David John Mellor QC (born 12 March 1949) is a former British politician, non-practising barrister, broadcaster, journalist and businessman. As a member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet of Prime Minister John Major as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (1990–92) and Secretary of State for National Heritage (April–September 1992), before resigning in 1992. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Putney from 1979 to 1997.
Since leaving Parliament, Mellor has worked as a newspaper columnist, a radio presenter, after-dinner speaker, served as Chairman of the government's 'Football Task Force', and established a successful career as an international business consultant and entrepreneur.
Education and early career
Born in Wareham, Dorset, Mellor was educated at Swanage Grammar School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association and a contestant on University Challenge. After briefly working for Jeffrey Archer (then a Member of Parliament (MP)) while studying for his bar exams, Mellor became a barrister in 1972 and Queens Counsel in 1987. He has not practised since being elected as an MP and remains "non practising".
After contesting West Bromwich East in the general election in October 1974, he subsequently became the MP for Putney aged only 30 in the general election of 1979. He was re-elected on three further occasions in the general elections of 1983, 1987, and 1992.
In 1981, Mellor was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy, thus becoming Mrs Thatcher's youngest minister, aged 32. He remained her youngest minister for four years.
In 1983, Mellor was appointed to the Home Office where he was involved in several pieces of ground-breaking "Law and Order" legislation, including the pioneering Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which amongst other things required police to tape-record all interviews with suspects in order for such evidence to be admissible at trial; The Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985 establishing the Crown Prosecution Service; legislation enabling the re-investigation of Miscarriages of Justice; and the significant vivisection "laboratory testing of animals" welfare legislation the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
The last Act, prepared by a coalition of animal welfarists and scientists led by Sir Andrew Huxley (President of the Royal Society), and was jointly launched by them, Mellor, and campaigner Dr Michael Balls – Father of Ed Balls MP (who went on to become the Labour Party's shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) – gave the UK what is still the most advanced framework for the protection of laboratory animals.
In 1987, Mellor was promoted to the Foreign Office by Margaret Thatcher, and was made responsible for the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union (before the fall of the Iron Curtain). In January 1988 during an official visit to Israel he protested angrily in front of press and TV cameras to an Israeli army colonel about what he saw as the "excessive" and brutal way troops were treating local Palestinians. Mellor's furious demand that it be stopped, and later statement to journalists that the treatment was "an affront to civilised values" was broadcast around the world, and caused an international incident for which Mellor refused point blank to apologise. He was later privately reprimanded by Thatcher.
He was briefly Minister for Health in 1988, where he was responsible for health service reforms, before he was made a Privy Councillor in 1990 by Margaret Thatcher, shortly before she resigned as Prime Minister.
Mellor was briefly Arts Minister in 1990 before entering John Major's new Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in November 1990. He was interviewed in December 1991 on the TV programmne Hard News following the establishment of the Calcutt Review inquiring into Press Standards. Mellor claimed during the interview that "the press – the popular press – is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon" and called for curbs on the "sacred cow" of press freedom. The press, coming under heavy criticism at that time, reacted furiously, alleging that he was prejudging Sir David Calcutt's inquiry.
After the 1992 general election he remained a Cabinet Minister when he was made Secretary of State in the newly created Department for National Heritage (now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport), during which period he was vernacularly known as the "Minister for Fun" after comments he made to the waiting press on leaving 10 Downing Street on his appointment.
Retaliation from the media for his "last chance saloon" comment came in July 1992, when Mellor's former mistress, actress Antonia de Sancha, sold her kiss and tell story of Mellor's extra-marital affair with her for £35,000. In a precursor to the "phone-hacking" scandal that would engulf Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in 2006 and later in 2010, their telephone conversations had been secretly recorded by de Sancha's landlord, an activity which at the time was entirely legal in England. The Sun, relying on material supplied by publicist Max Clifford, made a number of lurid fictional claims about the relationship that de Sancha later admitted in a newspaper interview were entirely untrue; this was subsequently confirmed by David Mellor in 2011 at the Leveson Inquiry into Press Behaviour.
John Major, then Prime Minister, supported Mellor through the incident, but the media maintained their interest. During a libel case brought by Mona Bauwens against The People, which came to the High Court in September 1992, led to the revelation that Mellor had accepted the gift of a month-long holiday in Marbella from Bauwens for his family which took place in August 1990. Mellor's connection to Bauwens, the daughter of Jaweed al-Ghussein, the finance director of the PLO (formally the Palestine National Fund) maintained the pressure on him. Mellor resigned on 24 September 1992.
Following the Dunblane school shooting in 1996 when Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children and their teacher before committing suicide, Mellor led a backbench revolt against the Government, which subsequently led to the almost complete banning of the owning and possession of handguns.
Defeat at 1997 general election
Mellor contested the 1997 general election, but was defeated by the Labour Party's Tony Colman as one of the most notable Tory casualties as Labour won by a landslide to end nearly 20 years of Conservative government. The election night was memorable for Mellor's showdown with the Referendum Party founder Sir James Goldsmith — Mellor was taunted by Goldsmith and the pro-handgun candidate (who gave him a slow hand clap and shouted "Out! Out! Out!") during his concession speech. Mellor retorted:
In a later TV interview with BBC reporter Michael Buerk, moments after the declaration, Mellor again commented:
Mellor was chairman of the incoming Labour government's 'Football Task Force' from August 1997 until its dissolution in 1999. Among the recommendations accepted by the Labour government and introduced into law was the criminalisation of racial abuse by an individual spectator, as distinct from a group.
Mellor has also pursued a career in journalism, and has written columns for six national newspapers including the Evening Standard, The Guardian and The People, often on current affairs, but also his specialist interests of sport and the arts. A supporter of Chelsea, he regularly presented football-related programmes on BBC Radio 5 until 2001, and classical music programmes on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 3.
He currently presents "David Mellor" and The New Releases Show on Classic FM. He is Opera and Classical Music critic for British newspaper The Mail on Sunday. He is a regular contributor on the radio station LBC and co-hosted a Saturday morning politics and current affairs discussion programme for 8 years with the former London Mayor Ken Livingstone. This continued until 2016 when Livingstone was sacked, and Mellor's contract was not renewed.
Since leaving office has pursued a career as an international business consultant focusing heavily on the Middle East and China. He has been a senior advisor to a wide range of blue-chip companies as diverse as Ernst and Young, BAE Systems, Aedas, and a major Gulf-based Islamic bank. He is also senior partner of an investment brokerage company with offices in London and Hong Kong.
In June 2010, it was reported in The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail that Mr. Mellor called a chef a 'fat bastard' during a licensing wrangle at the River Lounge restaurant near his home at St Katharine Docks, East London. The articles claimed Mr. Mellor used bad language and told the chef he should 'do his £10-an-hour job somewhere else'.
In November 2014 The Daily Telegraph and The Independent reported that Mellor had been secretly recorded by a taxi driver, saying "you think that your experiences are anything compared to mine?" In the secret recording of an encounter on 21 November, Mellor and the cab driver argue over which is the better route to their destination.
The article also alleged that he swore at the driver. According to accounts of the recording, Mellor said: "Of course you could apologise. I don’t suppose a guy like you does apologise because you think you’re a big shit, having driven a cab for ten years. You don’t need to worry about someone who’s been in the Cabinet, who’s an award-winning broadcaster, who’s a Queen’s Counsel. Treat me like shit, ruin my wife’s day ... and if you think you’re going to be sarky with me, get a better education before you try being sarcastic with me. So if you’re not going to say you’re sorry just shut the fuck up." He also called the driver "sweaty, stupid little shit." Mellor later told the media that he regretted losing his temper, but still blamed the driver for provoking him.
It was later revealed that Mellor had been questioned by police over an alleged "racist rant" at a security guard in 2013. No charges were ever brought.
Mellor married Judith on 20 July 1974; the couple had two sons, and they divorced in 1995.
Mellor lives with his partner of 20 years, Penelope Lyttelton, Viscountess Cobham.