Rabidly anti-communist MP with a moderate streak
Tuesday 13 April 2004
The Conservative Geoffrey Stewart-Smith, who has died aged 70, hit the headlines when he sensationally ousted Labour's former foreign secretary, George Brown, from his seat in Belper, Derbyshire, in the 1970 general election. His brief parliamentary career was more notable, however, for demonstrating that the establishment would not tolerate a British incarnation of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
It was anticipated that Stewart-Smith might use his Commons position to spread the obsessive anti-communism he had earlier deployed in alliance with the China lobby, professional redbaiters in the United States, the Taiwan government and apartheid South Africa. Instead, he tamely accepted his whip's instructions that Edward Heath did not want to be embarrassed by any British recrudescence of the McCarthyism that had faded in the US a decade earlier. To general surprise, Stewart-Smith emerged as a progressive Tory.
In 1970, he urged a substantial pay increase for the miners and, later, an increase in mining production. In 1972, he attacked the then education secretary Margaret Thatcher for ending free school milk. What was left of his anti-communist crusade he switched to newspaper letter columns.
Stewart-Smith was educated at Winchester College, from where he went to Sandhurst and a commission in the Black Watch. He served in Germany and, for more than three years, in Nigeria.
On leaving the army in 1960, he joined the Sunday Express, and then the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). While there, he began his anti-communist work with books like The Defeat Of Communism (1964), Non-Military Warfare In Britain (1966) and No Vision Here (1970), produced by the Foreign Affairs Publishing Company he ran from his home in Petersham, Surrey. He also produced East-West Digest, which was distributed free to MPs and was described as the "journal of the foreign affairs circle", a body headed by the likes of the Dowager Lady Birdwood (obituary, June 30 2000). The funds to subsidise this operation came mostly from "foreign friends".
From 1965, Stewart-Smith was involved with an outfit called the British Military Volunteer Force, trying to recruit British officers to fight in Vietnam, though he saw himself strictly as a fundraiser. "I would never have fought alongside them," he said.
The next place that interested him was Aden (now part of Yemen), from which the British were withdrawing. Then, in 1967, he became involved in various schemes to deploy retired military officers in Rhodesia and Zanzibar. The following year, he discussed plans to help Czechoslovakia withstand the pressure from Moscow - until the Soviet tanks rolled in.
Stewart-Smith's parliamentary ambitions, nurtured since his days as a Young Conservative in Richmond, Surrey, were realised in 1966, when he was adopted as the Tory candidate for marginal Belper, held for more than 20 years by the voluble, anti-communist Brown. Stewart-Smith's enlightened domestic policies were regarded as advantageous, as was the changing nature of the constituency, with the closure of its last mine and an influx of young married couples. Brown's neglect of the seat also helped. But Stewart-Smith lost in February 1974 and did not stand again.
In 1974, he fell out with the World Anti-Communist League over its anti-semitism. In 1987, during his bankruptcy appearance, he disclosed that the main contributor to his Foreign Affairs Research Council had been apartheid South Africa. In 1990, he was ousted from his flat for non-payment of rent, an event thought to have contributed to the end of his 34-year marriage, by which he had three sons.
• Dudley Geoffrey Stewart-Smith, soldier, editor, politician, born December 28 1933; died March 13 2004