William Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw (1918-1999)
Whitelaw was born in Nairn in 1918. His father was killed in the war when he as still a baby. He was educated in Cambridge and at the outbreak of WWII took a commission in the Scots Guards and saw action with the armoured division in Normandy, and on through Holland to Germany rising to the rank of Major, also earning the Military Cross. He left the army in 1946 to take care of the family estates.
Whitelaw followed a career in politics and initially stood for parliament as a conservative in East Dunbartonshire but was unsuccessful. He later became an MP for Penrith in 1955, representing that constituency for 28 years. He became opposition chief whip in 1964 and Edward Heath promoted him to Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons in 1970. in 1972 he was the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during a particularly troubled time. After the Conservatives lost the 1974 election Whitelaw was appointed deputy leader of the opposition. When Heath was forced to call a leadership election in 1975 Whitelaw refused to stand leaving the door open for Margaret Thatcher.
After Thatcher won the next election Whitelaw became Home Secretary, architect of the ‘Short Sharp Shock’ approach to law and order this led to widescale trouble in inner cities and did little to stem the tide of lawlessness and increasing activity by the IRA.
In 1983 Whitelaw was made a peer and became Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords, a post he held until 1987 when a stroke forced him to resign. Without Whitelaw to hold her back Thatcher became increasingly confrontational and this more than likely led to her downfall in 1990.
Whitelaw was created a Knight of the Thistle in 1990, and died of natural causes at the age of 81 in 1999.