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The Lord Tebbit
Official portrait of Lord Tebbit 2020 crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
2 September 1985 – 13 June 1987
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Gummer
Succeeded by Peter Brooke
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
2 September 1985 – 13 June 1987
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by The Earl of Gowrie
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
President of the Board of Trade
In office
16 October 1983 – 2 September 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Cecil Parkinson
Succeeded by Leon Brittan
Secretary of State for Employment
In office
14 September 1981 – 16 October 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Jim Prior
Succeeded by Tom King
Minister of State for Industry
In office
5 January 1981 – 14 September 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by The Viscount Trenchard
Succeeded by Norman Lamont
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Michael Meacher
Succeeded by The Lord Trefgarne
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
9 July 1992 – 31 March 2022
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Chingford
Epping (1970 – Feb 1974)
In office
18 June 1970 – 16 March 1992
Preceded by Stan Newens
Succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith
Personal details
Norman Beresford Tebbit

(1931-03-29) 29 March 1931 (age 93)
Ponders End, Middlesex, England
Political party Conservative
Margaret Daines
(m. 1956; died 2020)
Children 3
Residences Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
  • Politician
  • Journalist
  • Pilot
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Branch/service Flag of the Royal Air Force Royal Air Force
Years of service 1950-1956
Rank British RAF OF-1b.svg Flying Officer

Norman Beresford Tebbit, Baron Tebbit, CH, PC (born 29 March 1931) is a British politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet from 1981 to 1987 as Secretary of State for Employment (1981–1983), Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1983–1985), and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Chairman of the Conservative Party (1985–1987). He was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1970 to 1992, representing the constituencies of Epping (1970–1974) and Chingford (1974–1992).

In 1984, Tebbit was injured in the Provisional Irish Republican Army's bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where he was staying during the Conservative Party Conference. His wife Margaret was left permanently disabled after the explosion. He left the cabinet following the 1987 general election to care for his wife.

Tebbit considered standing for the Conservative leadership following Margaret Thatcher's resignation in 1990, but came to the decision not to stand as he had earlier made a commitment to his wife to retire from front-line politics. He did not stand for re-election as MP for Chingford in 1992, and was given a life peerage to sit in the House of Lords as Baron Tebbit, of Chingford. He retired from the House on 31 March 2022.

Early life and career before politics

Born in Ponders End, Middlesex, to working-class parents Leonard and Edith Tebbit, he went to Edmonton County Grammar School, which was then an academically selective state school in north London.

At the age of 16, Tebbit got a job with the Financial Times and had to join NATSOPA. Disliking rules that caused members who criticized union officials to be fined or expelled (and thus lose their jobs), he recalled vowing to "break the power of the closed shop".

In November 1950, Tebbit was commissioned into the Royal Air Force for national service in the rank of pilot officer. He was promoted to flying officer in April 1952. During his time in the RAF Tebbit flew Meteor and Vampire jets. In July 1954, at RAF Waterbeach near Cambridge, he had to escape from a burning Meteor 8 by breaking open the canopy, unknowingly fracturing two of his vertebrae in the accident.

On leaving the RAF, he joined BOAC in 1953 as a navigator and pilot, while initially continuing to fly in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force with 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron at North Weald in Essex. Of his airline navigation training, he later said: "In those days it was a considerable academic syllabus. You had to be up to speed on spherical trigonometry to get through it".

During his time at BOAC, he was an official in the British Air Line Pilots' Association. He flew Avro Yorks, Argonauts, Britannias, DC7Cs and the Boeing 707.

Member of Parliament

Tebbit was elected as MP for Epping in 1970 and then for Chingford in February 1974. He is recorded as an MP member of the Conservative Monday Club in 1970.

Tebbit's first intervention as an MP was to ask a question of the then Minister at the Board of Trade, Frederick Corfield, on 6 July 1970. His question was on the subject of a crash of a Comet-4 aircraft in Spain on 3 July, which killed all the 112 people on board at the time.

In 1975, six men (the 'Ferrybridge Six') were dismissed from their jobs because of the introduction of a closed shop and were denied unemployment benefit. The Secretary of State for Employment, Michael Foot, commented: "A person who declines to fall in with new conditions of employment which result from a collective agreement may well be considered to have brought about his own dismissal". Tebbit accused Foot of "pure undiluted fascism" and affirmed that this "left Mr Foot exposed as a bitter opponent of freedom and liberty".

During the Grunwick dispute, when workers went on strike over pay and working conditions, the owner George Ward refused to recognise their trade union, and there was a split in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet between the conciliatory approach of Jim Prior, the Shadow Employment Secretary, and Keith Joseph.

Tebbit was accused of comparing Prior to Laval and at that year's Conservative Party conference, he attempted to avoid personalising the issue, and openly splitting the party, without retracting what he had said. Tebbit said of these differences: "I'm a hawk—but no kamikaze. And Jim's a dove—but he's not chicken".

During a debate in Parliament on 2 March 1978, Michael Foot labelled Tebbit a "semi-house-trained polecat" in response to a question from Tebbit asking if he accepted that the legislation being proposed that made it compulsory for people to join a Trade Union was an act of Fascism. When he was made Lord Tebbit in 1992, he chose a polecat as one of the symbols on his coat of arms. Later, in the debate Tebbit asked Foot whether he would "put a bridle on his foul-mouthed tongue".

First Thatcher ministry

After the Conservative Party regained power after the general election of 1979, Tebbit was appointed Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Trade.

In the September 1981 Cabinet reshuffle, Thatcher appointed Tebbit as Employment Secretary. This was seen as a shift to a 'tougher' approach to the trade unions than had been the case under Tebbit's predecessor, Jim Prior. Tebbit introduced the Employment Act 1982 which raised the level of compensation for those unfairly dismissed from a closed shop and prohibited closed shops unless 80% of relevant workers approved the arrangement in periodic ballots. It also removed trade unions' immunity from liability in tort – i.e. made trade unions liable for civil damages if they committed unlawful acts, and made injunctions possible against such acts. In his memoirs Tebbit said that the 1982 Act was his "greatest achievement in Government".

In March 2021 Tebbit was reported by The Times to have said, during a Zoom meeting, that Special Branch had regularly spied on union leaders while he was employment secretary.

As a result, Tebbit is often misquoted as having directly told the unemployed to "get on your bike", and he was popularly referred to as "Onyerbike" for some considerable time afterwards.

The former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once remarked of Tebbit: "Heard a chap on the radio this morning talking with a cockney accent. They tell me he is one of Her Majesty's ministers". Peter Dorey of Cardiff University wrote that "it was Norman Tebbit... who was perhaps the public face or voice of Essex man, and articulated his views and prejudices".

Second Thatcher ministry

The Nuffield study of the 1983 general election found that Tebbit was the second most prominent Conservative on radio and television news broadcasts during the campaign with 81 appearances (after Thatcher's 331 appearances).

In the post-election October 1983 reshuffle, Tebbit was moved from Employment to become Trade and Industry Secretary, replacing Cecil Parkinson, who had resigned. Thatcher had actually wanted Tebbit to become Home Secretary, but William Whitelaw vetoed this.

Tebbit was injured in the IRA's bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton during the 1984 Conservative Party conference. His wife, Margaret, was permanently disabled.

In 1985, Tebbit was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as Thatcher wanted to keep him in the Cabinet. During the Westland affair Tebbit was against the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation taking over Westland Aircraft. In 1986, Tebbit opposed the American bombing raid on Libya from British bases and objected to Thatcher's refusal to consult the Cabinet fully on the matter. However, he did criticise the BBC for its supposedly biased reporting of the raid. During the same year, he disbanded the Federation of Conservative Students for publishing an article, penned by Harry Phibbs, following Nikolai Tolstoy's accusation that former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was complicit in the forced repatriation of Cossacks in the aftermath of the Second World War.

On 13 April 1986, Tebbit and his chief of staff Michael Dobbs visited Thatcher at Chequers to present her with the results of polling by Saatchi & Saatchi which found that with inflation down and the trade unions weakened, "the Prime Minister's combative virtues were being received as vices: her determination was perceived as stubbornness, her single-mindedness as inflexibility, and her strong will as an inability to listen". Tebbit and Dobbs told her this was becoming known as the "TBW factor": TBW standing for "That Bloody Woman". They recommended Thatcher take a lower profile in the forthcoming general election.

Thatcher disagreed and her biographer claims she was suspicious of Tebbit's motives. Furthermore, Thatcher commissioned the firm Young and Rubicam to carry out their own polling, which concluded that Thatcher's leadership was not the problem. Throughout the rest of 1986 and into the 1987 election, Thatcher continued to use Young and Rubicam, which eventually caused tensions with Tebbit during the election campaign.

For quite a while, Tebbit was seen as Thatcher's natural successor as Party leader. During early 1986, when Thatcher's popularity declined in the polls, commentators began to suggest that the succession of the Conservative leadership would lie between Michael Heseltine and Tebbit.

At the 1986 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, Tebbit—along with Saatchi and Saatchi, Dobbs and the Conservatives' Director of Research, Robin Harris—came up with the next party slogan—'The Next Move Forward'. For the first time, the Conservatives employed pre-conference advertising to publicise the new-style conference. Tebbit persuaded Thatcher that ministers would state their objectives that they would achieve in the next three years; Saatchi & Saatchi would use these to design posters, leaflets, and brochures to be deployed as each minister finished their speech. The aim "was that in 1986 the media should reflect the image I wanted—of a Government confident, united, clear in where it was going—and determined to get there". According to Tebbit the conference "was more successful than I had dared to hope ... the opinion polls which had us 7% behind in June and still 5% down in September now put us back into first place—a position we never relinquished from then right through the election campaign. The Prime Minister's ratings were immediately restored".

A MORI opinion poll in March 1987 saw Tebbit as second-favourite amongst voters as Thatcher's successor (Heseltine: 24% vs Tebbit: 15%); however, amongst Conservative voters, Tebbit was the front-runner with (Heseltine: 14% vs Tebbit: 21%). In October 1988, MORI asked the same question, with similar results (Heseltine: 22% vs Tebbit: 15%) and (Heseltine: 20% vs Tebbit: 26%) amongst Conservative voters. However, Thatcher apparently once told Rupert Murdoch: "I couldn't get him elected as leader of the Tory party even if I wanted – nor would the country elect him if he was".

On 6 January 1987, the journalist Hugo Young published a quote attributed to Tebbit in The Guardian newspaper. Tebbit's chief of staff, Michael Dobbs, responded by writing a letter to the newspaper citing Young's dislike of Tebbit, adding "Perhaps this explains the invention of the quotation he [Mr Young] attributed to Mr Tebbit". The quote was "No-one with a conscience votes Conservative". Before this letter was published, however, the words "the invention of" had been removed. Despite publishing this letter The Guardian subsequently repeated the quote, and Young again attributed it to him in a letter to The Spectator. Tebbit feared that if no action was taken against The Guardian the Labour Party would use this quote against the Conservatives in the forthcoming general election. With Thatcher's consent Tebbit threatened the newspaper with legal action if they did not retract the quotation and apologise to Tebbit. The case continued until 1988 when The Guardian apologised, published a retraction and paid £14,000 in libel damages in an out-of-court settlement.

During the 1987 general election, Tebbit and Saatchi & Saatchi spearheaded the Conservative campaign, focusing on the economy and defence. However, when on 'Wobbly Thursday' it was rumoured a Marplan opinion poll showed a 2% Conservative lead, the 'exiles' camp of David Young, Tim Bell and the Young and Rubicam firm advocated a more aggressively anti-Labour message. ..... In his memoirs, Tebbit defends the Conservative campaign: "We finished exactly as planned on the ground where Labour was weak and we were strong—defence, taxation, and the economy". During the election campaign, however, Tebbit and Thatcher argued. Tebbit had already informed Thatcher at the beginning of the campaign that he would leave the government after the election to care for his wife.

Thatcher said to her friend Woodrow Wyatt on the Sunday after polling day in 1987: "He'll carry the scar of that Brighton bombing all his life. I didn't want him to go. Whenever he is away from her he can't even attend to business properly. He's always ringing up to find out if the nurses are looking after his wife all right". In her memoirs, Thatcher said she "bitterly regretted" losing a like-minded person from the Cabinet.

On 31 July 1987, Tebbit was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour.


As Trade and Industry Secretary, Tebbit had privatised British Telecom in November 1984. He became a director of the company on 3 November 1987; this gave him an additional salary plus shares in the company.

In late 1987 and 1988, Tebbit formed a temporary alliance with Michael Heseltine in campaigning for the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority, which they succeeded in achieving through a backbench amendment.

Tebbit was also prominent in an unsuccessful Conservative backbench rebellion against a Bill to give 50,000 households (around 250,000 people) from Hong Kong British citizenship.

In April 1988, Tebbit caused much controversy when, in front of an audience of South African dignitaries, he accused critics of South African apartheid of cowardice and stinking hypocrisy. He said that, although black critics attacked apartheid in South Africa, they did not speak out against violence among black tribes in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was visiting London at the time and called on Thatcher to repudiate the remarks; instead, she defended Tebbit.

In April 1990, he proposed the "Cricket test", also known as the "Tebbit Test", when he argued that whether people from ethnic minorities in Britain supported the England cricket team (rather than the team from their country of ancestry) should be considered a barometer—but not the sole indicator—of whether they are truly British: "A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?"

Tebbit told Woodrow Wyatt in 1991 that he did not think certain immigrant communities would assimilate "because some of them insist on sticking to their own culture, like the Muslims in Bradford and so forth, and they are extremely dangerous". In August 2005, after the 7 July 2005 London bombings, which were carried out by three young men of Pakistani descent and one of Jamaican descent, Tebbit claimed vindication for these views.

In a conversation with Woodrow Wyatt on 19 December 1988, Tebbit said he would not go back into politics unless Thatcher "was run over by the proverbial bus and he didn't like the look of the person he thought might get her job and destroy the work they've done". On another occasion (22 February 1990), Tebbit said to Wyatt that he would stand for the Conservative leadership if Thatcher suddenly resigned; but when Alec Douglas-Home suggested that Thatcher would not stand at the next election because she must be tired, Tebbit disagreed: "She has got amazing stamina".

Following Geoffrey Howe's resignation from the government in November 1990, Thatcher asked Tebbit to return to the Cabinet as Education Secretary, but he refused on the grounds that he was looking after his disabled wife. During the 1990 Conservative leadership election, Tebbit was on Thatcher's campaign team with the job of assessing her support amongst Conservative MPs. According to Thatcher's biographer John Campbell, Tebbit was "her most visible cheerleader...who characteristically took the fight to Heseltine by holding a cheeky press conference on his Belgravia doorstep". After the first ballot but before the results became known, Tebbit wanted Thatcher to make a clear commitment to fight the second ballot if her vote fell short of the amount needed to win outright. When Tebbit saw Thatcher on 21 November he told her she was the candidate with the best chance of beating Heseltine. However, Thatcher withdrew from the contest the next day. Tebbit wanted to stand, but never did. Tebbit subsequently switched his support to John Major.

After Major came back from Maastricht with an opt-out from the Social Chapter and the single currency, Tebbit was one of the few MPs in the debate on 18 December 1991 to criticise the new powers the Community would acquire. He claimed the government had been on the defensive against "federalist follies" and that Maastricht had seen "a series of bridgeheads into our constitution, into the powers of this House, and into the lives of individuals and businesses".

After leaving the House of Commons

Tebbit decided not to stand in the 1992 election, to devote more time to caring for his disabled wife. Following the election he was granted a life peerage and entered the House of Lords, having been created Baron Tebbit, of Chingford in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, on 6 July 1992. His former seat of Chingford was aggregated in 1997 with Woodford Green in boundary changes and was held for the Conservative Party by his successor and protégé Iain Duncan Smith. Tebbit famously said: "If you think I'm right-wing, you should meet this guy".

Maastricht Treaty and Europe

On 11 August 1992, Woodrow Wyatt noted in his diary: "[Thatcher] also seems to have formed a new alliance with Tebbit who stirs her up and talks a lot of nonsense [about the Treaty]."

At the October 1992 Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, Tebbit embarrassed John Major's government when he made a speech attacking the Treaty. As he walked up onto the podium he was applauded by some sections of the audience, described as "young, in t-shirts, aggressively self-confident – the lager louts of our party" in the diary of the Conservative Party chairman of the time, Norman Fowler. Tebbit held aloft a copy of the Treaty and asked the conference a series of questions about the Treaty: did they want to see a single currency or be citizens of a European Union? The audience shouted back "No!" after each question. Tebbit received a tumultuous standing ovation and walked into the centre of the conference hall waving amongst the cheers.

In his memoirs, Major accused Tebbit of hypocrisy and disloyalty because Tebbit had encouraged Conservative MPs to vote for the Single European Act in 1986 but was now campaigning for Maastricht's rejection.

In March 2007, Tebbit became patron of the cross-party Better Off Out campaign, which advocated British withdrawal from the EU.

Involvement with the Conservative Party after 1992

Tebbit privately said of John Major on 17 November 1994: "He has the mulishness of a weak man with stupidity". When asked what would it take for him to support Major, Tebbit responded: "Have an entirely new department, the sole job of which would be to deal with the Brussels machinery in every aspect. I agree that we don't want to leave the EU, but we've got to manipulate it and block every single advance we don't like. No, no, no must be his weapon. Veto everything he disapproves of or that we disapprove of".

In 1995, Tebbit publicly backed John Redwood's bid for the Conservative Party leadership, praising his "brains, courage and humour".

In an interview for the New Statesman magazine in June 2000, Tebbit praised Hague's right-ward shift and said that he had "never been a [Michael] Portillo fan". He also mused on not standing for the Conservative leadership after Thatcher's resignation: "When I look at what happened to the party, I tell myself that perhaps I failed in a duty. I suppose I am one of those who have it on my conscience that I allowed Mr Blair to become Prime Minister".

In August 2002, Tebbit called on the then leader of the Conservatives, Iain Duncan Smith, to "clear out" Conservative Central Office of "squabbling children" who were involved with infighting within the Party. He named Mark MacGregor, a former leader of the Federation of Conservative Students which Tebbit disbanded for "loony Right libertarian politics", as one of them. Then, in October the same year, Tebbit accused a group of Conservative "modernisers" called "The Movement" of trying to get him expelled from the Party. Tebbit said that The Movement consisted of a "loose" grouping of thirteen members who had previously supported Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo for Party leader. Duncan Smith subsequently denied that Tebbit would ever be expelled and Thatcher publicly said she was "appalled" at attempts to have Tebbit expelled and telephoned him to say that she was "four square behind him".

In February 2003, Tebbit gave a speech to an audience of the Chartered Institute of Journalists at London's Reform Club in Pall Mall, urging journalists to reject political correctness in favour of "open, honest and vigorous debate". He blamed "timid" politicians, including members of his own party, for allowing PC language and ideas to take hold in Britain by default.

Tebbit backed David Davis for Party leader during the 2005 Conservative leadership election.

On 30 January 2006, he accused the Conservative Party of abandoning the party's true supporters on the Right, and opposed the new Leader David Cameron's attempts "to reposition the party on the 'Left of the middle ground'".

In an interview with The Times in September 2007, Tebbit said the Conservatives lack somebody of the standing of Thatcher, and said that although it did not matter if Cameron's team were educated at Eton, "what a lot of people will suggest is that they don't know how the other half lives. David and his colleagues – the very clever young men they have in Central Office these days – are very intellectually clever, but they have no experience of the world whatsoever. He has spent much of his time in the Conservative Party and as a public relations guy. Well, it's not the experience of most people in the streets. That's the real attack and that's damaging to him, I think".

Norman Tebbit Edinburgh University Politics Society 2008
Tebbit giving a talk for the Edinburgh University Politics Society in 2008

In February 2008, after a magazine article written by shadow education secretary Michael Gove, Tebbit publicly criticised what he characterised as "the poisonous tree of Blairism", which he said had been "planted" in the Conservative Party front bench.

Tebbit is the vice-president of the Conservative Way Forward group. He continued his criticism of the Conservative Party's move to a more "centre-right" position by stating that their abandonment of the traditional right vote has created a political vacuum, contributing to the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), including two MP defections, both from the Conservatives.

Tebbit retired from the House of Lords on 31 March 2022, under provision in the House of Lords Reform Act 2014.

Other political views

Overseas aid

Speaking in the Lords on 26 November 1996, Lord Tebbit criticised aid to Africa, saying that most aid sent to Africa goes down a "sink of iniquity, corruption and violence" and does little to help the poor. A spokesman for the charity Oxfam said Tebbit's view was "simplistic and unhelpful". Later Lord Tebbit defended his statement that most money went "into the pockets" of politicians "to buy guns for warlords".


In a letter to The Daily Telegraph in November 1998, Tebbit said homosexuals should be barred from being Home Secretary. A Conservative Party spokesman said Tebbit was "out of touch" and the official spokesman for William Hague, then Conservative Party leader, said Hague disagreed with Tebbit. In 2013, he wrote in his Telegraph blog that his views concerning whether a homosexual person could be Home Secretary had changed.

In 2004, he opposed the British Government's Civil Partnership Act 2004. In an interview for The Big Issue in May 2013, Lord Tebbit said that the coalition government's determination to pass the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill had alienated grassroots Tories. He also speculated that it could mean that a lesbian queen could give birth to a future monarch by artificial insemination, and that the legislation might allow him to marry his own son to escape inheritance tax.

In 2018, Tebbit said that he would not attend services at St Edmundsbury Cathedral conducted by new dean Joe Hawes, because of Hawes' civil partnership with another clergyman. ..... Hawes said that he felt "absolutely no ill will" towards Tebbit for his comments and stated: "I have always admired the way in which Lord Tebbit has cared for his wife with such devotion following the Brighton bomb."

Northern Ireland

In October 1999, he spoke out against the plans to abolish the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Tebbit said he was against throwing the Constabulary's name and badge "into the modernisation trash can" and that the RUC had been "the thin green line standing between bloody anarchy and the rule of law". Tebbit also mocked Blair's pledge at the Labour conference to "set people free": "He has set them free. More than 250 terrorists, bombers and extortionists. Kneecappers, kidnappers, arsonists and killers have been set free. But their victims remain imprisoned. Some are imprisoned within broken bodies. Some imprisoned in grief for their loved ones. Some imprisoned by death in their graves".

Other parties

In an article for The Spectator in May 2001 Tebbit said that retired British security service agents from the Foreign Office had infiltrated James Goldsmith's Referendum Party in the 1990s and then later infiltrated UKIP. Tebbit called for an independent enquiry into the matter.


In June 2014, in response to an alleged Islamist plot to infiltrate schools in Birmingham, Tebbit wrote in The Daily Telegraph, "No one should have been surprised at what was going on in schools in Birmingham. It is precisely what I was talking about over 20 years ago and Enoch Powell was warning against long before that. We have imported far too many immigrants who have come here not to live in our society, but to replicate here the society of their homelands."

"Foreigners" speech

In 2017, Lord Tebbit criticised a Lords amendment to the Brexit bill which would guarantee the rights of EU citizens to live and work within the UK after Brexit. He also criticised the Lords for "thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners" and "[looking] after the foreigners and not the British", as Theresa May had hoped to leave this amendment out of the bill to secure the rights of British citizens living in EU countries post-Brexit. His comments produced "loud gasps" from the majority of peers (but gained audible support by a number on the Conservative benches), adding that "Of course we don't have the power to look after our citizens overseas, not in these days when we don't have many gunboats".

Personal life

Lord Tebbit currently lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He is an agnostic. He remarked tongue-in-cheek in a March 2011 interview, when asked whether he thinks God exists, "I'm not sure. He ought to. Things would work better." He has two sons and a daughter. He has been described as a 'keen amateur chef', and has published a book on cooking game.

In December 2013, Tebbit suffered from a cardiac incident, praising the NHS for their quick and decisive action. In a May 2014 interview, he talked about discovering he had been suffering from a form of cardiac arrhythmia for more than 40 years: "The suspicion I had a heart problem caused me to puzzle over earlier incidents in my life," he said, reflecting on his RAF jet fighter crash in 1954. "I suspect that, that morning, stressed from the previous day and having had little sleep, I lost consciousness on that take-off run."

Tebbit’s wife, Baroness Tebbit, died at home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on 19 December 2020 at the age of 86 after having suffered from depression and dementia with Lewy bodies.

In the media

In the late 1980s, Tebbit was frequently the target for stand-up comedian Ben Elton, who typically referred to him as "Normo Tebbs".

Tebbit was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!. In 2011, writing in his Telegraph blog, he uncharacteristically praised an article in The Guardian by Michael White. Tebbit cited White's article (an account of Pauline Pearce's visit to the 2011 Tory party conference) as being "a perfect illustration of my theory of the common ground of politics."

Critics nicknamed Tebbit "The Chingford Skinhead". He was portrayed as a sinister, leather-clad bovverboy beating up fellow cabinet members and keeping order in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, by the satirical TV puppet show, Spitting Image. The Professor of English at University College London, John Mullan, has written: "In Spitting Image and probably the middle-class imagination, Norman Tebbit was given an Essex drag on his vowels which he hardly possessed. He should speak in that way because of what he represented".

On 23 February 2010, Tebbit was alleged to have attacked a ceremonial Chinese dragon during a Chinese New Year parade in Bury St Edmunds. He is said to have been unaware it was Chinese New Year and to have "kicked the rear of a child who was dressed in the traditional costume of a dragon". Tebbit later said: "I don't think my reaction was extreme at all. I placed my hand on the drum so I could diminish the noise and asked the drummer what was going on and got a rap on the knuckles for my pain. I was then barged by the dragon. I barged it back and might have done something like kick it. I wasn't sure how to deal with it. I've never been barged by a dragon before". A local Conservative town councillor, Mr Chung, visited Tebbit the day after the incident and received an apology. Chung said: "I said his actions were upsetting. He apologised. He only then understood what he had done".

In May 2009, Tebbit urged voters to snub the main three political parties in the upcoming EU Parliament election. Tebbit, who in March 2009 said that he would vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), stated: "Local elections, the great British public should just treat as normal", but suggested using the European election to send a message to the implicated parties. Tebbit said that there were a series of smaller parties people could vote for in addition to UKIP, including the Green Party, but he urged against voting for the British National Party.

In July 2013, Tebbit was one of the guests on an episode of Peter Hennessy's BBC Radio 4 programme Reflections in which he talked about his life and career. Earlier that year he paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher, saying he wished there were "someone like her now".

In 2016, Tebbit contributed an interview to the documentary film Bobby Sands: 66 Days.

Work as a columnist

Tebbit was a columnist for The Sun, 1995–7; The Mail on Sunday, 1997–2001; The Daily Telegraph since 2010. Tebbit has also written for The Guardian and New Statesman in the past.


  • Britain's Future: A Conservative Vision (1985) ISBN: 0-85070-743-9
  • Britain in the 1990s (1986) ISBN: 0-86048-006-2
  • Values of Freedom (1986) ISBN: 0-85070-748-X
  • New Consensus (1988) ISBN: 1-871591-00-7
  • Upwardly Mobile (Futura, 1991) ISBN: 0-297-79427-2
  • Unfinished Business (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1991) ISBN: 0-297-81149-5
  • Lindsay Jenkins Disappearing Britain: The EU and the Death of Local Government (Britain in Europe) (2005) ISBN: 0-9657812-3-2. (Foreword).
  • The Game Cook (2009) ISBN: 978-1-906779-11-5


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