John Barnes, Historian

Tim Brinton

Tim Brinton was a familiar face to many who watched him as one of the presenters of Independent Television News between 1959 and 1962. His rugged good looks and bright, breezy manner made him a popular figure, but his desire to broaden the kind of television work available to him took him into documentaries, sports broadcasts and Come Dancing (as popular then as Strictly Come Dancing is today).

One highlight of his broadcasting career was an interview with the Shah of Iran; another, embarrassing at the time, but remembered with affection, was an unintentional shot of Brinton plunging naked into a pool after a telecast from a Turkish bath. In 1971 he returned to regular employment as the anchorman on Southern Television's Scene South-East, but soon returned to freelancing. An advertisement that he fronted in 1972, which dealt with the Heath government's Housing Finance Act, was pulled by the Independent Broadcasting Authority after Labour complained about its inaccuracy.

Brinton also appeared as an actor in various films, mainly cast as a news presenter. Among them were Allez France (1964), Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) Man At The Top (1973) and Carry On Emmanuelle (1978). He also appeared in television series, including Dixon Of Dock Green, The Power Game and The Avengers. However, and perhaps to his own surprise, his most lasting fame came from a spoof documentary, originally made as an April Fool's Day joke, which suggested that scientists from this country were being shipped to the planet Mars. Alternative Three, first screened in 1977, has become cult viewing.

Always a Conservative, although too professional to let it show, Brinton embarked on a political career as a Kent county councillor in 1973, first in shadow capacity, and in actuality from 1974 until 1981. Soon afterwards, he was adopted as the prospective Conservative candidate for the highly marginal seat of Gravesend. He gained the seat in 1979, won it again on revised boundaries in 1987, but stood down after only two terms for "personal and business reasons". He became a broadcasting consultant, providing valuable training to businessmen and politicians in how to handle interviews on television and radio. An inveterate Eurosceptic, he had a brief flirtation with Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party, but returned to the fold in 1996, certain that a Conservative vote was the only way to secure a referendum and a proper decision on Europe. That did not prevent him from becoming a supporter of UKIP in 2003.

Latterly, Brinton made headlines of a very different sort, when he disappeared briefly from his home in Folkestone. It was revealed that he had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for five years. His wife and his daughter used the episode to call for improvements in the way in which dementia was handled in Britain.

Timothy Denis Brinton was born on 24 December 1929 at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. His father, Dr Denis Brinton, was a distinguished neurologist who had married Joan Hood. Educated at Summer Fields, Eton and the University of Geneva, Brinton did his national service with the Royal Scots and then studied acting and production at the Central School of Speech and Drama. After failing to secure an Equity card, he joined the BBC as a radio announcer in 1951 and was seconded to Radio Hong Kong as head of English language programmes in 1957. After returning to the BBC in London, he joined ITN in 1959. His career as a freelancer began in 1962, but suffered a setback after his highly publicised split with his wife Jane-Mari, the daughter of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. The couple divorced, and in 1965 he married Jeanne Frances Wedge, who shared his political interests and later served with him on Kent County Council. Brinton's principal contribution to his political colleagues was the training he offered them in the techniques to be used on television, but he also took an active interest in education, backing Kent's successful attempt to keep its grammar schools, and serving on the parliamentary select committee for education from 1980-83. Given his views, it was surprising to find him backing the abolition of O-Levels and the CSE in favour of a new examination, the GCSE.

Behind the scenes, Brinton was active in establishing a scheme for media training at Conservative Central Office, and he did his best to persuade often reluctant parliamentary colleagues to exploit the media opportunities open to them. He served briefly as vice-chairman of the Conservative backbench education committee in 1983, and was successively vice-chairman, and from 1983, chairman of the Conservative backbench broadcasting committee.

Brinton was firmly against the commercialisation of the BBC, to the point where he opposed an increase in the licence fee, claiming in 1984 that "the best thing for the BBC to do is to stop trying to compete with the commercial boys and abandon the bid for high ratings".

After he left the Commons to resume his business career, Brinton was made chairman of the Dartford and Gravesham Health Authority from 1988-90. He served on the Court (1979-95) and Council (1995-98) of the University of London and was a governor of Wye College from 1989-97. His last weeks were spent in hospital and he died on 24 March 2009.

By his first marriage Brinton had one son and three daughters and his marriage to Jeanne was blessed with two daughters.