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Malcolm St Clair (politician)

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Malcolm St Clair
Member of Parliament
for Bristol South East
In office
4 May 1961 – 31 July 1963
Preceded byTony Benn
Succeeded byTony Benn
Majority−13,044 (−39%)
Personal details
Malcolm Archibald James St Clair

(1927-02-16)16 February 1927
Died1 February 2004(2004-02-01) (aged 76)
Political partyConservative
Mary-Jean Rosalie Alice Hargreaves
(m. 1952)
ChildrenHugh Alan Charles (1957), Andrew David Paul (1960), and Vanessa Alice Rosabelle (1971)
Alma materEton College
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceBritish Army
RankLieutenant Colonel
UnitTerritorial Army, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Scots Greys, Royal Gloucestershire Hussars

Malcolm Archibald James St Clair (pronounced "Sinclair"; 16 February 1927 – 1 February 2004) was a British Conservative Party politician and Army officer.

Early life

Born on 16 February 1927, St Clair was the son of Major-General G.P. St Clair CB CBE DSO. He was educated at Sandroyd School and Eton College.[1]

After leaving school, St Clair joined the Royal Armoured Corps as a trooper and in 1946 was commissioned as an officer into the Royal Scots Greys. He left the Army in 1948.

Political career

St Clair served as honorary secretary to Winston Churchill from 1948 to 1950,[1] before returning to run his family's dairy farm at Tetbury in Gloucestershire.[2]

In 1955, he stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate at the London County Council elections, in Islington East. At the 1959 general election he stood as Conservative candidate in Bristol South East, but he lost to the sitting Labour Member of Parliament Tony Benn (then known as Anthony Wedgwood Benn), whose majority was nearly 6,000 votes.[3] However, in November 1960 Benn's father died and Benn inherited his peerage as Viscount Stansgate, with an automatic seat in the House of Lords. This disqualified Benn from sitting in the House of Commons, triggering a by-election on 4 May 1961. Benn, who wished to be allowed to disclaim his peerage, defied his inability to sit in the Commons by standing at the election, and he and St Clair were the only two candidates. St Clair's campaign displayed posters near every polling station warning voters that Benn was disqualified and that any votes for him would have no effect. Benn nevertheless won the election with nearly 70% of the votes and an increased majority of over 13,000.[4][better source needed] However, an Election Court considered what to do about the result, found that Benn was disqualified from being elected and that the voters were aware of this, and awarded the seat to St. Clair as the only duly qualified candidate. (At the time, St Clair was himself Master of Sinclair – heir presumptive (1957–1968) to his second cousin Charles St Clair, 17th Lord Sinclair, one of the representative peers for Scotland in the House of Lords.)[5]

Outside Parliament, Benn continued to campaign for a change in the law to allow him to disclaim his peerage and return to the Commons, and eventually the Conservative government agreed. The Peerage Act 1963, making such a change in the law, was given the Royal Assent and became law shortly after 6 p.m. on 31 July 1963. Benn was the first peer to disclaim his title, at 6.22 p.m. that day. St Clair had already given an undertaking that he would respect the wishes of the people of Bristol if Benn became eligible to take his seat again, so he immediately resigned by accepting the office of Steward of the Manor of Northstead.[6][7] This triggered another by-election at which St Clair did not stand, and indeed there was no Conservative or Liberal candidate. On 20 August 1963, Benn was returned to the Commons with nearly 80% of the votes.[8][better source needed]

Later life

St Clair served in the Territorial Army as a Major in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, and as Lieutenant-Colonel from 1967 to 1969. He was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1972.[1]

He died on 1 February 2004, aged 76.

Personal life

In June 1955, St Clair married Rosalie Alice, daughter of Wing-Commander C.L. Hargreaves[1] and granddaughter of Alice Liddell.[9] He lived at Upton House, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, and 28 Chesham Place, London. He was a member of the Cavalry Club.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e M. Stenton and S. Lees (eds), Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume IV 1945–1979, Harvester Press, 1981, p. 325
  2. ^ Malcolm St Clair's election literature, 1961
  3. ^ "UK General Election results: October 1959". 23 June 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  4. ^ 1961 By Elections
  5. ^ Mosley, Charles (ed.) Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition. (Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), vol. 1, p. 1056 & vol. 3, pp. 3627–3629.
  6. ^ Zander, Michael (11 April 2014). "How to lose a title". New Law Journal. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  7. ^ "From the archive, 1 August 1963: Mr Benn hustles to make history". The Guardian. 1 August 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  8. ^ 1963 By Elections
  9. ^ St Clair, Vanessa (5 June 2001). "A girl like Alice". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tony Benn
Member of Parliament for Bristol South East
Succeeded by
Tony Benn
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Malcolm St Clair (politician)
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