Remembering Lord Leach of Fairford (1934-2016)

Remembering Lord Leach of Fairford (1934-2016)

A lovely service was held yesterday at a packed St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge to remember the life of Lord Leach of Fairford. Three thoughtful addresses were given to remember the three main components of Rodney’s life.

His career in commerce and finance was described by Sir Henry Keswick, the Chairman of Jardine Matheson, where Rodney worked for over thirty years; his political contribution was discussed by Lord Howard of Lympne, who nominated Rodney for his Peerage in 2006; and his oldest friend, Stuart Wheeler, spoke about Rodney’s personal life, his family and his close friends.

Some BrexitCentral readers might not have come across Rodney Leach before, because he shunned the political spotlight. The Reverend Gyle opened the Memorial Service by talking about the importance to our national life of the people who work away from the public eye, shaping policy and the future of the country.

This influence was most notable, of course, on the thorny issue of Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Sir Henry recounted a lunch at Jardine Matheson’s Lombard Street headquarters shortly after David Cameron made his Bloomberg speech. “What did you make of the speech? I thought it was rather good”, said Sir Henry. “I’m glad you liked it”, replied Rodney, “I wrote it!” (which raised a smile from David Cameron, who was in the congregation).

When Michael Howard talked about Rodney’s political legacy, he rightly credited him with the lion’s share of the credit for keeping Britain out of the Euro and he talked about the important role played by Open Europe in the years running up to the referendum.

As Charles Moore revealed in The Spectator earlier this year, shortly before he passed away, Rodney had come to the reluctant conclusion that Britain should leave the European Union. Writing to a friend in March, after the Prime Minister came back with his deal, Rodney said: “We aren’t ever going to sacrifice our democracy and the EU cannot ever develop a democracy, as it hasn’t got a demos. So whatever others do, we won’t join… So it has to be exit, painful though that may temporarily be.” (The full email can be read here)

Everyone involved on the Leave side in the Referendum owes Rodney a tremendous debt for the role he played over almost two decades in our victory. The work he did gathering together business leaders at Business for Sterling and building a coalition of people from outside the centre-right through the No campaign were key building blocks to the Vote Leave coalition.

Also noted by Michael Howard was the role Rodney played nurturing political talent, and I think it would have amused him that so many key players on both sides of the referendum had at one point or another reported to Rodney. The Leach alumni at Vote Leave included myself and Stephen Parkinson (NOtoAV); Dominic Cummings, George Eustice and Alex Hickman (Business for Sterling and No campaign); and Georgiana Bristol and Paul Stephenson (Open Europe). The Remain side included Nick Herbert (Business for Sterling), Mats Persson (Open Europe) and Charlotte Vere (NOtoAV).

Rodney Leach’s political legacy is immense: Britain outside the Euro, a cadre of political talent across Westminster and the intellectual groundwork for the Brexit negotiations. As Michael Howard said in his address, he was possibly “the most influential unelected person in Britain”.

May he rest in peace.