OPINION: Always present but never there, from Denis Thatcher to Hugh O’Leary

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OPINION: Always present but never there, from Denis Thatcher to Hugh O’Leary

Jewish News' historian Derek Taylor reflects on the roles of Britain's first husbands as Hugh O’Leary, married to Liz Truss for 22 years, settles into life on Downing Street.

Hugh O’Leary has been married to Liz Truss for 22 years.
Hugh O’Leary has been married to Liz Truss for 22 years.

Being the spouse of the prime minister isn’t an easy job. For Hugh O’Leary who has been married to Liz Truss for 22 years, it is likely that he will follow in Denis Thatcher’s footsteps. When asked what his personal political philosophy was, Denis Thatcher said that he wanted to be always present but never there! 

Over the years Denis Thatcher became very popular, known for his interest in golf and gin and tonic. He was parodied in every issue of Private Eye but not in a malicious way. He was seen as a sensible and useful consort and definitely one of the Establishment. One would expect it would be difficult to find a picture of either Denis Thatcher or Hugh O”Leary not wearing a suit and tie.

Denis Thatcher was very experienced in business snd so is Mr O’Leary. He is described as the Finance Director of Affinity Global Real Estate, but that company was dissolved in 2020. It was founded by Robert Whitton, another very experienced businessman, but he now has a new company called Impact Capital and Hugh O’Leary is not listed as one of its officers. Instead he has retired to be house father to his two teenage daughters, Frances and Liberty.

Mr O ‘Leary, who is 48 while Liz Truss is 47, was born in Liverpool. His parents were a solicitor and a nurse. He studied at the London School of Economics and became an accountant. Now in these difficult economic times, if there’s one thing a well organised prime minister can use it’s a husband who is an accountant.

It must be helpful that both the O’Learys are very keen on mathematics. At the moment the national figures are mostly bad, but it is generally accepted that Ms Truss is taking office at just about the worst time since Margaret Thatcher, and allowances will have to be made for it taking time to sort everything out.

Robert Whitton has been involved in fund, account, property and real estate management for years. The companies in those fields are highly reputable but they deal at such stratospheric levels of wealth management that, like property companies after the war, they are looked upon with suspicion by many members of the Left Wing.

As scandal has also affected some of them over the years, it is probably a good idea for Mr O’Leary to take a quiet back seat, and give the media  nothing whatever to write about.

His own record in the political arena has not been notable. Although he has stood at a number of elections, he has not attracted sufficient votes to be successful.

The family were expected to move into the flat above No 11 Downing Street, the cause of so much bad publicity when Boris Johnson redecorated it. The row illustrated the difficulty of avoiding criticism from one section of the media or another. The amount allowed for the upkeep of the 18th century building is totally inadequate and, compared to the spending of other leaders like Putin and Macron, the expenditure over which there was so much fuss was infinitesimal.

The chosen answer to our economic problems is to borrow more money to balance the books. So it was with the debts incurred for the Napoleonic Wars, and the First and Second World Wars. It is said that this will be disastrous for future generations trying to pay it all back, but they’ve been saying that since at least the time of Charles II.

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