WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1122651640
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: DOUGLAS; James Alexander Thomas-20/9/2004-UK
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 16:40:40 +0100
The Daily Telegraph & the telegraph.co.uk
James Douglas, who has died aged 85, played an important role in the
Conservative Research Department when the Tories' style of consensus
politics had a strong appeal for the electorate, between Churchill's victory
of 1951 and the defeat of Edward Heath in 1974.
During this time he made two major contributions to the modernisation of the
party's practical operations.
He devised the rules introduced in 1965 to provide for the election of the
party leader, though an egregious MP, Humphry Berkeley, stole the public
credit. He also vigorously promoted the use of opinion polls - at which his
predecessors had looked askance - though he deplored the mumbo-jumbo that
was so often attached to them.
It was thus that the party discovered a previously neglected element of the
electorate, the C2s, whom Mrs Thatcher later courted so successfully with
the sale of council houses.
From the moment he joined the department's offices, overlooking St James's
Park, in 1951 after many of its post-war luminaries had left to find
parliamentary seats, Douglas played the part of a slightly unworldly
professor to perfection, and widespread delight. At the same time he
established himself at the forefront of discussions of policy and strategy
where the most important work was done.
Although never zealous in his Tory faith, he was admirably forthright in his
advice; a Douglas memorandum was always awaited with keen anticipation by
colleagues and some trepidation by ministers. One draft of the 1966 election
manifesto drew his caustic comment: "It could equally well have been put out
by the Labour Party."
As the election of February 1974 drew near on Heath's ill-chosen issue of
"Who governs Britain?", Douglas, by then head of the department, argued
passionately that the party needed a clear bold message. Above all, he
argued, it must replace "fussy little defences of the latest stage of the
Heath government's counter-inflation policy".
"If we outlive this day and come safe home," he asked, "will we indeed rise
up and stand atiptoe at the name Stage Three?" It was his misfortune that,
after years of enlivening internal Tory debate, he lost his post in the
reorganisation that followed the first 1974 election defeat. However,
Douglas gave way very graciously to his successor, Chris Patten, for whom he
entertained a very high regard.
James Alexandre Thomas Douglas was born on July 22 1919 at Simla, where his
father commanded a regiment of the Indian Army. He was brought up in Paris
before being educated by the Jesuits at Beaumont College in Berkshire.
After reading PPE at New College, Oxford, he took up a post at the Board of
Trade where he had responsibility for clothes rationing. For years
afterwards he embodied the war-time lack of choice, always wearing striped
trousers and a black jacket. Thus attired, he cut an incongruous figure on
his Lambretta motor scooter, weaving dangerously through the traffic with
his mind on political strategy.
Yet he was as conscious as any future Thatcherite of the need for business
to give value for money. Douglas became a founder member of the Consumers'
Association, where he helped to launch the magazine Which? In 1963, he was
Throughout his career in the research department, Douglas remained largely
unknown, and took little interest in life as it was led in the
constituencies. His heart was not gladdened by Thatcherism. One former
Cabinet minister was heard to muse, around 1992, "I wonder whether any of
the five surviving CRD Directors voted Conservative at the last election?"
After leaving the research department in 1977, Douglas held senior academic
posts at Yale, Columbia and the Northwestern University before taking up, in
1986, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Princeton, though with his sharp
approach to politics he could have had little sympathy with that President's
vague principles for a new world order.
James Douglas retired to Hampstead, where he died on September 20. He is
survived by his widow, the former Mary Tew, professor of anthropology at
University College, London, two sons and a daughter.
He also leaves a fine example to politicians as a whole - generally a
self-satisfied breed; he never took himself too seriously and liked to mock
gently their pretensions.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
|DOUGLAS; James Alexander Thomas-20/9/2004-UK by "Peter_McCrae" <>|