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New Left Review 75, May-June 2012


Tom Hazeldine

THE FAMILY FIRM

Anthony Sampson’s Anatomy of Britain forecast in 1962 that the Macmillan ministry, then in its sixth year, would ‘go down in history as a curious diversion in the social evolution of Britain’. [1] D. R. Thorpe, Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan, Chatto and Windus: London 2010, £25, hardback 896 pp, 978 0 701 17748 5 The prime minister’s Edwardian aspect and aristocratic entourage were becoming ‘more obviously anachronistic’. In terms of national strategy, however, this post-Suez administration set the pattern for most future governments: the uk’s relative decline only partially concealed by a heady consumer boom and enthusiastic subordination to Washington. Macmillan’s reputation within the Tory ranks soured in the course of a long retirement—he lived well into the Thatcher period—partly due to growing mistrust of his (albeit ambiguous) Keynesian profile, and in reaction to his having foisted on them the unelected, and unelectable, 14th Earl of Home to replace him in 1963. Nevertheless, Peregrine Worsthorne, veteran of the Tory Right, writes in the Spectator that Richard Thorpe’s new biography ‘conclusively clears Macmillan of pretty well all the charges that have been levelled against him’. For a career that encompassed, among other things, colonial reaction in Cyprus, Kenya, Central Africa and Malaya, the Suez debacle, the Windscale accident, the Profumo scandal and de Gaulle’s humiliating eec veto, this clearly constitutes an impressive feat of exculpation.

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