LONDON (Jun. 14)
Two young Jewish ministers in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s new Cabinet are attracting the most attention here since the Conservative’s landslide election victory June 9.
Nigel Lawson, 51, is the first Jewish-born Chancellor of the Exchequer since Herbert Samuel held that office in 1916. Samuel went on to become the British High Commissioner in Mandate Palestine.
Leon Brittan 43, is the first Jewish Home Secretary since Benjamin Disraeli and the youngest since Winston Churchill. Both are sons of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and typify the breed of successful self-made men whom Thatcher seems to favor. Neither identifies himself closely with the Jewish community however. Both have non-Jewish wives but neither denies his Jewish family background.
Brittan is the son of a Lithuanian-born doctor who immigrated to England from Germany in 1927. A Socialist in his youth, he shifted to the Conservative Party during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis because the Laborites supported Egypt. He was educated at Cambridge and at Yale University in the U.S. and practiced law, becoming one of Britain’s most successful libel lawyers. He entered Parliament in 1974 and was named a junior minister at the Home Office after Thatcher won her first election in 1979. Less than two years later, Thatcher brought him into her Cabinet as First Secretary to the Treasury.
Brittan’s older brother, Samuel, is economics correspondent of the Financial Times and is considered England’s most influential economic writer.
Lawson also entered Parliament in 1974, was named a junior Treasury Minister in 1979 and later Energy Secretary. His father was a tea merchant whose family came from Latvia. Lawson was educated at Westminster Public School and at Oxford. He began his professional life as a journalist on the Financial Times. Later he was city editor of the Sunday Telegraph and editor of The Spectator, a weekly magazine.
Lawson first entered politics in 1963 as a speechwriter for the Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas Home. He earned a reputation as one of the country’s most forceful and original economic thinkers in the Thatcher Administration. His elevation to head the Treasury was long predicted but came as a surprise nevertheless.
Lawson was married to the former Vanessa Salmon from 1955-1980. They had four children. He has had two more children by his second wife.