A loyal MP in the Thatcher years, now a tireless champion of good causes, most notably in the area of asylum and immigration... Keith Best attended Brighton College before attaining both his BA and MA in Jurisprudence from Keble College at Oxford.
He was called to the Bar in 1971 and practiced common law as a barrister until 1987. He has also served as a lecturer in Law for Central London Polytechnic in 1973 and as a Brighton Borough Councillor from 1979 to 1987. For his service in the Territorial Army from 1967-1987 he was awarded the Territorial Decoration.
From 1979 to 1987 he served as a member of the British Parliament for Anglesey/Ynys Môn. In addition he has held posts as the Deputy Chairman for South East Area Young Conservatives, Treasure of Tooting Conservative Association, Treasurer of the Parliamentary Group for World Government, and Chairman of the International Council of Parliamentarians for Global Action, among other posts. Currently he is the Chairman of Conservative Action for Electoral Reform, Director of Electoral Reform International Services, and a Trustee of Odyssey Trust.
Since 1993, he has acted as the Chief Executive of the Immigration Advisory Service. In September 2003, he was named as one of the 100 most influential people in public services in the United Kingdom. He has two daughters and lives in London with his wife.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you 'grew-up'?
To be an actor. I appeared in all the productions of Gilbert & Sullivan and other works produced by Peter Gough - I remember in particular being M. Jourdan in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme with rouged cheeks and heavy make-up which caused my demure mother some discomfort when a friend remarked that I "was the spitting image" of her! I also had a strong sense of the need to give back something to society as I was privileged to have a loving family background and good education.
- What are you now you've grown up?
As being an actor was not likely to give a living wage I graduated in Jurisprudence at Oxford and became the next best thing - a barrister! I was also active in politics at an early age, was a Brighton Borough Councillor and then became the MP for Anglesey (Ynys Mon) in what was described by The Economist as the biggest electoral upset in the 1979 general election. Never before and never since has a Conservative been elected. On leaving Parliament I went into the voluntary sector to fulfil my desire for public service and was successively Director of Prisoners Abroad, Chief Executive of the Immigration Advisory Service and now Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture [formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture]. I am also Chair of Electoral Reform International Services and of the Executive Committee of an international NGO based in New York the World Federalist Movement.
- What is your best memory of school?
So many - from playing one of the knights in TS Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral in the College Chapel to the snail races on the banks of the Home Ground when it was compulsory to watch the First Eleven play cricket and, more seriously, to the many teachers who helped shape my thoughts.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given
From my late mother "When one door closes another one opens".
- What do you do /did you do as a career
I run a national charity (Freedom from Torture) which is very much involved in human rights - observing in humankind both the lowest depravity in the torturers and its highest personification in the survivors of torture who can use their considerable skills and talents to such effect once we have helped them rebuild their broken lives - it is enormously fulfilling.
- What does your job involve?
Management of the charity's human and financial resources, being its public face on the media, persuading Ministers and civil servants as to courses of action, fundraising, engaging in legal, policy and advocacy issues.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The human relationships within the organisation, always needing to have impeccable judgement and leadership as well as trying to raise funds in a difficult environment for a delicate subject around asylum seekers - all of which keep me focused.
- What have you done that you are most proud of
Won the seat of Anglesey against all the odds, made a mark in Parliament in various ways, taken forward some unpopular causes and being described by the British National Party as the most hated man in Britain (when I was championing immigrants)!
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
An ability to stop trying to do everything and to learn to say "no".
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
A strong multi-purpose knife to help me make all the things I need for living as well as catching food; a laptop and satellite dish for keeping in touch with events; an inexhaustible quantity of good wine.
- How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who was indefatigable in trying to eradicate exploitation and help the vulnerable as well as always putting other people before myself.