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Sir Julian Critchley Dies at 69

September 10, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Outspoken former lawmaker Sir Julian Critchley, who clashed with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over European unity and eventually left the Conservative Party because he felt it was too anti-European, has died. He was 69.

Critchley died in a hospital Saturday morning, his son Joshua Critchley said. He had been suffering from bone and prostate cancer and more recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Critchley, who had represented the Aldershot constituency in southern England for the Conservative Party since 1964, quit Parliament at the last national elections in 1997, which saw Tony Blair’s Labor Party sweep the Tories from power after 18 years.

A graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford University, Critchley first entered Parliament in 1959.

He openly expressed his disappointment at never achieving ministerial rank. As a strong supporter of European integration, he was often at odds with Thatcher’s euro-skeptic stance and described her once as a ``great she-elephant.″

In 1990, he supported former defense secretary Michael Heseltine’s bid to oust Thatcher for leadership of the Conservative Party. Heseltine failed _ further weakening Critchley’s political clout _ but the contest took its toll on Thatcher, who was ultimately ousted as prime minister and later party leader the same year.

In 1999 elections for the European Parliament, Critchley’s rift with party bosses widened when he supported several unofficial, pro-European unity Tory candidates. He left the party soon afterward.

He was knighted in 1995 by Thatcher’s successor, John Major.

``Sir Julian was a colorful Conservative MP over many years, whose wit brought sparkle to the House of Commons,″ said Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram. ``He will be sorely missed.″

Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrat party, said, ``Julian was one of those rare creatures who actually made people feel better about politics.

``He was a great friend and mentor to me. He had that acute understanding of the fact that politics is a serious business, but the politicians to worry about are the ones that take themselves too seriously.″

Critchley is survived by his wife, Heather, their son, a daughter and by two daughters from a previous marriage.

Funeral details were not immediately available.

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