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Case Study: Sir Keith Joseph

Keith Sinjohn Joseph was born 17 January 1918 and died December 10 1994.

He came from a wealthy background; his father was a self-made businessman, who founded the construction company Bovis.

Image of Sir Keith Joseph
Image of Sir Keith Joseph

Joseph’s father was also Lord Mayor of London, which meant Sir Keith inherited a baronetcy. Joseph was schooled at Harrow and Magdalen College, Oxford,

He was brilliant mind within the Conservative Party particularly during the Thatcher years.

Keith Joseph became the Member of Parliament for Leeds North-East in 1956 until 1987 and thereafter entered the House of Lords as Baron Joseph of Porsoken.[amazon_link asins=’1510447679′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’britresources-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’4a0f5f04-99a2-4424-bbf0-37da7e11178e’]

Sir Keith Joseph

He held many positions:

• PPS to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, CRO 1957-59;
• Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Local Government 1959-61;
• Minister of State at Board of Trade 1961-62;
• Privy Council – 1962;
• Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs 1962-64;
• Secretary of State for Social Services 1970-74;
• Founder and chairman, Management Committee, Centre for Policy Studies 1974-79;
• Secretary of State for Industry 1979-81;
• Secretary of State for Education and Science 1981-86.

What Sir Keith Joseph believed

Sir Keith Joseph is known for his economic thinking and support of the market economy. Indeed his economic ideology, channeled through his friendship and meeting of souls with Margaret Thatcher defined what became known as Thatcherism and the reforms within it.


Although an excellent monetarists mind, his passion was social issues where he became a respected authority. Reflecting on his time in government Joseph said “my main motivation was then as it has been since, the escape of a society and individuals from poverty”.[amazon_link asins=’B014RZ1JUS’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’britresources-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’eb54d068-ff80-476b-8d82-b40debc2584e’]

A Leader in Waiting?

During a speech at Edgbaston in early 1975, Joseph came under criticism for his language about social deprivation. His language was clumsy about those from poorer backgrounds having large families with such phrases as “the balance of our human stock is threatened”

Although never officially a candidate, in 1974 Joseph withdrew from the Conservative Party Leadership race. In effect he was very clever but too nice. The Edgbaston speech had proven he did not have the tough skin or politically calculating mind required for the top job.

His reflection was that “the tasks ahead are for giants. And I am no giant.” He remained a strong figure in the right of the party.

He also became the intellectual leader whilst they were in opposition. Sir Keith Joseph became Head of Policy in 1975. He was determined to restate the principles of social market economy.

Alliance & Work with Margaret Thatcher

Joseph put his full support behind the member for Finchley, Margaret Thatcher and with that support came at least sixty other MPs who were loyal to him. It is argued without Joseph, Mrs. Thatcher may never have won (she may have disagreed with that?).

Margaret Thatcher took office as PM in 1979. Joseph was made Secretary of State for Industry before moving to Education in 1981 where he introduced reforms to examinations and the national curriculum.

With Margaret Thatcher he established a free enterprise think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies. Mrs. Thatcher remained close friends with Sir Keith and gave a glowing tribute when he died.

Joseph retired as an MP from the Commons and joined the House of Lords in 1987 where he continued to speak about social and economic issues as well as the growing centralization of power and trade in the European Community.

For more case studies like this one, visit The Britpolitics Treasury