en­no­bled in 1990. The Times obit­u­ary de­scribed her as a ‘real cracker with end­less legs’ and de­picted her as a po­lit­i­cal co­quette. It stated: ‘Not only was she strik­ing and stat­uesque with thick auburn hair, but male col­leagues were also grat­i­fied at her habit of gig­gling at their jokes, while oth­ers ad­mired her chic style of dress.’

The Times said she rel­ished the at­ten­tion: ‘When asked about her rep­u­ta­tion as the most glam­orous peer in the Lords, Lady Hol­lis said, “I should be very cross,” be­fore adding, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, I may as well en­joy it”.’

The Times said many Tories held her re­spon­si­ble for the ‘po­lit­i­cal se­duc­tion’ of Lord Howarth. He said he left be­cause of ‘in­de­cent’ Tory calls for tax cuts. The obit­u­ary said an un­named peer had said archly of her role in his de­fec­tion: ‘She can be very per­sua­sive and use her fem­i­nine skills for max­i­mum ef­fect; she thrives on projects and Alan Howarth is her most ex­cit­ing project to date.’

The obit­u­ary re­ferred to re­ports Lady Hol­lis and Lord Howarth ‘were reg­u­larly en­gaged in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions on a par­lia­men­tary trip to Aus­tralia’ in 1992, and sub­se­quently ‘a story in The Sun news­pa­per ap­peared un­der the head­line: “Traitor’s trip Down Un­der with his sexy Leftie pal.” It claimed the pair had be­haved ‘like soul­mates’.

The Times said they de­nied an af­fair, or that their friend­ship had any­thing to do with Lord Howarth’s mar­i­tal prob­lems. She in­sisted they shared an in­ter­est in so­cial is­sues

‘Most glam­orous peer in the Lords’

such as the dis­abled and that she re­mained hap­pily mar­ried to the philoso­pher Mar­tin Hol­lis.

She added she of­ten so­cialised with male col­leagues of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions, cit­ing ex­cur­sions to Ron­nie Scott’s club with Ken Clarke and other jazz-lov­ing politi­cians.’

The Times added point­edly: ‘Af­ter the death of her hus­band in 1998, it did in­deed emerge Hol­lis and Howarth had found hap­pi­ness to­gether.’

Fol­low­ing a back­lash from Lady

Hol­lis’ friends and fam­ily, the news­pa­per pub­lished a sec­ond obit­u­ary of her, writ­ten by her friend and for­mer col­league, Baroness Smith of Basil­don, Labour leader in the Lords.

In a glow­ing trib­ute she praised her ‘in­tel­lect and fear­less­ness’, said she was ‘car­ing, warm, witty and wise’ and a ‘lov­ing mother and grand­mother’.

She de­scribed her as a de­voted wife to hus­band Mar­tin to his dy­ing days, say­ing he ‘was ill for some time and Pa­tri­cia was un­stint­ing in her love and sup­port for him’. Lady Smith dealt with the re­la­tion­ship with Lord Howarth in a sin­gle sen­tence: ‘Af­ter Mar­tin’s death in 1998, Pa­tri­cia found many years of hap­pi­ness with her part­ner, Alan Howarth.’

Lord Howarth di­vorced wife Gil­lian in 1996. Mr Blair made him a min­is­ter in 1997, where he served in gov­ern­ment along­side Lady Hol­lis. The pair were later united in the Lords when he was given a peer­age by Blair in 2005.

A Labour Lords spokesman said: ‘There was anger among our peers over the ini­tial obit­u­ary in The Times – an anger shared by oth­ers across the House. Lord Howarth and mem­bers of Pa­tri­cia’s fam­ily found the piece deeply dis­taste­ful.’

The Times did not re­spond to a re­quest for a com­ment.

Alan Howarth an­nounces his de­fec­tion to Labour in 1995

‘Sexy Leftie’: Pa­tri­cia Hol­lis

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