December 4, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Terry Dicks – an 80s Tory politician

2 min read
Terry Dicks was a Conservative politician active from the 1970s to 1990s who took far right positions on immigration, LGBT rights and other issues

Terry Dicks was the one of a genre of what I’d now describe as “Punk Tories” in the 1980s who were determined to outrage liberal opinion. I grew up in Essex and knew plenty of the breed. Pro-hanging and corporal punishment, anti-immigration, anti-LGBT, anti-feminist and very anti-European.

They were forerunners of Donald Trump out to launch a culture war against all the progressive legislation and societal changes that had taken root in the 1960s. They hated the permissive society, multiculturalism and regretted the loss of the British Empire (as if it could have been held on to).

Terry Dicks was the embodiment of this petit-bourgeois socially illiberal form of Toryism. It chimed with Thatcher’s own prejudices though she would never have articulated them in such a vulgar, boorish manner. So attack dogs like Terry Dicks were given a free rein to yap their bigotry.

Like today’s social conservatives, they moaned about the liberal media while getting acres of coverage in the tabloids and on TV. News, like drama, is conflict and MPs like Dicks with their incendiary comments were good value for a certain type of journalism.

Terry Dicks was simultaneously a local councillor and an MP. As a councillor, he chaired the housing committee on a west London borough council. On one occasion, he moved to stop a Kenyan Asian family getting a council house.

These were people who had been forced to leave the former British colony of Kenya after independence when anti-Asian policies were pursued. Same thing happened in Uganda. Their business acumen and wealth was resented in those countries so they brought it here to the UK – but not with a warm welcome from certain people.

Dicks paid for a taxi and dumped the entire family on the steps of the Foreign Office in Whitehall – telling the national government to house them. I can’t imagine how this would be covered by the media now. Dicks would undoubtedly have been hounded from office. But that was in 1974 and instead, he was viewed heroically in far right quarters.

His support for flogging and hanging extended to the Middle East. Terry Dicks chaired the Qatar parliamentary committee and his trips to the Arab emirate were subsidised by the Qatari government. When a British citizen was flogged for selling alcohol to a Muslim politician, Dicks said the sentence would have widespread support in the UK.

To be clear, the Briton was tied to the floor and lashed fifty times along the whole length of his body. His father, a British colonel, was incensed by Dicks’ intervention which emboldened the Qataris to carry out the sentence. Dicks responded: “I am satisfied that the judicial system in Qatar was operated in a perfectly proper way and the punishment fitted the crime”.

Terry Dicks was no friend of LGBT people and described HIV/AIDS as a “luvvies disease” when the epidemic was at its height.

Terry Dicks and the Kenyan Asian family
Terry Dicks and the Kenyan Asian family

1 thought on “Terry Dicks – an 80s Tory politician

  1. I’m curious now as to what happened to that family. If they’re reading, let us know!
    Sadly Terry Dicks hasn’t changed.

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