Paul Linford celebrates the careers of some of the less well-known figures to grace British politics, and discovers what came of them when their 15 minutes of fame were up.This month Lord Gowrie

Lord Gowrie probably deserves to go down in history as one of the more notable public servants of the late 20th century: an intellectual polymath who in his various incarnations was author, poet, cabinet minister, chairman of the Arts Council and chairman of Sotheby's.

But he is likely to be remembered primarily for one thing alone: resigning from Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet in 1985 on the grounds that his ministerial salary wasn't enough to enable him to live in London.

In most eras, this would have been regarded as a notable gaffe, given that the salary in question was, at the time, more than double the national average wage. But in the Thatcherite, greed-is-good era of the mid-1980s, it captured the zeitgeist.

It also, of course, had the merit of candour; something usually lacking in polticians' explanations for voluntarily relinquishing the power they have devoted the whole of their adult lives to achieving.

He was certainly more candid than Norman Fowler, who in 1990 pioneered the now well-worn cliché about wanting to spend more time with his family. By 1992, Fowler was back in the frontline in John Major's government, having presumably grown as sick of his family as he had been working for Mrs Thatcher. But I digress.

Gowrie's ministerial salary at his resignation was £33,000 - a lot less than the £138,000 which Cabinet members are now able to earn but, at that time, still enough to buy yourself a half-decent broom-cupboard in Pimlico.

It is perhaps a good thing that his career in government didn't coincide with the rampant house-price inflation of the late 1990s and early noughties, which was to price many key workers out of the London market.

Born Alexander Patrick Greysteil Ruthven in 1939, he became the second Earl of Gowrie in 1955, inheriting his title from his grandfather Alexander Hore-Ruthven, who had been the governor-general of Australia.

Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he published a volume of poetry in his 20s after a spell working for the American poet Robert Lowell.

Usually known as "Grey" Gowrie, his short-lived Cabinet stint as Arts Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1984-85 was the culmination of a 13-year career on the Tory frontbench which began in the party's Lords whips' office in 1972. He also served in government as Employment Minister from 1979-81, Northern Ireland Minister from 1981-83, and Arts Minister outside the Cabinet from 1983-84, before his elevation to the top table.

After leaving government - and duly moving to Wales - he became chairman of the auctioneers' Sotheby's for nine years before returning to the cultural arena as chairman of the Arts Council of England. Having secured the renewal of the organisation's Royal Charter, and its role as a distributor of funds from the National Lottery, he stepped down in 1998.

The following year he underwent a heart transplant at Harefield Hospital under the care of Sir Magdi Yacoub, with whom he became close friends. He celebrated his recovery by publishing another volume of poetry - The Domino Hymn - and showed his gratitude to his surgeon by agreeing to chair the research institute set up in his name.

Paul Linford is a political blogger and former parliamentary lobby journalist. He is editor of