The MP for Bromley & Chislehurst was in the Commons last week and reported stomach pains to colleagues. He looked unwell and sought medical advice after dislocating his shoulder. It was revealed to him that he had advanced and inoperable bone cancer.
Mr Forth, born in 1944 and brought up in Glasgow in a tenement, was a schools minister in the Major government.
He will be most remembered for his love of parliament and he constantly blocked legislation of all kinds. He believed that too much legislation was one of Britain’s greatest ills and constantly opposed ten minute rule bills and private members’ bills. When Shadow Leader of the House of Commons his weekly encounters with Robin Cook became great parliamentary occasions.
He loved Elvis Presley and a lifesize cardboard cutout of the ‘King’ in his office stood alongside all kinds of American ephemera. His taste in clothes was outlandish – golden watch chains, waistcoats and flamboyant ties – and a sketchwriter once likened him to a Victorian undertaker on a day out at the races.
On the right of the party he was a Eurosceptic (although he didn’t resign over Maastricht) and fiercely opposed the modernisation of the party and parliament.
Although he held strong and controversial views on almost everything he was well liked across the House because his apparent fierceness only thinly concealed affability and because people recognised that his love of parliament, in all its splendour, indicated a real commitment to service of his country.