Lord Mayhew, who was the MP for Tunbridge Wells for 23 years, died peacefully at his home in Kent on Saturday, aged 86
Lord Mayhew was the Conservative MP from 1974 to 1997 and former President of the Tunbridge Wells branch of the Royal British Legion. He was also Northern Ireland Secretary and Attorney General for five years from 1992, making him the longest-serving secretary of state for NI.
In a statement his family said: “He had lived with cancer and Parkinson’s for several years. He worked hard for peace in Northern Ireland.”
The former lawyer and army officer is survived by Jean, a former teacher whom he married in 1963, and their four sons.
Born in 1929, Lord Mayhew was educated at Tonbridge School and went to Balliol College in Oxford, becoming President of the Union in 1952 and of the university Conservative Association. Previously, he served as a subaltern in the 4th/7th King’s Dragoon Guards. He was called to the Bar from the Middle Temple in 1955.
In Margaret Thatcher’s Government he served as Under-Secretary for Employment, Minister of State at the Home Office, and had roles as Solicitor and Attorney General.
Lord Mayhew, an Irish Protestant, became the first secretary of state to meet the Sinn Fein President and former IRA commander Gerry Adams. The initiative foundered on the IRA’s refusal to disarm, but the contacts established with Sinn Fein (and Dublin) paved the way for the peacekeeping Good Friday Agreement months after Mayhew’s retirement at the 1997 general election.
Current Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark Tweeted: “Patrick Mayhew, an outstanding MP for Tunbridge Wells, former Sec of State and friend has died. Much loved & respected, will be deeply missed.”
Local residents posted their tributes on Facebook. Christopher Luke, of Kirkdale Road, who has previously stood as a UKIP candidate, acknowledged ‘not only Paddy Mayhew’s devotion to working on behalf of all his constituents throughout his time as MP for Tunbridge Wells, but also that he remained a humble but genial chap down throughout his political career’.
He also recalled an incident in 1984 when, while Solicitor General, Lord Mayhew was unable to access his office so held an impromptu surgery in his car. Mr Luke wrote that he was ‘undeterred by possible greater threats to his own personal security by doing so, following an unsuccessful IRA attempt to assassinate his colleague Attorney General Sir Michael Havers QC MP a week earlier’.
Kate Adshead wrote: “What a lovely man. He helped my parents a lot with my eldest brother, Nick, who has severe learning difficulties. He also presented me with my O-level certificate at TWGGS in 1986.”
Sue Rose wrote: “I remember seeing him at one of his surgeries in the 90’s. Nice man. He wrote me a nice letter and sent one of his official pictures.”
Janet Rennie said he was ‘a very trustworthy MP, we corresponded several times on various subjects’.
Leaving the Commons, Lord Mayhew received a life peerage; he was until 2006 an executive member of the Association of Conservative Peers, and from 2000 chaired the Prime Minister’s committee on business appointments.
In 2001 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Kent.