18 Jan 2014

Tory grandee Lord McAlpine dies at 71

Lord McAlpine, the former UK Conservative party deputy chairman dies at the age of 71 at his home in Italy, his family announces.

Lord McAlpine, 71, was previously an aide to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In a statement, they said: “It is with great sadness that the family of Lord McAlpine announce his peaceful death last night at his home in Italy.”

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: “Lord McAlpine made a huge contribution to public life.

“He was a man of integrity who had a successful career in both politics and business.

“He was a towering figure during the Thatcher era who did much for the Conservative party and our country.

“My thoughts are with his friends and family.”

The peer was recently wrongly implicated in a child abuse scandal, when allegations were the subject of a BBC investigation.

The allegations forced the corporation’s then-director general, George Entwistle, to quit the role in November 2012 less than two months into taking it, saying that as editor-in chief he had to take “ultimate responsibility” for a Newsnight investigation that had led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly accused of child abuse.

The BBC was also forced to apologise and issued a statement after abuse victim Steve Messham admitted that the man who abused him in the 1970s and 1980s was not the peer.

Labelled a paedophile

Lord McAlpine of West Green found himself at the centre of a storm of internet speculation after Mr Messham told BBC2’s Newsnight he had been abused by a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era when he was a teenager at a north Wales children’s home.

The peer was wrongly accused by some of being a paedophile.

Solicitors for Lord McAlpine indicated that they were preparing to sue for defamation, saying their client’s reputation had been left in “tatters” as a result of the programme.

An investigation into the programme by the BBC Trust later said members of the team failed to follow the corporation’s own editorial guidelines.

The Tory grandee later received damages from a string of internet users – including Sally Bercow, wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, and comedian Alan Davies – as a result of the libellous messages on Twitter.

Ms Bercow agreed to pay former Lord McAlpine £15,000 in damages for her infamous “innocent face” tweet, which was posted at the height of the allegations.

Actor Davies also paid damages after he “re-tweeted” a Twitter post which linked the peer’s name to a television report about a “senior political figure who is a paedophile”.