Sir Dennis Walters MBE Remembered

Press releases 7 Oct 2021

CMEC IS SAD TO LEARN ABOUT THE DEATH OF ONE OF ITS FOUNDERS AND ITS FIRST CHAIRMAN, SIR DENNIS WALTERS MBE, FORMER CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR WESTBURY.


Urbane and fiercely bright, Sir Dennis, who has died aged 92, was for 28 years an independent-minded MP for the Wiltshire seat of Westbury. Sir Dennis's outspoken Arabist sympathies, particularly on the cause of the Palestinians, may have contributed to him being denied office under Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher.

As a teenager, he served for 11 months with the Italian Resistance, returning to England to resume his education at Downside School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge where he read Law and earned a tennis Blue. After university, Sir Dennis forged a successful business career in advertising and public relations. Later, he was employed as a personal assistant to Lord Hailsham during his chairmanship of the Conservative party and ran his campaign to succeed Harold Macmillan as leader. Hailsham considered him "the ablest man in the party."  Sir Dennis was elected as MP for Westbury in 1964. In 1967, following the Six Day War, he and fellow Conservative member Sir Ian Gilmour travelled to Palestine. Both men later issued a statement urging Israel  to help repatriate Palestinian refugees. (See photo below.)

Outside Parliament, Sir Dennis served as Chairman of Middle East International, founded in 1971 with a "mission to provide authoritative and independent news on the Middle East". In 1980, at the best of Mrs Thatcher, and alongside Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington,  Sir Dennis set up CMEC, ostensibly to carry out the same functions of Middle East International but also, at first, to advance the cause of the Palestinians. He chaired CMEC until 1992 and then became its president. He was also Joint Chairman of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.


A frequent and passionate rebel for causes close to his heart, Sir Dennis was warned to drop the Palestinian issue if he wanted a ministerial career. Appropriately, his 1989 biography was entitled Not Always With The Pack. Sir Dennis left parliament in 1992 following stomach surgery and remained active for the remainder of his life, playing tennis well into his eighties and holding court at his house near the Tuscan city of Lucca. He had a weakness for the "Toscano" cigars as chewed so menacingly by Clint Eastwood, the man with no name, in Spaghetti westerns. Sir Dennis was a true one off and will greatly missed.

Speech on March 9th 1979 by Sir Dennis on the Camp David talks. HANSARD 

Speech on March 14th 1985 by Sir Dennis on Middle East peace initiative brokered by Jordan. HANSARD

Speech by Sir Dennis on April 16th 1986 following the retaliatory US airstrike on Libya and Colonel Gaddafi. HANSARD