As MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, his constituency encompassed most of the galleries and auction houses that made London a powerful international marketplace, something he looked on as an essential part of the capital’s image and drawing power.
He had a profound interest in the world of art and antiques. In 1995 he accepted the presidency of the BADA and the following year he was a driving force in the formation of the British Art Market Federation (BAMF), recognising that it was essential that all the elements of the market communicated a united message to the government.
He was president of the BAMF from 1996 to 2014, a period that saw major political changes affecting the art market. The European Community was pushing forward with the creation of the Single Market, a project with which Peter strongly agreed, but he believed that EC harmonisation should not be driven through at the expense of Europe’s ability to compete in the world.
This became a serious risk and his ministerial experience at the Treasury and Department of National Heritage helped pilot the art market through many difficult challenges. Those who feared that Peter’s influence as a former Conservative minister might be diminished with the advent of the Labour government need not have worried. His wisdom, courtesy and humour ensured that he was widely respected and admired on all sides of Parliament.
Discussions of all political subjects, however dry, were leavened by his wit and extraordinary memory for whimsical anecdotes.
When the government was proposing a new law to control the sale of archaeological objects, Peter described the challenges faced by the antiquities market as a combination of ‘Sir Leonard Woolley’s Ur and Sir Rider Haggard’s She’.
Bowled over by Gorbachev
Cricket played a central part in his life and conversations rarely omitted a cricketing story. When President Gorbachev of Russia, a keen student of philosophy, visited Margaret Thatcher, he expressed his delight at being in the land of Hobbes and Locke.
Nigel Lawson, a fellow cricketing enthusiast, afterwards remarked to Peter that he had been surprised by the president’s knowledge of Surrey county cricket.
Peter Brooke gave freely of his immense knowledge and experience. His advice was invaluable to BAMF and to me personally, and he became a much valued friend.
In an age dominated by egotistical celebrities, his gentlemanly modesty stood out.
The art market owes him an enormous debt of gratitude.
From Anthony Browne, chairman, British Art Market Federation