After the UCD folded, Tarancón joined the Popular Party in 1985. He held several public offices - in the region's public broadcasting company, Valencia city council and the local government federation - and for four years was president of the Diputació, an umbrella body of town and city councils. But where he was to make his mark was as the minister (conseller) for culture, education and science in the Generalitat or regional government, from January 1999 until last year.
A graduate of the University of Valencia (in philosophy and literature), and a nephew of the famous liberal Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón who was such a thorn in Franco's side, the Valencian politician was among the most cultured and tolerant figures in the Spanish centre-right and took to his portfolio with enthusiasm. His department built a staff of 40,000 and secured a generous budget. Tarancón instituted a museum of the Enlightenment and another of ceramics; lavished funds on the public library, the Biblioteca Valenciana, and donated to it many rare books and manuscripts from his own immense collection; and hosted major international conferences on the writers Blasco Ibáñez and Max Aub, whose complete works he had republished. He provided subsidies to widen access to cultural events and made major improvements in the education system, from nursery schools to the region's five public universities.
Tarancón was re-elected to the Valencian parliament last year, but cancer removed him from the front line. He wrote a slim volume, El escritor (The Writer) as a gift for his many friends and dedicated it "To all who have suffered my obsessions down the years. One day, they will forgive me."
He is survived by his wife Encarna, daughter Paula and son Manolo.
- Manuel Tarancón Fandos, politician, born 4 December 1954; died 10 February 2003