Matthew Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley, is a journalist and scientist who is known primarily for his libertarianism, his views on climate change, and for being chairman of Northern Rock during the first run on a bank in 150 years.
He was born in Northumberland in 1958 and completed BA and DPhil degrees at Magdalene College, Oxford, before working as science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor for The Economist between 1984 and 1992.
A popular scientist, Ridley has written numerous books on the subject of evolution and its role in shaping human behaviour and is a friend of fellow evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins.
Ridley was chairman of Northern Rock, a position also held by his father the 4th Viscount, between 2004 and 2007 after having joined the board in 1994. Following the start of the financial crisis in 2007, the bank was forced to apply to the Bank of England for emergency liquidity funding and as nationalised. Ridley resigned in October 2007.
In February of this year, Ridley was elected as one of 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords, following a by-election brought about by the death of Robert Shirley, 13th Earl Ferrers. He took his seat as a Conservative and has spoken recently on emissions from biofuel combustion, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in combatting tobacco use and the ability of the health service to cope with an ageing population.
Viscount Ridley describes himself as a social and economic liberal, leading some to label him a libertarian, and rejects the notion that he is on the ‘right’ of politics. He is a proponent of free market economics and is a notable sceptic of the negative effects of climate change – having written the cover article of The Spectator this week on the scientific consensus that climate change can be expected to have net benefits until at least 2080.
He summarised his own political views as the philosophy “That the individual is not – and had not been for 120,000 years – able to support his lifestyle; that the key feature of trade is that it enables us to work for each other not just for ourselves; that there is nothing so anti-social (or impoverishing) as the pursuit of self sufficiency; and that authoritarian, top-down rule is not the source of order or progress.” He is married to the neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert and has a son and a daughter.
The Ridley Viscountcy was created in 1900 for Sir Matthew White Ridley, 5th Baronet, a Conservative Home Secretary who was also made Baron Wensleydale at the same time. The latter title was a revival of his maternal grandfather’s title. He served under prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Salisbury and was raised to the peerage on his retirement.