100-year-old South Yorkshire politician who had 'direct contact with White House, Pentagon and the Kremlin' becomes longest-lived former MP

Sir Patrick Duffy, the elder statesmen of South Yorkshire politics, is now the oldest living former MP at the age of 100.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 9:49 am

The former Sheffield Attercliffe MP and military hero, who lives in Doncaster, inherited the title following the death of Ronald Atkins.

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Mr Atkins was Labour MP for Preston North in the 1960s and 70s and from 2018 he became the longest-lived former British MP. He died aged 104.

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Sir Patrick Duffy.

Sir Pat has held some of the most distinguished positions in Parliament and international institutions.

As a young pilot, he almost died in a dreadful air crash and was given the Last Rites. Despite spending several months on his back in a military hospital, he returned to operational flying.

Born in Wigan, he says he was “strengthened” in the South Yorkshire coalfield of Rossington where his dad was a miner.

After giving a false age so he could volunteer, his wartime service started as an ordinary seaman in 1940 and he rose to First Lieutenant.

He transferred to the Fleet Air Arm and by 1946 he was Commanding Officer at the Naval School of Air Radar, later becoming chair of the historic board of admiralty.

Following the war, Sir Pat graduated from the London School of Economics and studied his Phd at the prestigious Columbia University in New York followed by a lectureship at Leeds University.

After serving as Labour MP for Colne Valley, he was elected in Sheffield Attercliffe in 1970. He later became First Lord – the political head of the Royal Navy and senior advisor on all naval matters in James Callaghan’s government.

When Labour went into opposition in 1979, he became shadow defence minister and was given Special Branch protection after receiving death threats. His mother was put under police surveillance after bricks were thrown through the windows of her Doncaster home.

His peacemaking skills led him to play key roles in paving the way for the end of the Cold War and the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

As President of the NATO Assembly in the 1980s he had direct contact with the White House, the Pentagon and the Kremlin.

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