Bill Deedes

William Francis Deedes, Baron Deedes, KBE, MC, PC (1 June 1913 – 17 August 2007) was a British Conservative Party politician, army officer and journalist; he was the first person in Britain to have been both a member of the Cabinet and the editor of a major daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.

The Lord Deedes

Bill Deedes in 1963
Minister without Portfolio
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byThe Lord Mills
Succeeded byEric Fletcher
Member of Parliament
for Ashford
In office
23 February 1950 – 18 October 1974
Preceded byEdward Percy Smith
Succeeded byKeith Speed
Majority4,012 (13.4%)
Personal details
Born1 June 1913
Aldington, Kent, England, UK
Died17 August 2007 (aged 94)
Aldington, Kent, England, UK[1]
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Evelyn Branfort (died May 2004)

Early life and career

Deedes was the second child and only son of landowner Herbert William Deeds and his wife, Melesina Gladys daughter of Philip Francis Chenevix Trench. His younger sister Margaret Melesina married the 21st Baron FitzWalter.[2] He was brought up in the family home of Saltwood Castle until it was sold in 1925. He was educated at Harrow until after his father suffered heavy financial losses from the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Deedes was forced to leave school a year early and finish his exams with a tutor.[3] Denied a university career, Deedes began his career as a reporter on the Morning Post in 1931, joining the Daily Telegraph when it took over the Post in 1937. Between 1931 and the beginning of the war in 1939, he shared a home in Bethnal Green, with his uncle Wyndham Deedes.

Deedes fought with the British Army in the Second World War, being based initially at Shrapnel Barracks in Woolwich[4] as an Officer in the 2nd Battalion, Queen's Westminsters, one of the Territorial units of the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He gained the Military Cross near Hengelo, The Netherlands in April 1945. He was also the only officer to serve in 12th King's Royal Rifle Corps (2nd Queen's Westminsters) for the duration of the war. His battalion served as the motorised battalion of 8th Armoured Brigade in the North-west Europe campaign.

Marriage and children

He was married to Evelyn Hilary Branfoot, who died in May 2004, by whom he had two sons (one of whom died young) and three daughters, Juliet, Jill and Lucy.[5]

A convinced Christian like his father, he lived very unpretentiously on the edge of Romney Marsh, Kent, where his wife, Hilary, kept a menagerie of farm animals. He was never particularly well-off, preferring to use public transport whenever possible.[5]

His son, Jeremy Deedes, is a director of the Telegraph Group of companies and was (2008-2012) a director of lobbyists Pelham Bell Pottinger. He has been a Director of the Tote, Chairman of The Sportsman newspaper, and is currently a director of Warwick Racecourse.[6]

Lucy Deedes is a former Master of Foxhounds and was the first wife of Crispin Money-Coutts, the 9th Baron Latymer. She is the mother of society magician Drummond Money-Coutts.


Deedes came from a family with a tradition of public service. He was very proud of the fact that there had been a Deedes member of parliament in every century since 1600.[5]

Deedes was elected as the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashford in 1950. First serving as a junior minister under Winston Churchill for three years, he later entered Harold Macmillan's Cabinet in 1962 as Minister without Portfolio. He left the Cabinet in 1964, as Minister of Information, and subsequently stood down as an MP at the October 1974 election.[5]

Journalism and later life

He was editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1986, and after he was replaced by Max Hastings, continued his career as a journalist. His tenure was noted for battles with the print unions.

Deedes was made a life peer in 1986, becoming Baron Deedes, of Aldington in the County of Kent, though he always preferred to be addressed as "Bill" rather than "Lord Deedes".[3]

On the Australian republic referendum, 1999 Deedes said in The Daily Telegraph in 1999: "I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end."[7]

Bill Deedes continued to comment on social and political issues through his newspaper columns up to his death. In his later years, he gained a cult fanbase after two memorable appearances on Have I Got News for You becoming, at the age of 88, the oldest guest ever to have appeared on the programme until 2012 when Baroness Trumpington appeared at the age of 90. He was also a stalwart member of the Carlton Club and was appointed as an ambassador for UNICEF in 1998, running high-profile campaigns against landmines. In 2006, he wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph, saying that Islam "is the only faith on Earth that persuades its followers to seek political power and impose a law — sharia — which shapes everyone's style of life" adding that Islam "forbids" Muslims from conforming with British society.[8] He continued to write into his 94th year, with his final article, published on 3 August 2007, concerning Darfur.[9]

He died on 17 August 2007 at his home in Kent, aged 94, after a short illness.[10] The residential street, Bill Deedes Way, in the village of Aldington near Ashford, is named after him.

Popular culture


According to many sources, Deedes was the journalist used by Evelyn Waugh as the model and inspiration for the hapless William Boot, protagonist of the satirical novel Scoop. Deedes himself said he "spent part of my life brushing aside the charge," but admitted "that my inexperience and naivety as a reporter in Africa might have contributed a few bricks to the building of Boot."[11] The two had reported together in 1936, trying to cover the Second Italo-Abyssinian War; Deedes arrived in Addis Ababa aged 22 with almost 600 pounds of luggage.[12] Berhanu Kebele, Ethiopian ambassador to London, pointed out that Deedes's sharp journalistic instincts ensured Italian excesses were kept in the public eye.[13] Barring the question of age, a more appropriate model for Boot is William Beach Thomas who, according to Peter Stothard, "was a quietly successful countryside columnist and literary gent who became a calamitous Daily Mail war correspondent" in World War I.[14]

Dear Bill

Deedes was close to Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis. The spoof letters "from" Mr. Thatcher which appeared in satirical magazine Private Eye throughout the Thatcher years were always addressed to Dear Bill – the "Bill" in question was usually assumed to be Deedes; however some instalments (e.g. 16 May and 28 November 1986) would suggest otherwise. The two men regularly played golf together, with Deedes claiming it was a public service to take the spouse of the Prime Minister away from the stress of being married to the country's head of government. The Eye also based its long-running editorial comment, "Shome mishtake shurely?", on Deedes' distinctive slur.


  • Deedes, WF, Words and Deedes: Selected Journalism 1931-2006, Macmillan, 2006, ISBN 1-4050-5396-8
  • Deedes, WF, At War with Waugh: The Real Story of "Scoop", Macmillan, 2003 ISBN 1-4050-0573-4
  • Deedes, WF, Brief Lives, Macmillan, 2004 ISBN 0-330-42639-7
  • Deedes, WF, Dear Bill: A Memoir, Macmillan, 2005 ISBN 1-4050-5266-X
  • Deedes, WF & Wake, Sir Hereward (eds.), Swift and Bold: the story of the King's Royal Rifle Corps in the Second World War 1939-1945, Gale and Polden, Aldershot, 1949


  1. ^ Fox, Margalit (4 September 2007). "Bill Deedes, Journalist in Britain, Is Dead at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 1067. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  3. ^ a b "Desert Island Discs - Lord Deedes - BBC Sounds". Desert Island Discs. BBC Radio. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  4. ^ Deedes, William (2013). Words and Deedes: Selected Journalism 1931-2006. Pan McMillan. p. 70. ISBN 9780330541121.
  5. ^ a b c d Ingrams, Richard (20 August 2007). "Obituary: Lord Deedes". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Deeds, Bill; The Daily Telegraph; 8 November 1999
  8. ^ Muslims can never conform to our ways - Daily Telegraph. 20 October 2006
  9. ^ Darfur is as bad as Nazi Germany - and I know - Daily Telegraph. 3 August 2007
  10. ^ "Journalist Lord Deedes dies at 94" (webpage). BBC News Online. 17 August 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  11. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.102-103
  12. ^ W.F. Deedes, At War With Waugh (London: Macmillan, 2003), p.3
  13. ^ Letter to the Daily Telegraph on 27 August 2007(Issue no 47,347)
  14. ^ The Times Hay, we got it wrong Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine 29 May 2007

External links

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Percy Smith
Member of Parliament for Ashford
Succeeded by
Keith Speed
Media offices
Preceded by
Maurice Green
Editor of The Daily Telegraph
Succeeded by
Max Hastings
1913 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1913 in the United Kingdom.

Ashford (UK Parliament constituency)

Ashford is a constituency created in 1885 represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 1997 by Damian Green, a Conservative, who served as First Secretary of State between 11 June and 20 December 2017.

Canterbury Cricket Week

Canterbury Cricket Week was founded in 1842, although a similar festival week was first held in 1839 by the Beverley Cricket Club, the club which was the foundation for Kent County Cricket Club. It is the oldest cricket festival week in England and involves a series of consecutive Kent home matches, traditionally held in the first week in August. Since 1847 it has taken place at the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, before that it was held at the Beverley Ground in the same city. In addition to hosting cricket matches, it also includes several other events and ceremonies. As of 2018, there have been 167 Canterbury Cricket Weeks held. The week continued through the Second World War with cricket being held on the ground each season.The politician and journalist Bill Deedes wrote in 2000: "while the Second World War was on, I consoled myself by thinking that Canterbury Cricket Week, founded in 1842 with its tents and famous lime tree, unchanging in a changing world, was the sort of thing I was in business to preserve."

Dear Bill

The "Dear Bill" letters were a regular feature in the British satirical magazine Private Eye, purporting to be the private correspondence of Denis Thatcher, husband of the then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It was written by Richard Ingrams and John Wells, and illustrated with sketches by George Adamson for the first five years, and subsequently by Brian Bagnall.

The series took the form of fortnightly letters to "Bill" by his friend and golfing partner "Denis". The letters were split equally between reactionary grumblings about the state of the country and vituperative comments on contemporary politics, with regular passing references to the goings-on of a fictional collection of acquaintances and the consumption of a quite remarkable quantity of "electric soup". "Bill", whilst never identified as such in the series, was often taken as being Denis Thatcher's close friend Bill Deedes; indeed, Deedes later titled his autobiography Dear Bill: a memoir.The series ran throughout the Thatcher government, first appearing two weeks after Margaret Thatcher was elected. It spawned a number of annual editions of the collected letters, one for each year, and even a stage play, Anyone for Denis?, with creator John Wells playing the title role. A television adaptation by Thames Television was broadcast in 1982.The concept of writing satire from the point of view of a Prime Ministerial spouse was not new to the magazine, who had published Mrs Wilson's Diary (also a collaboration between Wells and Ingrams) along the same line during the Wilson government. It allowed the writers wide rein to comment on the personal peculiarities of senior politicians without seeming overly absurd, and was presented in a context that was – whilst clearly fictional – quite plausible. The assumed characteristics of the subject – a conservative reactionary, a "buffer's buffer" surveying the world through the bottom of a glass and not liking it one inch – gave ample opportunity for a rich and identifiable style; the image of Denis portrayed in the letters – a gin-soaked half-witted layabout, whose sole activity was to try to escape the wrath of "the Boss" – was a popular one, and Denis Thatcher remained in the public imagination as a less gaffe-prone version of the Duke of Edinburgh long after both the Thatcher government and the series itself had ended. The portrayal was not entirely negative; Denis Thatcher was portrayed as having a sharp and witty tongue, and a keen eye for events around him.

Whilst the letters may not have represented the real Denis Thatcher, they represented the Denis Thatcher their readers believed in. The poet Philip Larkin described the letters as consolidating "an imaginative reality that is more convincing than the morning papers" in an Observer review, and John Wells once argued that he had done more than every Downing Street publicist to endear the Thatchers to the British public. They played a major part in fashioning Denis Thatcher's popular public image.Bill Deedes, along with the Thatchers' daughter Carol, argued that Denis himself played up to this image – by encouraging the portrayal of himself as a harmlessly incompetent buffoon, he could deflect any claims that he was manipulating government from "behind the throne".


Deedes may refer to:

Bill Deedes, KBE, MC, PC, DL (1913–2007), British Conservative Party politician, army officer and journalist

Charles Deedes KCB CMG DSO (1879–1969), senior British Army officer who went on to be Military Secretary

John Deedes (1803–1885), amateur English cricketer

Ralph Bouverie Deedes, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C. (1890–1954), senior officer in the pre-partition Indian Army

William Deedes junior (1834–1887), English cricketer and a Conservative Party politician

William Deedes senior (born 1796), English cricketer who played first-class cricket from 1817 to 1826, and a Conservative Party politician

Wyndham Deedes CMG DSO (1883–1956), British Brigadier General, Chief secretary to the British High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine


Dualit is a British manufacturer of coffee and tea capsules, kitchen and catering equipment and is best known for its range of heavy-duty toasters. The Dualit Classic Toaster is regarded as a design classic. Although it was primarily designed for the commercial catering market, it became trendy in the 1990s as a domestic product and was described by Bill Deedes in The Observer newspaper as a "symbol of the kitchen porn 90s".

George Plumptre

The Honourable Wyndham George Plumptre (born 24 April 1956) is an English author, journalist and expert on gardening, formerly gardening correspondent for The Times (1993–96), and since 2011, chief executive of the National Gardens Scheme.The son of FitzWalter Brook Plumptre, 21st Lord FitzWalter, by his wife Margaret Melesina, daughter of Herbert William Deedes (father also of the Conservative politician, soldier and journalist Bill Deedes, later created Baron Deedes), and younger brother of Julian Brook Plumptre, 22nd Lord FitzWalter, Plumptre was raised at the family estate, Goodnestone Park, at Goodnestone, Dover, then educated at Radley College and Jesus College, Cambridge (B.A. 1978).A writer since 1980, Plumptre is a contributor to Country Life, Homes & Gardens, The Daily Telegraph, and other publications. He has written numerous books about gardening, including Collins Book of British Gardens (1985), The Latest Country Garden (1988), Garden Ornament (1989), Classic Planting and Royal Gardens (2005) and The English Country House Garden (2014)- and cricket, including Back Page Cricket (1987), Homes of Cricket (1988) and The Golden Age of Cricket (1989). He also produced a biography of King Edward VII, published in 1995.From 1993 to 1996, alongside his other activities Plumptre was gardening correspondent for The Times; in 1999 he founded Greenfingers, now the UK's largest online-only garden specialist. In 2011, Plumptre became chief executive of the National Gardens Scheme, which opens gardens to the public to raise money for charity.In 1984 Plumptre married Alexandra Cantacuzene-Speransky; they have two sons and a daughter. They were divorced in 2008. In 2010 Plumptre married Annabel Williams.

John Wells (satirist)

John Campbell Wells (17 November 1936 – 11 January 1998) was an English actor, writer and satirist.

Keith Speed

Sir Herbert Keith Speed (11 March 1934 – 12 January 2018) was a British Conservative Party politician and former Member of Parliament. He was a descendant of cartographer and historian John Speed.

Lilo Milchsack

Dame Lilo Milchsack, (27 May 1905 – 7 August 1992) was a German promoter of post-war German-British relations. Lilo founded an association which created an annual conference of British and German decision makers. She is said to be one of the architects of post-war Europe. She was the first German to join the British Order of St Michael and St George.

Maurice Green (journalist)

(James) Maurice Spurgeon Green (Born in Padiham, Lancashire, England, 8 December 1906 - 19 July 1987) was a British journalist and newspaper editor. He was one of the two sons of Lieutenant-Colonel James Edward Green, and his wife, Constance Ingraham-Johnson.

Max Hastings

Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings (; born 28 December 1945) is a British journalist, who has worked as a foreign correspondent for the BBC, editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph, and editor of the Evening Standard. He is also the author of numerous books, chiefly on defence matters, which have won several major awards.

Saltwood Castle

Saltwood Castle is a castle in Saltwood village, one mile (2 km) north of Hythe, Kent, England. Of 11th century origin, the castle was expanded in the 13th and 14th centuries. After the Norman Conquest, the castle was appropriated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Lanfranc and remained the property of the archbishops, with some interruptions, until 1540, when Thomas Cranmer was compelled to cede it to Henry VIII. The castle is reputed to have been the meeting place of the four knights who carried out the assassination of Thomas Becket in 1170. By the 19th century, it was "largely ruinous" and restorations to make portions of the castle habitable were carried out in the 1880s and 1930s. In the late 19th century, the castle was bought by an ancestor of Bill Deedes, the journalist and politician, who grew up there. In the 20th century, it was sold to Sir Martin Conway who commissioned Philip Tilden to undertake a restoration. In 1953, the castle was bought by the art historian Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), and then became the home of his son, the politician and diarist, Alan Clark (1928–1999). It remains the private home of his widow, Jane Clark. The castle is a Grade I listed building.

Scoop (novel)

Scoop is a 1938 novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh. It is a satire of sensationalist journalism and foreign correspondents.

Smeeth railway station

Smeeth is a disused railway station on the South Eastern Main Line which served the village of Smeeth in Kent, England. The station opened in 1852 and closed in 1954.

William Boot

William Boot is a fictional journalist who is the protagonist in the 1938 Evelyn Waugh comic novel Scoop.

William Deedes

William Deedes may refer to:

William Deedes senior (1796–1862), English cricketer for Kent, Member of Parliament (MP) for East Kent 1845–1857 and 1857–1862

William Deedes junior (1834–1887), English cricketer for Gentlemen of Kent, MP for East Kent 1876–1880

Bill Deedes, British journalist and Conservative MP for Ashford 1950–1974

Coat of arms of Bill Deedes
Coronet of a British Baron
Deedes Escutcheon
An Eagle's Head erased per fess nebuly Gules and Argent between two Wings expanded Sable[2]
Per fess nebuly Gules and Argent three Martlets counterchanged

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