prout1It’s raining this evening, so whilst I am in ‘loss of institution’ mode I would also like to post a few words about the late Christopher Prout (Lord Kingsland), who died unexpectedly on 12 July 2009 at the young age of 67. He was the Conservative Member of the European Parliament for Shropshire and Stafford for fifteen years before losing his seat in 1994. In 1987, when Henry Plumb became President of the European Parliament, Prout took his place as leader of the British Conservatives and of the then European Democratic Group, remaining in that role until his defeat. Granted a peerage by John Major, he became active in domestic British political life. There is a good obituary of him here. Prout’s leadership covered a ghastly period in the relationship between the British Conservatives and the European Union, spanning Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Bruges speech, John Major’s Maastricht travails and the disastrous ‘black Wednesday’ withdrawal of sterling from the European Exchange Rate mechanism. I got to know him rather well. He was civil, courteous, perhaps a little dry, self-deprecating, modest but above all a man of complete integrity and considerable political courage. His principled and forensic approach to constitutional issues won him the admiration – though not political friendship – of Jacques Delors. It was he who first took the British Conservatives into a relationship with the EPP (the main centre-right bloc in the EP), a relationship that endured until June of this year.