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Harold Macmillan

Harold Macmillan

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Harold Macmillan, the grandson of Daniel Macmillan (1813-1857), the publisher, was born in 1894. In his memoirs he described his mother as having "high standards and demanding high performances". He added: "I can truthfully say that I owe everything all through my life to my mother's devotion and support".

Macmillan attended Summer Fields School in Oxford. He later admitted that his shyness caused him problems at school and that he returned home with a "perpetual terror of becoming in any way conspicuous". He also suffered from periods of depression: "I was oppressed by some kind of mysterious power which would be sure to get me in the end. One felt that something unpleasant was more likely to happen than anything pleasant."

In 1906 Macmillan won a scholarship to Eton. However, over the next three years he suffered poor health. His biographer, Alistair Horne, wrote in Macmillan: The Making of a Prime Minister (1988): "Harold never finished Eton. He seems to have suffered from poor health and in his first half contracted pneumonia, from which he only just survived. Three years later some form of heart trouble was evidently diagnosed, and in 1909 he returned home as a semi-invalid."

Macmillan won a place at Balliol College in 1912. His personal tutor was Ronald Knox, who became an important influence on his intellectual development. Macmillan later recalled: "He influenced me because he was a saint... the only man I have ever known who really was a saint." Soon afterwards Knox became an Anglican Chaplain.

While at university Macmillan became involved in politics. He joined the Canning Club (Conservative), the Russell Club (Liberal) and the Fabian Society (Socialist). At meetings of the Oxford Union he supported progressive causes such as women's suffrage. He also voted for the motion: "That this House approves the main principles of socialism." Macmillan supported the "radical wing" of the Liberal Party during this period and was greatly impressed with David Lloyd George, who made an entertaining speech at the university in 1913.

He was elected Secretary of the Oxford Union in November 1913 and was fully expected to eventually become President of the Union if it had not been for the outbreak of the First World War. At the time Macmillan was suffering from appendicitis but as soon as he recovered he joined the Grenadier Guards. He was commissioned and as a second lieutenant he was sent to a training battalion at Southend-on-Sea.

Macmillan left for France on 15th August, 1915. When they arrived on the Western Front one of Macmillan's tasks was to read and censor the letters that his men sent home to their loved ones. He wrote to his mother about this task: "They have big hearts, these soldiers, and it is a very pathetic task to have to read all their letters home. Some of the older men, with wives and families who write every day, have in their style a wonderful simplicity which is almost great literature.... And then there comes occasionally a grim sentence or two, which reveals in a flash a sordid family drama."

On 27th September 1915, Macmillan took part in the offensive at Loos. Macmillan remembered being addressed by the Corps Commander, who assured them, "Behind you, gentlemen, in your companies and battalions, will be your Brigadier; behind him your Divisional Commander, and behind you all - I shall be there." At that point Macmillan heard a fellow officer comment in a loud stage whisper, "Yes, and a long way behind too!".

Macmillan was shot through his right hand towards the end of the battle. He was evacuated to hospital and although it was not a serious wound he never recovered the strength of that hand, which affected the standard of his handwriting. It also was responsible for what became known as "limp handshake". The British Army lost nearly 60,000 men at Loos for the advance of just a couple of miles.

After receiving treatment in London Macmillan was sent back to the Western Front in April 1916. The following month he gave an insight into life in the trenches. "Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a modern battlefield is the desolation and emptiness of it all.... One cannot emphasise this point too much. Nothing is to be seen of war or soldiers -only the split and shattered trees and the burst of an occasional shell reveal anything of the truth. One can look for miles and see no human being. But in those miles of country lurk (like moles or rats, it seems) thousands, even hundreds of thousands of men, planning against each other perpetually some new device of death. Never showing themselves, they launch at each other bullet, bomb, aerial torpedo, and shell."

Macmillan took part in the offensive at the Somme. In July 1916, Macmillan was wounded while leading a patrol in No Man's Land: "They challenged us, but we could not see them to shoot, and of course they were entrenched while we were in the open. So I motioned to my men to lie quite still in the long grass. Then they, began throwing bombs at us at random. The first, unluckily, hit l me in the face and back and stunned me for the moment."

Macmillan was only in hospital for a couple of days and by the end of the month he moved with his battalion to Beaumont-Hamel. He wrote to his mother that the area was beautiful and that it was "not the weather for killing people." In another letter he said "the flies are again a terrible plague, and the stench from the dead bodies which lie in heaps around is awful."

On 15th September 1916 Macmillan was wounded again during an attack on the German trenches. Shot in the leg he took refuge in a shell-hole where he "pretended to be dead when any Germans came near." He took morphine which sent him into a deep sleep until he was found by members of the Sherwood Foresters.

Once again he described to his mother what happened during the attack: "The German artillery barrage was very heavy, but we got through I the worst of it after the first half-hour. I was wounded slightly in the right knee. I bound up the wound at the first halt, and was able to go on... About 8.20 we halted again. We found that we were being held up on the left by Germans in about 500 yards of uncleared trench. We attempted to bomb and rush down the trench. I was taking a party across to the left with a Lewis gun, to try and get in to the trench, when I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh (apparently at close range). It was a severe wound, and I was quite helpless. I dropped into a shell-hole, shouted to Sgt. Robinson to take command of my party and go on with the attack."

Macmillan had received serious wounds and the surgeons decided it would be too risky to attempt to remove the bullet fragments from his pelvis. As Alistair Horne pointed out: "Because of the length of time it had taken to get him to proper medical care, combined with the primitiveness and lack of modern drugs in First World War hospitals, the wound closed up before being drained of all infection. Abscesses formed inside, poisoning his whole system."

Macmillan was returned to England and for a while his life seemed to be in danger. His mother arranged for him to be transferred to a private hospital in Belgrave Square. Later Macmillan claimed that "my life was saved by my mother's action. The pain was so bad that over the next two years he had to submit to anesthetic each time his dressings were changed.

After the Armistice, Macmillan joined the family publishing company. He took a keen interest in politics and for a while he was tempted to join the Liberal Party. However, he calculated that the party was in decline and decided instead to join the Conservative Party. In the 1924 General Election he became the Conservative MP for Stockton-on-Tees. Defeated in the 1929 General Election he returned in to the House of Commons in 1931.

Macmillan was a strong believer in social reform and his left-wing views were unpopular with the Conservative Party leadership. Macmillan was also highly critical of the foreign policies of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and remained a backbencher until in 1940 Winston Churchill invited him to join the government as parliamentary secretary to the ministry of supply. In 1942 Macmillan was sent to North Africa where he filled the new cabinet post as minister at Allied Headquarters.

Harold Macmillan was defeated in the 1945 General Election. He wrote about the new Labour government: "I hate uneducated people having power; but I like to think that the poor will be rendered happy." He returned to the House of Commons later that year in a by-election at Bromley.

The Labour Party MP, Emrys Hughes, claimed that: "Macmillan had an oratorical style of the Gladstonian period. He would put his hands on the lapels of his coat and turn to the back benches behind him for approval and support. He would raise and lower his voice and speak as if he were on the stage... His polished phrases reeked of midnight oil... Did he know when he was acting and when he was not himself?" Michael Foot agreed and admitted that he "could hardly bear to listen to - Macmillan speak as he was so affected, pompous and portentous."

Bruce Lockhart had a much higher opinion of Macmillan and predicted that he would succeed Winston Churchill as leader of the Conservative Party: "He has grown in stature during the war more than anyone.... He was always clever, but was shy and diffident, had a clammy handshake and was more like a wet fish than a man. Now he is full of confidence and is not only not afraid to speak but jumps in and speaks brilliantly."

Macmillan eventually developed a good opinion of Clement Attlee. He wrote that: "If Attlee lacked charm, he did not lack courage. If he drifted into difficulties, he generally found a way out of them." He also admitted that on matters such as the nationalisation of public utilities "our views are not very far apart." Macmillan also admired Aneurin Bevan: "He was a genuine man. There was nothing fake or false about him. If he felt a thing deeply, he said so and in no uncertain terms... he expressed... the deepest feelings of humble people throughout the land."

In 1946 Winston Churchill asked Macmillan to join a committee to look into reshaping the Conservative Party. On 3rd October, Macmillan published an article in the Daily Telegraph where he suggested that the name should be changed to the "New Democratic Party". In the article he called for the Liberal Party to join Conservatives in an anti-socialist alliance. He wrote in his diary that to obtain an alliance with the Liberals, it would be worthwhile "to offer proportional representation in the big cities in exchange."

After the 1951 General Election, Winston Churchill appointed Macmillan as his Minister of Housing. Macmillan was seen as one of the major successes in Churchill's government and received praise for achieving his promised target of 300,000 new houses a year. This was followed by a series of senior posts in the government: Minister of Defence (October, 1954 to April, 1955), Foreign Secretary (April, 1955 to December, 1955) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (December, 1955 to January 1957).

Anthony Eden replaced Winston Churchill as prime minister in April, 1955. The following year Gamal Abdel Nasser announced he intended to nationalize the Suez Canal. The shareowners, the majority of whom were from Britain and France, were promised compensation. Nasser argued that the revenues from the Suez Canal would help to finance the Aswan Dam. Eden feared that Nasser intended to form an Arab Alliance that would cut off oil supplies to Europe. Secret negotiations took place between Britain, France and Israel and it was agreed to make a joint attack on Egypt.

On 29th October 1956, the Israeli Army invaded Egypt. Two days later British and French bombed Egyptian airfields. British and French troops landed at Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal on 5th November. By this time the Israelis had captured the Sinai peninsula. President Dwight Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, grew increasingly concerned about these developments and at the United Nations the representatives from the United States and the Soviet Union demanded a cease-fire. When it was clear the rest of the world were opposed to the attack on Egypt, and on the 7th November the governments of Britain, France and Israel agreed to withdraw. They were then replaced by UN troops who policed the Egyptian frontier.

Gamal Abdel Nasser now blocked the Suez Canal. He also used his new status to urge Arab nations to reduce oil exports to Western Europe. As a result petrol rationing had to be introduced in several countries in Europe. In failing health, Anthony Eden resigned on 9th January, 1957.

Macmillan now became Britain's new prime minister. Macmillan was accused of cronyism when he appointed seven former Etonians to his Cabinet. Macmillan concentrated his attentions on the economy.

Macmillan attempted to heal the relationship with the United States after the Suez Crisis. He enjoyed a good relationship with President Dwight Eisenhower and the two men had a successful conference in Bermuda in March 1957.

Macmillan was the first Conservative prime minister to accept that countries within the British Empire should be given their freedom. In 1957, the Gold Coast, Ghana, Malaya and North Borneo were granted their independence.

In January 1958, Macmillan refused to introduce strict controls on money and the three Treasury ministers Peter Thorneycroft, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Birch, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Enoch Powell, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, resigned.

Macmillan's economic policies resulted in an economic boom and a reduction in unemployment and he easily won the 1959 General Election by increasing his party's majority from 67 to 107 seats. It has been claimed that the main reason for this success was a growth in working-class income. Richard Lamb argued in The Macmillan Years 1957-1963 (1995) that "The key factor in the Conservative victory was that average real pay for industrial workers had risen since Churchill’s 1951 victory by over 20 per cent".

In February 1959 Macmillan became the first British prime minister to visit the Soviet Union since the Second World War. Talks with Nikita Khrushchev eased tensions in East-West relations over West Berlin and led to an agreement in principle to stop nuclear tests.

Macmillan's tradition as a social reformer was reflected in his "wind of change" speech at Cape Town in 1960 where he acknowledged that countries within the British Empire would be given their independence. Nigeria, the Southern Cameroons and British Somaliland were granted independence in 1960, Sierra Leone in 1961, Uganda in 1962, and Kenya and Tanzania in 1963.

The introduction of the system of life peerages to the House of Lords and the creation of the National Economic Development Council were other examples of unlikely Conservative measures and showed that Macmillan retained his liberal instincts.

In October, 1963, ill-health forced Macmillan to resign from office. After his retirement, Macmillan wrote Winds of Change (1966), The Blast of War (1967), Tides of Fortune (1969), Riding the Storm (1971) and At the End of the Day (1972).

Granted the title Earl of Stockton, Harold Macmillan died in 1986.

They have big hearts, these soldiers, and it is a very pathetic task to have to read all their letters home. And then there comes occasionally a grim sentence or two, which reveals in a flash a sordid family drama.

A stream of motor-ambulances kept passing us, back from the firing line. Some of the wounded were very cheerful. One fellow I saw sitting up, nursing gleefully a German officer's helmet. "They're running!" he shouted. The wildest rumours were afloat.... But our men were much encouraged, and we stood on that road from 3.30-9.30 and sang almost ceaselessly, "Rag-time" - and music-hall ditties, sentimental love-songs - anything and everything. It was really rather wonderful.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a modern battlefield is the desolation and emptiness of it all.... Never showing themselves, they launch at each other bullet, bomb, aerial torpedo, and shell. And somewhere too (on the German side we know of their existence opposite us) are the little cylinders of gas, waiting only for the moment to spit forth their nauseous and destroying fumes. And yet the landscape shows nothing of all this - nothing but a few shattered trees and 3 or 4 thin lines of earth and sandbags; these and the ruins of towns and villages are the only signs of war anywhere visible. The glamour of red coats - the martial tunes of fife and drum - aides-de-camp scurrying hither and thither on splendid chargers - lances glittering and swords flashing - how different the old wars must have been. The thrill of battle comes now only once or twice in a twelvemonth. We need not so much the gallantry of our fathers; we need (and in our army at any rate I think you will find it) that indomitable and patient determination which has saved England over and over again. If any one at home thinks or talks of peace, you can truthfully say that the army is weary enough of war but prepared to fight for another 50 years if necessary, until the final object is attained.

I don't know why I write such solemn stuff. But the daily newspapers are so full of nonsense about our "exhaustion" and people at home seem to be so bent on petty personal quarrels, that the great issues (one feels) are becoming obscured and forgotten. Many of us could never stand the strain and endure the horrors which we see every day, if we did not feel that this was more than a War - a Crusade. I never see a man killed but think of him as a martyr. All the men (though they could not express it in words) have the same conviction - that our cause is right and certain in the end to triumph. And because of this unexpressed and almost unconscious faith, our allied armies have a superiority in morale which will be (some day) the deciding factor.

A dug-out in the trenches is a very different affair - It's like nothing but a coffin, is damp, musty, unsafe, cramped - 5ft; long - 4ft broad - 3ft high. It can only be entered by a gymnastic feat of some skill. To get out of it is well-nigh impossible. ... It; is an evil thing, a poor thing, but (unluckily) mine own and (for the shelter and comfort that with all its failings it contrives to; afford me) I love it!

They challenged us, but we could not see them to shoot, and of course they were entrenched while we were in the open. The first, unluckily, hit l me in the face and back and stunned me for the moment.... A lot of flares were fired, and when each flare went up, we flopped down in the grass and waited till it had died down.... it was not till I got back in the trench that I found I was also hit just above the left temple, close to the eye. The pair of spectacles which I was wearing must have been blown off by the force of the explosion, for I never saw them again. Very luckily they were not smashed and driven into my eye.... I thought of you all at home in the second that the bomb exploded in my face. The Doctor told me that I asked for my Mother when I woke up this morning. And now I think of you all, dear ones at home, and feel so grateful that God has protected me once more.

The German artillery barrage was very heavy, but we got through I the worst of it after the first half-hour. I bound up the wound at the first halt, and was able to go on.... Robinson to take command of my party and go on with the attack. Sgt. Sambil helped me tie up the wound. I had no water, as the bullet had previously gone through my water bottle.

Bravery is not really vanity, but a kind of concealed pride, because everybody is watching you. Then I was safe, but alone, and absolutely terrified because there was no need to show off any more, no need to pretend ... there was nobody for whom you were responsible, not even the stretcher bearers. Then I was very frightened.... I do remember the sudden feeling - you went through a whole battle for two days ... suddenly there was nobody there ... you could cry if you wanted to.

Macmillan had an oratorical style of the Gladstonian period. Did he know when he was acting and when he was not himself?

Macmillan was reared in a very tough school in politics. Permanently influenced by the unemployment and suffering in his constituency in the. North-East.... the fact that he had spent much of his early life as a rebel while I was a member of the despised and declining "establishment" underlines a difference of temperament between us. It may also lie at the root of our future relationship. But in political philosophy we were not far apart.

Following the Party conference at Blackpool in October 1946, a committee was set up under Butler to produce a document restating Conservative policy. From the Opposition front benches, Macmillan was one of those most closely involved. Already by the summer of 1946, he had put in some serious political thought on reshaping the Party. In one of the more profound philosophic passages of his memoirs, he argues how Peel had been "the first of modern Conservatives", insofar as he understood that after a major debacle a party could only be rebuilt by means of "a new image". Peel had achieved this in part by changing the name of the party from Tory to Conservative, and Macmillan began to float ideas about a "New Democratic Party".

The neo-Socialists, like Harold Macmillan, who are in favour of nationalising railways, electricity, gas and many other things, expected to get great support from the delegates.... It turned out that the neo-Socialists were lucky to escape with their scalps. The delegates would have nothing to do with the proposal to change the party's name. They demanded a real Conservative policy instead of a synthetic Socialist one so dear to the heart of the Macmillans and the Butlers, and it gave Churchill one of the greatest receptions of his life.

I already had a perfectly genial relationship with Harold Macmillan, a clubbable person by nature, and we often used to find ourselves in conversation in the Smoking Room. For the first nine months of the Eden Government he had been Foreign Secretary. 'After a few months learning geography,' he complained to me, 'now I've got to learn arithmetic.' He was a consummate parliamentarian and quickly mastered his brief, as he had in every previous senior office he had held. There must have been a chemistry at work which brought out the best in both of us, and the debates on his first budget and Finance Bill became popular occasions. I suddenly developed an aptitude for dealing with serious economic and financial problems in a humorous and personal way, to which Macmillan responded.

He and I had a happy and stimulating relationship. In those days, even on the committee stage of the Finance Bill, the House would fill up to listen to the most abstruse amendments and hear us knocking each other about. After a gladiatorial exchange, the Chancellor would pass me a note, usually suggesting a drink in the Smoking Room, occasionally congratulating me on my attack on him, sometimes asking a question about how I had prepared my speech.

In their rush to get into Europe they must not forget the four-fifths of the world's population whose preoccupation is with emergence from colonial status into self-government; and into the revolution of rising expectations. If this is so, is the world organization not to reflect the enthusiasms and aspirations of the new members and new nations entering into their inheritance, often through British action, as the Prime Minister said, and who want to see their neighbours also brought forward into the light? It must be recognized that this is the greatest force in the world today, and we must ask why it is so often that we are found, or thought to be found, on the wrong side.

The record of this country since the war, under both Governments, is good enough to proclaim to the world - India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanganyika and Sierra Leone and, even after the agonies, Cyprus. Why do we contrive it that in the eyes of the world we are so often allied with reactionary governments, whose record in the scales of human enfranchisement weigh as a speck of dust against real gold and silver as far as our record is concerned?

Why is it that the British Foreign Secretary speaks in accents of the dead past, as though he fears and resents the consequences of the very actions which his Government as well as ours have taken?

Not only in this country but abroad people are asking, 'Who is in charge? Whose hand is on the helm? When is the Prime Minister going to exert himself and govern?' I do not believe that he can. The panache has gone. On every issue, domestic and foreign, now we find the same faltering hand, the same dithering indecision and confusion. What is more, Hon. Members opposite know it, and some of them are even beginning to say it.

The MacWonder of 1959 is the man who gave us this pathetic performance this afternoon. This whole episode has justified our insistence eighteen months ago that the Foreign Secretary should have been in the House of Commons. But we were wrong on one thing. We thought that the noble lord would be an office boy. The Prime Minister was able to restore his tottering position today only by a fulsome tribute to the noble lord. Indeed, to adopt the saying made famous by Nye Bevan: 'It is a little difficult to know which is the organ grinder and which is the other.'

Eden's successor, Harold Macmillan, had by far the most constructive mind I have encountered in a lifetime of politics. He took a fully informed view of both domestic and world affairs, and would put the tiniest local problem into a national context, and any national problem into its rightful position in his world strategy. Macmillan's historical knowledge enabled him to view everything in a realistic perspective, and to illuminate contemporary questions with both parallels and differences in comparison with the past. His mind was cultivated in many disciplines: literature, languages, philosophy and religion, as well as history. Working with him gave great pleasure as well as broadening one's whole life.

Harold loved Oxford and, above all, Balliol, where he always felt at home throughout his long life. He was awarded a first in his Moderations, but the Great War, during which he was wounded three times on active service, prevented him from completing his degree. He also distinguished himself during the 1930s, when, like Eden, he was a staunch opponent of appeasement, and then during the Second World War, when he was Churchill's Minister Resident at allied HQ in North Africa, working alongside Field Marshal Alexander and General Eisenhower. His friendship with Eisenhower stood him in good stead in later years. Harold had nothing but admiration for his fellow soldiers, but, like everyone who has actually seen action, he passionately hated war itself.

Harold Macmillan cared nothing for other people's backgrounds, and judged them by their intelligence and their character. His social policies were informed by his own generous spirit and unquenchable desire to help the underdog, and to ensure that everyone in this country had the opportunity of a decent life. His speeches as a maverick and compassionate backbencher in the 1930s gained support for his views when the Conservative Party came to reassess its policies and priorities in the wake of the massive general election defeat of 1945.

The Prime Minister, his wife and her lover: Dorothy Macmillan had an affair that lasted 30 years. Everyone knew but nobody talked. How times have changed, says Angela Lambert

Suppose that a Conservative prime minister's wife were to have a passionate love affair lasting nearly 30 years? Further, suppose that the press knows all about it that the relationship is common knowledge in Parliament and in every London club, but nobody ever breaks the story? Impossible? It happened within living memory.

The prime minister was Harold Macmillan his wife was Lady Dorothy, rooted by birth in the English aristocracy, and her lover was Bob Boothby, later ennobled by Macmillan as Baron Boothby of Buchan and Rattray Head.

The affair ended only with Dorothy's death in 1966. The fact that it never became public was a tribute to the docility and decorum of the press and to the ability of politicians and society to close ranks against outside scrutiny. In any case, these were far more modest times. Sex was not yet openly discussed - not even between husband and wife - and to splash details of illicit affairs would probably have been counter-productive. It is tempting to conclude that those were more civilised times.

Harold Macmillan, who was prime minister from 1957 to 1963, believed in fidelity, loved his wife, and was heartbroken when she died. He behaved immaculately throughout her long affair, giving his name to Sarah, her daughter born in 1930, fathered by Boothby. Much later on he treated the troubled and unhappy young woman with great kindness. Contemporaries have described Macmillan as 'a cold and unfeeling man, especially where sex was concerned'. This may have been true, but nothing can detract from his generosity to Sarah, whose paternity was never in doubt.

Lady Dorothy Cavendish, third daughter of the ninth Duke of Devonshire, was born in 1900 and brought up in the old tradition of great houses, nannies, governesses and noblesse oblige. She met Macmillan in 1919, when he was aide-de- camp to her father, then Governor- General of Canada. Within months they were engaged. For an ambitious young man with political leanings (he became an MP in 1924), the connection was advantageous. He liked to say: 'I have it both ways: my grandfather was a crofter, my wife's father a Duke.'

For the first couple of years the marriage appeared happy, but before long Dorothy's high spirits and warm but turbulent nature looked for greater fulfilment than her devoted husband could offer. Richard Davenport-Hines, biographer of the Macmillans, says: 'Like many other men whose lives have got too closely entangled with their mothers', Harold was frustrated: where he loved he could not sexually desire, and where he desired he could not love.' Despite this, three children were born to them in the first five years. Then, in 1929, Dorothy met the raffish and sexually dynamic Boothby, already a promising young Tory politician.

She was captivated by Boothby's charm and sophistication he was flattered by her attentions, which quickly developed into an overwhelming and lifelong obsession. Boothby provided fun and glamour as well as sexual fulfilment, and for the first five years of their relationship they virtually lived together. But Macmillan would not give his wife the divorce she and her lover both craved. He loved her - and in any case, divorce was unthinkable for both family and political reasons.

Davenport-Hines has studied the events of those years. He says: 'These relationships were recognised in the past for what they were - an affair of passion - but passions have gone out of life now, and been reduced to sex, while journalists behave like children trying to burst into their parents' bedroom. Passion can be a higher form of sensibility, and it was admired as such, but it can only flourish amid tension and obstacles. The Boothby/Lady Dorothy affair was a magnificent passion based on obstacles: and if they weren't there, she created them. Obstacles made for desperation and excitement. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that she actively enjoyed scenes and melodrama.'

Extraordinarily, in his autobiography, Recollections of a Rebel, published 12 years after Dorothy's death and 11 years after his marriage to a woman 33 years his junior, Boothby does not mention the affair at all. His mistress figures neither in the index nor the book, though this probably sprang from discretion rather than bitterness.

In 1933 Boothby wrote about Dorothy to his friend John Strachey: 'The most formidable thing in the world - a possessive, single- track woman. She wants me, completely, and she wants my children, and she wants practically nothing else. At every crucial moment she acts instinctively and overwhelmingly . . . I am passionately in love with her. But if I take her, it's goodbye to everything else.'

Dorothy did her best to persuade her lover that the world would be well lost for her sake but Boothby's political career would have been wrecked by a divorce and his means did not allow him to support her in anything like the style she took for granted. While the establishment would protect its own - as it did the King and Wallis Simpson - it did not forgive those who publicly breached the unwritten code.

Boothby made several attempts to escape from Dorothy but his mistress's overwhelming jealousy, as well as his love for her, always prevented him. After her death he told a biographer of Macmillan: 'She was the most selfish and possessive woman I have ever known. Once, when I got engaged to an American heiress, she pursued me from Chatsworth to Paris and from Paris to Lisbon. But we loved each other, and there is really nothing you can do about this, except die. Wagner was right.' The fact that Boothby liked and respected Macmillan, and that both were MPs, made the situation worse. Members of their families, even the Conservative Party whips, took sides. Nothing short of renunciation could have restored Boothby's political hopes, and even without Dorothy he had committed plenty of other improprieties.

In 1935, believing that the affair with Dorothy was on the wane, Boothby proposed to one of her cousins, Diana Cavendish. They were briefly and disastrously married a marriage that left Boothby feeling guilty for the rest of his life. He said: 'It is impossible to be happily married when you love someone else.' There was nothing for it but divorce: a grave step in those days. Boothby wrote to his friend Beaverbrook: 'Don't let your boys hunt me down.' The hounds of the press were duly kept on the leash.

Time passed, the physical passion between Boothby and Dorothy faded (though she continued to write letters and telephone him every day) and gradually they settled down, with Harold, into a menage a trois.

Nevertheless, the affair put an end to any hopes Boothby might have cherished of achieving high office. Dorothy's brother-in-law, James Stuart, was Tory chief whip at the time, and very much a member of the anti-Boothby camp. His disapproval handicapped Boothby's political prospects enormously. This was compounded by a financial scandal in 1941, when he was censured for not disclosing a personal interest.

The child of their tempestuous liaison, Sarah Macmillan, had an unhappy life and an early death at the age of 40. The journalist and writer Quentin Crewe recalls a lengthy relationship with her. He was an habitue of Birch Grove, the Macmillan family home near East Grinstead, Sussex, throughout the Fifties. Even then, 'Boothby used to write nearly every day, as well as telephoning most days, and Lady Dorothy would scurry downstairs first thing in the morning to snatch up the post before Macmillan saw it. Boothby was a beguiling character, of course . . . He had been a very promising young man in the Tory party, but he always had his flaws. It was the trouble over the cheque bonds in 1941 that probably sank him.

'He was a vain man, and the fact that she loved him so extravagantly was a boost to him. I remember Lady Dorothy as an odd mixture of shyness and charm and great warmth of character. It's a shame that Harold misunderstood her. He thought he had to build up the family publishing business to make himself worthy of her he was star-struck by her. She was bored by that, and by politics, so she turned to Boothby who was flamboyant and racy and flattering. She said to me once: 'People say I'm unfaithful but I've always been faithful to Bob.'

'Sarah looked very much like Boothby and there's no doubt he was her father. She did not learn the truth about her parentage until she was about 17, when it shook her deeply. I think it was the start of her alcoholism. Once, when she was drying out in a clinic in Switzerland, Harold flew to visit her, and when she eventually married and adopted two children, he set up a Macmillan family trust fund for them.

'She was unable to have children herself as a result of an abortion the family made her go through with. This was in the late Fifties - there was a general election coming up - and people were terrified that the scandal might damage Macmillan. She did feel very bitter about that and resented it desperately.

'The whole climate has changed since then. The Boothby business was never discussed, though everyone knew about it. But it just didn't get into the papers. Barely 30 years later, everything is different - people's private attitudes to morality, and the public treatment of lapses.'

Something else has changed, according to one relative of the pair: 'People then didn't want to ruin each others' lives. The love affairs and so on went on just the same as they do today - the difference was, people didn't rat on each other. They wouldn't have dreamt of ringing up a paper: they'd have been absolutely horrified.'

For the politicians concerned, this must have been a good thing. If they were reasonably discreet, their private lives remained a matter for themselves and their immediate circle. Boothby's constituents never had to decide whether their much- loved MP was compromised by his behaviour, since it was never paraded through the tabloids.

Macmillan was prime minister at the time of the Profumo-Keeler scandal in 1963. The exposure of Profumo's flagrant infidelity must have been especially painful in view of his own situation, and it explains his outrage when the affair came to light. Yet no whisper of gossip about Dorothy ever escaped from the still tightly-knit establishment.

Many people argue that today's public gossip is indefensible. Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor, believes the law should be changed to protect people's privacy: politicians or anyone else. 'I can only suppose, without knowing anything about that particular relationship, that these considerations obtained, and I think it's more decent and more civilised. There is a moral right to privacy and I think it should be a legal right. The highest moral standards should be demanded, but if people do fall by the wayside I think their privacy should be respected. Everybody's entitled to that.'

Telephoto lenses and tape recorders mean that nobody's private life is safe, although their use may soon be restricted. Some people have protested that those in authority over us should be open to public scrutiny. But human sexuality is notoriously hard to regulate, and the fear of being found out does not guarantee faithful husbands, nor does fidelity necessarily make for happy wives.

In one respect, things today are better then they were. Now that little stigma is attached to illegitimacy, the considerations that used to limit women's sexual behaviour are no longer punitive. If Tim Yeo and Julia Stent's daughter grows up to live a happy life if she knows her father's identity from the beginning, this - in the light of Sarah Macmillan's tragic life - is all to the good. The innocent children of ecstatic, illicit liaisons suffered in the past as much if not more than their parents. Not any longer.


Formation of the first Macmillan ministry Edit

Sir Anthony Eden resigned from his positions of Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 10 January 1957. This was mainly a consequence of the Suez Crisis fiasco of the previous autumn, but was also owing to his increasingly failing health. Harold Macmillan, formerly Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was chosen over Rab Butler as the new party leader and consequently as Prime Minister.

Harold Macmillan tried to placate Butler, who had stood against Macmillan as leader, by appointing him to the senior position of Home Secretary. Peter Thorneycroft became Chancellor of the Exchequer, but caused embarrassment for Macmillan when he resigned only a year later. He was replaced by Derick Heathcoat Amory, previously Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Selwyn Lloyd was retained as Foreign Secretary, a post he held until 1960, when he succeeded Heathcoat Amory as Chancellor. Ernest Marples became Minister for Transport and the Earl of Home was promoted to Leader of the House of Lords and also continued as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, before replacing Lloyd as Foreign Secretary in 1960. Lord Kilmuir and Alan Lennox-Boyd retained their offices of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for the Colonies respectively, while Lord Hailsham became a member of the cabinet for the first time as Minister of Education. Future Chancellor Iain Macleod was appointed Minister of Labour and National Service and succeeded Lennox-Boyd as Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1961.

1959 general election and second Macmillan ministry Edit

The Conservatives comfortably won the 1959 general election, increasing their majority in the House of Commons, following a campaign slogan "Life's better with the Conservatives". This centred on the consistently low unemployment, strong economy and rising standard of living that much of the British population was enjoying in the late 1950s.

However, a series of economic measures in the early 1960s caused the popularity of the Conservative Party to decline. Macmillan tried to remedy this by a major cabinet reshuffle in July 1962. Seven cabinet members were sacked in what became nicknamed the "Night of the Long Knives". Notably, the emerging Reginald Maudling replaced Selwyn Lloyd as Chancellor, and Lord Kilmuir was replaced as Lord Chancellor by Lord Dilhorne, while Peter Thorneycroft returned to the cabinet as Minister of Defence. Rab Butler was also promoted to the office of First Secretary of State. The reshuffle was controversial within the Conservative Party, and was seen as a betrayal by many. Macmillan's credibility was also affected by the 1963 Profumo affair he was now in his 69th year, and had until after his 70th birthday to call the next general election. The election of Harold Wilson as Labour Party leader early in the year, following the sudden death of Hugh Gaitskell, was well received by voters, with opinion polls showing the Labour Party ascendant.

However, it was still considered a surprise when Macmillan resigned in October 1963.

Douglas-Home becomes Prime Minister Edit

Macmillan's resignation saw a three-way tussle for the party leadership and premiership. Given that it was not considered appropriate for a Prime Minister to be a member of the House of Lords, the Earl of Home and Lord Hailsham both disclaimed their peerages under the Peerage Act 1963, and became known respectively as Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Quintin Hogg. Rab Butler was also in the running for the post, but Douglas-Home was finally chosen to succeed Macmillan. This was seen as controversial, for it was alleged that Macmillan had pulled strings and used the party's grandees, nicknamed "The Magic Circle", to ensure that Butler was once again overlooked.

In the Douglas-Home ministry, Rab Butler became Foreign Secretary, and Henry Brooke replaced Butler as Home Secretary. Reginald Maudling continued as Chancellor, while Quintin Hogg remained as Lord President of the Council and Minister for Sports. He could not continue as Leader of the House of Lords, having ceased to be a member of it, but was made Minister for Education in April 1964. Selwyn Lloyd also returned to the government after a one-year absence, as Leader of the House of Commons. Douglas-Home's government was defeated in the October 1964 general election. He remained party leader until July 1965.

The 1957–1964 Conservative government saw several emerging figures who would later attain high office. Future Prime Minister Edward Heath became a member of the cabinet for the first time as Minister of Labour and National Service in 1959, while another future Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, held her first government post in 1961 as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions. The government also included future Chancellor Anthony Barber, future Home Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister William Whitelaw and future Secretary of State for Education and Science Sir Keith Joseph. Other notable government members included Enoch Powell, Lord Carrington, David Ormsby-Gore, John Profumo, Christopher Soames, Bill Deedes, Airey Neave and the Marquess of Salisbury.

First Macmillan ministry Edit

January 1957 – October 1959 Edit

  • Harold Macmillan: Prime Minister
  • The Viscount Kilmuir: Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Marquess of Salisbury: Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council
  • Rab Butler: Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Peter Thorneycroft: Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Selwyn Lloyd: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Alan Lennox-Boyd: Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • The Earl of Home: Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
  • Sir David Eccles: President of the Board of Trade
  • Charles Hill: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • The Viscount Hailsham: Minister of Education
  • John Scott Maclay: Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Derick Heathcoat Amory: Minister of Agriculture
  • Iain Macleod: Minister of Labour and National Service
  • Harold Arthur Watkinson: Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation
  • Duncan Edwin Sandys: Minister of Defence
  • The Lord Mills: Minister of Power
  • Henry Brooke: Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs
Changes Edit
  • March 1957 – Earl of Home succeeds Marquess of Salisbury as Lord President, remaining also Commonwealth Relations Secretary.
  • September 1957 – Viscount Hailsham succeeds Earl of Home as Lord President, Home remaining Commonwealth Relations Secretary. Geoffrey Lloyd succeeds Hailsham as Minister of Education. The Paymaster-General, Reginald Maudling, enters the Cabinet.
  • January 1958 – Derick Heathcoat Amory succeeds Peter Thorneycroft as Chancellor of the Exchequer. John Hare succeeds Amory as Minister of Agriculture.

Second Macmillan ministry Edit

October 1959 – July 1960 Edit

  • Harold Macmillan: Prime Minister
  • The Viscount Kilmuir: Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Earl of Home: Lord President of the Council and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
  • The Viscount Hailsham: Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and Minister of Science
  • Derick Heathcoat Amory: Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Rab Butler: Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Selwyn Lloyd: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Iain Macleod: Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • Reginald Maudling: President of the Board of Trade
  • Charles Hill: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Sir David Eccles: Minister of Education
  • The Lord Mills: Paymaster-General
  • Ernest Marples: Minister of Transport
  • Duncan Edwin Sandys: Minister of Aviation
  • Harold Arthur Watkinson: Minister of Defence
  • John Scott Maclay: Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Edward Heath: Minister of Labour and National Service
  • John Hare: Minister of Agriculture
  • Henry Brooke: Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs

July 1960 – October 1961 Edit

  • Harold Macmillan: Prime Minister
  • The Viscount Kilmuir: Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Viscount Hailsham: Lord President of the Council and Minister of Science
  • Selwyn Lloyd: Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Earl of Home: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Edward Heath: Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
  • Rab Butler: Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Iain Macleod: Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • Duncan Edwin Sandys: Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
  • Reginald Maudling: President of the Board of Trade
  • Charles Hill: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Sir David Eccles: Minister of Education
  • The Lord Mills: Paymaster-General
  • Ernest Marples: Minister of Transport
  • Peter Thorneycroft: Minister of Aviation
  • Harold Arthur Watkinson: Minister of Defence
  • John Scott Maclay: Secretary of State for Scotland
  • John Hare: Minister of Labour
  • Christopher Soames: Minister of Agriculture
  • Henry Brooke: Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs

October 1961 – July 1962 Edit

  • Harold Macmillan: Prime Minister
  • The Viscount Kilmuir: Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
  • The Viscount Hailsham: Lord President of the Council and Minister of Science
  • Selwyn Lloyd: Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Earl of Home: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Edward Heath: Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
  • Rab Butler: Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • Reginald Maudling: Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • Duncan Edwin Sandys: Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
  • Frederick Erroll: President of the Board of Trade
  • Iain Macleod: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Sir David Eccles: Minister of Education
  • Henry Brooke: Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General
  • Ernest Marples: Minister of Transport
  • Peter Thorneycroft: Minister of Aviation
  • Harold Arthur Watkinson: Minister of Defence
  • John Scott Maclay: Secretary of State for Scotland
  • John Hare: Minister of Labour
  • Christopher Soames: Minister of Agriculture
  • Charles Hill: Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs
  • The Lord Mills: Minister without Portfolio

July 1962 – October 1963 Edit

In a radical reshuffle dubbed "The Night of the Long Knives", Macmillan sacked a third of his Cabinet and instituted many other changes.

Rich insights

Publication of extensive extracts from the diaries in these memoirs between 1966 and 1973 first drew attention to the rich insights these offered both to the business of government and international relations in the 1950s and 1960s, and to Macmillan’s view of the people and problems he encountered. Hitherto, only a few Cabinet colleagues had even suspected Macmillan of keeping a diary.

He could find the process a chore, but Macmillan nevertheless frequently managed to write up entries in the evening, almost contemporaneous with the events described. During his premiership the entries often have a more reflective tone, and many seem to have been written up at weekends.

Sometimes Macmillan used his diary as private means of venting his frustrations with colleagues, international counterparts such as President Charles de Gaulle of France, or even with himself. Generally, however, the diaries were used to sort out his thoughts, or to try to plumb the motives and manoeuvres of political opponents at home or abroad.

Tory Leaders We Have Known: Harold Macmillan (part one)

Harold Macmillan remains one of the more elusive of the leading politicians of his age. In part, that was an elusiveness of his own making: the great actor-manager was possessed of a natural gift, what Hailsham called his ‘beautiful acting’.

What was that act? It was the air of insouciance things were either ‘fun’ or ‘a bore’. He gave the impression of being a prime minster that was not going to drown in a sea of papers of work himself into the ground. That impression was added to by his great wit. Both elements might be neatly summed up in his one liner about ‘going to bed with a Trollope’ or his remark about Mrs Thatcher in her pomp: ‘I do wish she would read’. The Macmillan of the grouse moor, ‘the government of chaps’, offered stability in a changing world. And, in his career, he had (until the last years of his government) a good deal of luck: not only had Britain ‘never had it so good’, but when the mud flew (notably from Suez), it never seemed to stick to Supermac.

Macmillan was both a more complex man, and a more interesting one, than the persona let on. He was one of four prime ministers to have fought in the Great War, and one of two to be seriously wounded (the other was Attlee). A phrase current in the Guards was ‘nearly as brave as Mr Macmillan’. He was, in fact, wounded twice: the wound to the hip at the Somme nearly killed him, and ended his war. His wounds left permanent marks on Macmillan, giving him a limp handshake, leaving him in frequent pain and giving him the somewhat shambling gait that became a part of the Macmillan persona. Famously, he claimed to have passed the time whilst spending an entire day wounded in his shell hole reading Aeschylus’ Prometheus, in the Greek, which he just happened to have with him. Yet, the impression of calm assurance should not be overdone. Once helped back behind the lines, he had to make his own way to the dressing station in a blind panic. His recovery was slow, painful and left him prone to bouts of introspection and melancholy. As well showing his courage, the war gave him compassion, a depth of character and a regard for the ordinary man that was to mark his politics.

On the face of it, his background was conventional enough for a Tory politician: Eton, and Oxford. In fact, he left Eton after three years, being dogged by ill health. That, and his near death in 1916, would leave him prone to hypochondria. He flourished at Oxford, where he made many lifelong friendships. Of the 28 Balliol men who went to war, only two came back: for Macmillan, Oxford was henceforth a ‘city of ghosts’.

After the war, Macmillan spent a happy ten months as ADC to the governor-general of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire. There, he wooed and married Devonshire’s daughter, Lady Dorothy Cavendish. Politically, it was a very good match. Devonshire was colonial secretary under Bonar Law, and the families Tory connections were second to none. Not only did the marriage give him access to that network, it also gave him his entre into politics. He was now a part of high society, though never quite fully part. He often found himself somewhat patronised by her family, and the Macmillan of the grouse moor was always, like so much about Macmillan, something of an act (though he taught himself to be a good shot).

Most poignantly, it was not a happy marriage. Macmillan always maintained his love for her, but it was not reciprocated. In 1929, Dorothy Macmillan began a long running and tempestuous affair with Bob Boothby, a fellow Tory MP. She made the running for Boothby it may even have been a good cover for his bisexuality. Later, Dorothy claimed that the Macmillan’s last child, Sarah, was Boothby’s. Macmillan did contemplate divorce, but in 1930 that was tantamount to political suicide furthermore, his love for her was genuine, as was his Christian faith. Thus, Macmillan became a celibate husband, his love henceforth unrequited. That it troubled him always, there can be no doubt.

Macmillan entered the family publishing business. He was unusually well read for a politician. At Macmillan and Sons, he personally handled the likes of Kipling, Hardy, Yeats, Hugh Walpole and Sean O’Casey. He had discernment too. Years later he would compare O’Casey to Hardy: both wrote a lot, perhaps too much, but what they wrote ‘came from a deep sincerity’. As prime minister he would famously quip that he liked to wake up to a Jane Austen and ‘go to bed with a Trollope’. Nor were his publishing interests merely literary. He brought economists such as Lionel Robbins on board, likewise the historian Lewis Namier.

Those tastes might give us something of Macmillan’s politics. Namier’s history of the 18 th century politics saw politics as an elite contest framed by patronage, the greasy pole and sharp elbows. Whatever one might say of Macmillan in his pomp, he certainly did not lack an interest in the political dark arts. Interestingly, though, the Macmillan of the inter-war years was more of an ideas man. He set out his stall as a reformist, leftist Conservative, attracted to Keynesianism (his brother was a close friend of Keynes).

His outlook was also framed by his admiration for the ordinary working class men he had known in the trenches, and then by his time as MP for Stockton-on-Tees. Most importantly, as MP for Stockton, he saw the impact of industrial decline and unemployment close up. He was also the MP for a marginal seat. In 1923, when he failed to win the first time he stood, he lost to a Liberal: the seat had been Liberal since 1910 (it was one of the industrial seats that, in 1910, saw the Liberal vote go up it had been Conservative in 1906). In 1929, he lost it to Labour, as he did again in 1945. The three occasions he won were all when a One Nation Conservatism that clearly identified Labour as socialist, and beat them.

Not that Macmillan, unlike Butler, could be described as Baldwinian. After entering parliament, he wrote a great deal. He was one of the co-authors of Industry and the State, which argued for a partnership between government and both sides of industry. He was also sympathetic to the proto-Keynesianism of Lloyd George’s Yellow Book. Nor was he without influence. The government’s de-rating measures were in part his idea, and he worked on them closely with the chancellor of the exchequer, Winston Churchill. A series of pamphlets and books followed, culminating in the publication of The Middle Way, in 1938. Years later, Clement Attlee would describe the inter-war Macmillan as ‘a real left wing radical’ and believed that Macmillan had seriously considered crossing the floor and that, if he had, he would have led Labour at some point.

There were question marks from some over Macmillan’s loyalty to his party. He had shown some interests in Mosley’s economic thinking, both when he was in Labour and even at the time of the New Party. Between 1935 and 1937, he was strongly associated with the Next Five Years group, a cross party body with connections to the likes of Lloyd George. He voted against the government over the Unemployed Insured Bill. He stayed loyal to the Conservatives, though, in part thanks to political instinct and in part out of unfulfilled ambition.

What brought Macmillan into open conflict with his own government was appeasement. He openly opposed the Hoare-Laval Pact, and criticised the government’s lack of response to Hitler’s remilitarisation of the Rhineland. He voted against the government in 1936 over Abyssinia, and resigned the Conservative whip. Though he took the whip again in 1937, though he momentarily wavered over Munich a year later he became one of Chamberlain’s most active and outspoken critics. He grew closer to Churchill, more so to Eden. He voted against the government again in November 1938, and at the same time was talking to Labour’s Hugh Dalton about a ‘1931 in reverse’: dissident Conservatives joining with Labour to form an anti-appeasement national government.

It was never going to work, but it identified him as a coming man. When Churchill became prime minister, Macmillan became PPS to Herbert Morrison, the minister of supply. He would take the same role under Beaverbrook. This gave him a greater role in the House of Commons, as Beaverbrook was in the Lords. His careful handling of Beaverbrook paid political dividends too. They were by no means political soul mates, but years later Macmillan always got something of an easy ride from Beaverbrook’s newspapers.

Macmillan was then sent to North Africa, in an ill-defined role as minister resident in Algiers. Over the next few years Macmillan’s role broadened. At first, he was dealing with Vichy France. He then became the effective go between for Britain, the Free French and the Americans. By 1944, he was in charge of British affairs in the wider Mediterranean and, most of all, in Italy and the Balkans. This was, to say the least, a complicated business, and potentially combustible. Macmillan handled it with considerable aplomb, especially the potentially explosive relationship between Tito’s Yugoslavia and Italy. Below, he is with Eisenhower and Alexander, among others.

It had one particularly unfortunate outcome. Macmillan, as Allied Control Commissioner, was also called upon to advise the military commander, General Keightley. One of Keightley’s most pressing problems was prisoners of war. There were some 40,000 Yugoslav prisoners, as well as Ustachi (Croatian supporters of Nazi rule) and Chetniks (Serb opponents of Tito) on the run. There were also some 400,000 Germans who had surrendered, or were about to. Among them, were some 40,000 who were, in fact, Soviet citizens, mostly Cossacks and White Russians (anti-communists who had fled the revolution). The Red Army was on the Yugoslav border, and demanded that they be handed over. They were. Years later, Count Nikolai Tolstoy would accuse Macmillan of a war crime. In truth, as far as Macmillan saw it, he took a hurried decision to repatriate what were, in effect, Nazi forces.

Certainly, Macmillan was now well schooled in the arts of statesmanship, in what had proved to be an extremely difficult and delicate situation. He returned to domestic politics, to the Air Ministry in Churchill’s caretaker government. He lost his Stockton seat in the face of Labour’s 1945 landslide, but that defeat came with a considerable silver lining. Such was his status now, that he was given the ultra-safe seat of Bromley. The Conservative opposition did not have shadow cabinet posts as such. Thus, over the next six years Macmillan spoke from the opposition front bench on a range of topics. He had lacked a domestic profile: this gave him one. He was also closely involved, with Rab Butler, in the Industrial Charter, which redefined Tory policy largely in line with Macmillan’s own Middle Way. Macmillan was also closely involved in Churchill’s encouragement of moves towards greater European integration, notably in the creation of the United European Movement. This also saw Macmillan side with Churchill more than Eden, who was sceptical.

Macmillan had made himself a significant figure in the Tory front rank, but he was some way down the pecking order from Eden, or even Butler. Whilst older than both, he had the air of a young man in a hurry. His true position could be seen in the cabinet post Churchill gave him in 1951 (one he had to wait a week to find out about): Macmillan was now minister of housing and local government. Labour’s grand designs had ended in something of disappointment: shortages of labour, raw materials and cash had constrained the house-building programme. It was in a direct response to Labour’s perceived failure that, in 1951, Lord Woolton had settled on the figure of 300,000 houses per year (topping Labour’s previous promise of 200,000). Macmillan’s job was to deliver. The problem was that he had no direct control over house building, whether private or public. What he did do was take the lessons he had learned at the wartime ministry of supply and apply them to the peace: he even called the process ‘modified Beaverbrookism’. With the energetic help of his junior minister, Ernest Marples, and much political cajoling, it worked (you can read more here). Macmillan (seen inspecting a new house in 1953) had proved to be a successful minister of a major spending department.

It was to be his only long spell in any ministry. When Churchill reshuffled in 1954, Macmillan got the Ministry of Defence. From it, he became firmly convinced of two things. One was that Britain needed not only its own nuclear deterrent, but a modern one, which by 1954 meant a hydrogen bomb. The other thing he became sure of was the need for Churchill to name the date of his departure, and was pretty blunt in in so doing. When Eden became prime minister, Macmillan got the Foreign Office. It was a job he was pre-eminently qualified for, and wanted: he had always claimed it to be the ‘summit of my ambitions’. It was not, however, a happy experience. Just as Churchill had regarded defence policy as his personal remit, Eden regarded foreign affairs. You can read more about Macmillan’s brief interlude in the Foreign Office here.

In any event, politics conspired to see Macmillan moved on very quickly. Having delivered a pre-election budget designed to help ensure a Tory victory in the 1955 election, Butler was forced to reverse almost all his tax giveaways in the autumn. Eden was faced with a damaged chancellor. He was also faced with a damaged rival, and sought to take advantage of the fact. His solution was to move Macmillan to the Treasury. Macmillan didn’t want to go, but in the end had no choice. You can read more about Macmillan’s time at the Treasury here.

Macmillan may not have wanted to go, but in doing so he got lucky. In his short time there he was well regarded, which helped, but what really mattered was the he was not foreign secretary as the Suez Crisis erupted in 1956. Macmillan was intimately involved. When Nasser seized the Suez Canal, Macmillan was a member of the Suez Committee. He strongly supported the planned invasion: he was seen as a hawk, looking not merely to take the canal, but overthrow Nasser. Like Eden, he saw Nasser as an Egyptian Hitler or Mussolini. The appeasement analogy led both down a lethal political dead end.

When that dead end became all too apparent, especially Britain came under immense American pressure, Macmillan reversed his view completely. Thus, by the time the Anglo-French invasion was launched, Macmillan was already turning against it. There are several ways of interpreting Macmillan’s actions. One is that in changing his view, he was doing his job as chancellor, defending sterling. Another is that he allowed the sterling crisis to ferment without telling the cabinet the full truth, thus allowing Eden to dig himself in so deep he could not get out. Another is that by seeming to support Eden, until he appeared to have no choice but to advise withdrawal, he differentiated himself from Butler, whose duplicity was supposed. The famous Harold Wilson line about Macmillan’s Suez rings true: ‘first in, first out.’ Whatever, it was Eden that was holed below the waterline, and Butler was damaged too meanwhile, Macmillan survived seemingly intact. And with that would come his chance.

Another way of looking at Macmillan’s conduct was that he had been far quicker than Eden to face reality. As such, he was far better equipped for the top job. Similarly, Butler was never fully trusted by his colleagues. Macmillan was hardly less clever or witty than Butler, and he was certainly more devious, but his persona hid it better. Butler’s sharp impatience with lesser men was not so well hidden. When it came to the dark arts of political manoeuvre, Macmillan was the sharper operator again, he hid it well.

Looking back, Eden’s departure had the air of inevitability about it. It didn’t seem to at the time. Thus, when Eden resigned, the process of arriving at his successor was hurried. As it was, it was simple enough. The process involved the lord chancellor, Lord Kilmuir, and Lord Salisbury, Bobbetty Cecil to his friends, consulting leading Tories. As Kilmuir famously put it later on, Cecil asking, with his lisp: ‘well, is Wab or Hawold?’

For all bar three, it was Harold. Thus, Macmillan kissed hands. The great actor manager now had the top job.

Harold Macmillan

Prime minister. Anglo‐American by birth, Macmillan proceeded from Eton to Balliol College, Oxford, where he secured a first in classical moderations. During the war he was badly injured. After the war he served as ADC to the governor‐general of Canada before going into the family publishing firm.

Macmillan was elected as member for Stockton at his second attempt in 1924. In Parliament he associated himself with a group of progressive Tories, styled the YMCA, but his career suffered a blow when he lost his seat in the 1929 general election. He won it back in 1931. The publication of The Middle Way in 1938 showed Macmillan's commitment to a mixed economy and considerable government intervention. Macmillan was also at odds with the foreign policy of the National Government and resigned the Conservative whip for the last year of Baldwin's premiership.

When Churchill became premier in May 1940 Macmillan's ministerial rewards were initially small. But in 1942 he made his first major political advance with his appointment as minister of state for north Africa. Macmillan took easily to his new authority and struck up a good working relationship with General Eisenhower.

Macmillan lost his Stockton seat again in the general election of 1945, but was soon returned to Parliament following a by‐election in Bromley. As minister of housing after 1951 Macmillan achieved credit as the man who fulfilled the Conservative pledge to build 300,000 houses in a single year. He served briefly as minister of defence, but became foreign secretary when Eden succeeded to the premiership in 1955. Too forceful in this post for Eden's liking, he was transferred to the Exchequer after six months.

An ardent proponent of the Suez adventure in 1956, its failure provided Macmillan with his opportunity. Though it was he who pressed the financial necessity of bringing the operation to an end, his earlier enthusiasm ensured the backing of the Conservative right. To the surprise of many he was preferred to Butler when ill‐health forced Eden's resignation in January 1957.

As prime minister Macmillan displayed political skills which few had anticipated. Against the odds, he restored party morale after Suez and led the Conservatives to a third successive electoral victory in 1959. By 1960 Macmillan stood at the height of his power. The nickname ‘Supermac’ encapsulated the public's acclaim. But then problems arose. The collapse of the summit conference of 1960 was a particular blow which helped persuade Macmillan to seek British admission to the European Common Market. This quest ultimately met with the veto of General de Gaulle. Meanwhile difficulties mounted on the domestic front. Many sensed panic when Macmillan dismissed a third of his cabinet, including the chancellor, in the famous ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in July 1962. Thereafter the government was beset by a series of sex and spy scandals. Illness precipitated Macmillan's resignation at the time of the Conservative Party conference in October 1963.

Macmillan was a complex individual. An external self‐confidence was matched by inner doubts, exacerbated no doubt by his wife's long‐standing affair with Robert Boothby. The years of his premiership remain controversial. For some they represent a period of unprecedented prosperity for others a time when a blind eye was turned to underlying problems in the British economy.

Harold Macmillan - History

Harold Macmillan 1894-1986

Maurice Harold Macmillan was not only the Earl of Stockton and the Viscount of Ovenden, but also the conservative British Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.

Harold Macmillan fought in WWI .

He became prime minister on January 10, 1957.

On February 3, 1960, a gutsy Macmillan gave his Wind of Change speech before members of both Houses of Parliament in the Parliamentary Dining Room, Cape Town, South Africa, and, more importantly, before the creator of apartheid, Hendrik Verword.

Macmillan had already delivered this same speech a month earlier in Ghana.

In South Africa, Macmillan's speech was not embraced by everyone, some members of the audience refused to applaud after he had finished.

In particular, South Africa's Prime Minister Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd politely begged to differ. Verwoerd thanked Macmillan for his speech, but said he could not agree.

Macmillan's speech rocked the political boat of many contemporaries, as it marked a significant shift in British foreign policy towards decolonization.

According to BBC, this speech

"was the first sign that the British government accepted that the days of Empire were over, and it dramatically speeded up the process of African independence."

At home, Macmillan got heat from right-wingers as well.

On September 6, 1966, as Verwoerd sat presiding over parliament, he was stabbed to death by a temp. Demetrio Tsafendas , also called Dimitri Tsafendas, pretended to deliver a message but presented a blade instead. Tsafendas, a Mozambique immigrant, was later judged to be insane.

Macmillan had to resign his post on October 18, 1963, because of ill-health.


The Prime Minister and No. 10’s Rebuilding

Before making the decision to renovate Nos. 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street, Harold Macmillan established the Crawford Committee, an independent body tasked with investigating their condition. In doing so, Macmillan reverted to what he called the ‘politician’s natural instinct (…) passing the buck’.[i] Seeking external advice was considered crucial to deciding whether to undertake costly works on the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s residences.[ii]

The Prime Minister claimed to have been disappointed when the Committee subsequently reported back that a major structural overhaul of the buildings was indeed required during his premiership.[iii] An independent architect was appointed, and the Committee’s recommendations, alongside those of the Ministry of Works, were to be implemented between 1960-63. During these works, the Prime Minister’s living and working quarters were relocated to Admiralty House, a grand building located just a short distance along Whitehall.

Harold Macmillan: Prime Minister 1957-63

Despite the independent nature of the Crawford Committee’s advice, however, Harold Macmillan was unable to resist attempting to influence the redesigning of the buildings that housed the centre of British Government. By virtue of inheriting No. 10 at the point that its renovation became unavoidable, Macmillan had the opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact upon Downing Street. In some of these interventions, he was successful. Others were opposed by the civil service, or by architect Raymond Erith. In each case, they reveal a great deal about the evolution of No. 10, and how the future operation of British Government was physically shaped in this period.

Harold Macmillan in United Kingdom

Conservative politician and Prime Minister. Held a succession of senior ministerial posts before becoming Prime Minister. Made memorable speeches the ‘never had it so good’ speech in 1957, the ‘winds of change’ speech in 1960 about de-colonisation. Also famous for the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ Cabinet reorganisation in 1962. Ill-health forced him to resign in 1963.

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Harold Macmillan

Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM , PC , FRS (10 February 1894 – 29 December 1986) was a British Conservative politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963. [1] Caricatured as "Supermac", he was known for his pragmatism, wit and unflappability.

Macmillan was badly injured as an infantry officer during the First World War. He suffered pain and partial immobility for the rest of his life. After the war he joined his family book-publishing business, then entered Parliament at the 1924 general election. Losing his seat in 1929, he regained it in 1931, soon after which he spoke out against the high rate of unemployment in Stockton-on-Tees. He opposed the appeasement of Germany practised by the Conservative government. He rose to high office during the Second World War as a protégé of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In the 1950s Macmillan served as Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer under Anthony Eden.

When Eden resigned in 1957 following the Suez Crisis, Macmillan succeeded him as prime minister and Leader of the Conservative Party. He was a One Nation Tory of the Disraelian tradition and supported the Post-war consensus. He supported the Welfare state and the necessity of a mixed economy with some nationalized industries and strong trade unions. He championed a Keynesian strategy of deficit spending to maintain demand and pursuit of corporatist policies to develop the domestic market as the engine of growth. Benefiting from favourable international conditions, [2] he presided over an age of affluence, marked by low unemployment and high—if uneven—growth. In his speech of July 1957 he told the nation it had 'never had it so good', [3] but warned of the dangers of inflation, summing up the fragile prosperity of the 1950s. [4] He led the Conservatives to success in 1959 with an increased majority.

In international affairs, Macmillan worked to rebuild the Special Relationship with the United States from the wreckage of the 1956 Suez Crisis (of which he had been one of the architects), and facilitated the decolonisation of Africa. Reconfiguring the nation's defences to meet the realities of the nuclear age, he ended National Service, strengthened the nuclear forces by acquiring Polaris, and pioneered the Nuclear Test Ban with the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Skybolt Crisis undermined the Anglo-American strategic relationship, he sought a more active role for Britain in Europe, but his unwillingness to disclose United States nuclear secrets to France contributed to a French veto of the United Kingdom's entry into the European Economic Community. [5] Near the end of his premiership, his government was rocked by the Vassall and Profumo scandals, which to cultural conservatives and supporters of opposing parties alike seemed to symbolise moral decay of the British establishment. [6] After his resignation, Macmillan lived out a long retirement as an elder statesman. He was as trenchant a critic of his successors in his old age as he had been of his predecessors in his youth. In 1986, he died at the age of 92.

Macmillan was the last British prime minister born during the Victorian era, the last to have served in the First World War and the last to receive a hereditary peerage. At the time of his death, he was the longest-lived prime minister in British history.

Watch the video: Μεγάλα Εγκλήματα: Ο μοχθηρός γιατρός Χάρολντ Σίπμαν (June 2022).


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