William Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw

British politician (1918–1999)

William Stephen Ian Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw KT CH MC PC DL (28 June 1918 – 1 July 1999) was a British Conservative politician who served in a wide number of Cabinet positions, most notably as Home Secretary from 1979 to 1983 and as de facto Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1988. He was Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1991.


  • They are going up and down the country, stirring up apathy.
  • I always think that it is entirely wrong to prejudge the past.
  • On his arrival in Northern Ireland, quoted in his obituary in the Guardian
  • [A Conservative government would operate a glasshouse system of detention centres for some of those young people] so that they receive a short sharp shock treatment which I hope will deter at least some of them from getting enmeshed deeper in the mire of crime.
    • Speech in Birmingham (8 August 1977) during the by-election campaign, quoted in The Times (9 August 1977), p. 2

Quotes about Whitelaw

  • Encountered Willie Whitelaw at dinner. He came in rather late and then started to tell me how absolutely ghastly life was with that awful woman, how he was thinking of resigning (from the Shadow Cabinet), what was my advice, etc. So I said, "On the whole, don't resign, Willie." "Oh, good," he said. "No, don't resign," I said, "but distance yourself." "Quite right, quite right," he said, "quite right. It's better not to resign, but distance myself. That's right." A long and typical conversation with him, not to be taken too seriously.
    • Roy Jenkins, diary entry (2 February 1978), quoted in Roy Jenkins, European Diary, 1977–1981 (1989), p. 215
  • Every prime minister needs a Willie.