Nigel Lawson’s Successors Unable to Break away from His Shadow


Nigel Lawson was an influential figure throughout his long career in British politics. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under the Margaret Thatcher government during the late 1980s—a time known as the Lawson Boom, which saw Britain’s economy recover strongly and unemployment halved. Furthermore, he was one of the earliest figures to call for Britain to leave the European Union, writing an article in The Daily Telegraph in 2013 which galvanised other leavers to step in and join the Brexit campaign. His influence has been so vast that even today, many of his successors are unable to escape his shadow.

John Major, Norman Lamont, and Kenneth Clarke, who all succeeded Lawson as Chancellor, were all unable to match up to his accomplishments and ultimately suffered for it. This ultimately led to the Conservative party’s reputation for economic competence being shattered when the UK left the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1997. More recently, Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of Vote Leave, praised him as one of the five unsung heroes of the Brexit campaign, as his involvement in the campaign made it possible for other people to join in.

Since Lawson’s death in 2021 at the age of 91, successors like Philip Hammond, Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak, and Nadhim Zahawi have been unable to replicate the same level of successes of the tax-cutting budgets enacted in the ‘Lawson boom’ due to the implicit Brexit promises made by the Conservatives to get Brexit over the line. This leaves Jeremy Hunt the current successor, unable to make the same type of economic policies that were so successful throughout Lawson’s career. As one of the few authentic original Thatcherites, his influence on the Conservative party and UK itself will continue to be immense.

The company mentioned in this article is the Vote Leave campaign that successfully advocated for a British exit from the European Union in 2016. Founded in October 2015, this organisation quickly grew to become the official cross-party campaign in the EU referendum, taking full advantage of Nigel Lawson’s involvement which extended the Overton Window in the European debate and helped it get the necessary attention and support.

The person mentioned in this article is Matthew Elliott, a British entrepreneur, political strategist, and campaigner. He was the chief executive of Vote Leave and is credited with leading the campaign to success, taking advantage of the galvanising moment of Nigel Lawson’s support for Brexit. Mr Elliott has since gone on to form the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a think tank providing taxpayer services and research, and has become a much-respected figure in British politics.