Sunday, May 25, 2008

What Can Labour Learn from Harold MacMillan?

At lunch today the conversation turned to Gordon Brown's woes, as I am sure it did around most lunch tables in the country. Not. Someone raised an intriguing question. They asked how on earth the Conservatives managed to turn around their perilous political situation after the humiliation of Suez in 1956. Just over two years later they won a General Election with an increased majority.

On the face of it, it was simple: they changed their leader. But was that really the main reason? I'm not well versed enough in the history of that period to judge, but I am sure that out there, among my legion of readers, someone is. Feel free to enlighten us.

50 comments:

niconoclast said...

He was seen as a patrician anachronism, from an ossified morribund class system.(Bit like Cameron really.)

The Raven said...

Iain, whether the change in leader was the sole reason, I cannot say. I'm not well-versed enough in that particular period of political history. But what I will say is this; David Miliband is no Harold MacMillan.

Gallimaufry said...

Wasn't Harold Macmillan a toff - albeit the grandson of a Scottish crofer?

Adam said...

As if by magic I've spent this afternoon revising the Atlee and Macmillan period for an exam on British politics and government since 1900 on Tuesday.

Very rough and ready summary, like most of my notes, would point firstly to the obvious point of affluance, with a 40% rise in GDP from 1951-64 under the Tories and 13 fold increase in TV ownership etc - "you've never had it so good".

The Suez issue was not as big as it might have been, given the opposition was hardly well positioned to play the defence of Empire card, and Labour made pretty foolish tactical mistakes in 1959, promising tax cuts when people were concerned by the balance of payments and didn't want the consistant period of economic growth enjoyed after WWII endangered.

The main factor often forgotten was the ability of the Tories to reach out to the working classes. A 1958 study by Abrams showed that the Conservatives won the support of 85% of the staunchly middle class, whilst Labour only won 65% of the staunchly working class. You'd thus have to conclude that the affluance offered in the 50s (home ownership doubled in that period of Tory government [25% to 50%]) was vital in capturing a portion of what we might imagine as traditional Labour support.

kinglear said...

adam - you are 100% right. The increase in affluence was the major reason the Tories won.At the time, Labour was definitely leftist, and, despite voting for them in 1945 and 1950, British working class at the time was definitely conservative with a small c.

archroy said...

I think Adam's got it spot on, particularly the strength of working class Tory support. I suppose some might see it as the last gasps of the 'deference' vote, but consider that, for instance, Liverpool had a Conservative council and MPs into the sixties, when they were replaced by the Liberals rather than Labour.

scipio said...

I think that labour has to learn from Callaghan! This is far more accurate portrayal of where they are at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness that crap brown section behind you head is now gone.

My dad had an Triumph Dolomite that colour.

King Lear's Son said...

Ian MacLeod, who was a rising minister during this period once observed that if you offered the Labour Party thier weapons of choice they inevitably chose boomerangs.
The point here is that Macmillan governed with wit and style and was not afraid to fill his cabinet with rivals and heavy hitters. There was a self-confidence about the government in those days which today is totally lacking - the PM and his acolytes run for cover when the going gets difficult.
Most of the government in those days had seen service in either WW1 or WW2 so their capacity for facing up to difficulty in peace-time was unquestioned. They never needed to write books about courage and I don't recall them spending most of their time blaming all their problems on previous governments and world-wide regimes.
Memory dims over time and perhaps they did, but I never got the sense that 11 years was consumed with blaming previous governments. they seemed to actually get on with the job and were respected for it

Anonymous said...

Can you please restrict these green `word verication` things to 3or 4 letters. I tried to post a few minutes ago and missed one of 3j`s or an x or something. Very tiring dear boy.

norman said...

I am IT professional and not a historian. But I worked with my son when he was studying history
for his A levels just 3 years ago.
First and foremost, MacMillan- the super Mac, was cleverer than Hugh Gaitskell in terms of focusing on the improving prosperity and consumerism and used his better presentational abilities with devastating effect. Hugh Gaitskell with his confusing tax and spend messages did not appeal to the voters who were worried about the effect of taxes on their improving living standard. The tax and living standard was an issue then as it was an issue at Crewe and Nantwich. Super Mac with a sort of upper class background talked using simple messages on issues concerning people at that time,like Cameron does (except his environment message which should be ditched as people are more worried about their personal problems than the planet problems)and hence comnnected with people well. Super Mac's positive messages neutralised the Gaitskellian verbage.

Daily Referendum said...

I think Johnny Vegas (don't laught)hit the nail on the head on This Week. He seemed to think that there is no longer a working class. A lot of people who work today own at least one car and their own home. Twenty years ago people in that situation would consider themselves middle class. Now we seem to have an extended middle class and what Johnny describes as an under-class.

Hubbert said...

http://timworstall.com/2008/05/25/browns-downfall/

Dale that is your kind of thing.

Quoth Brown "Oh f*** The Mirror, its just The Star without the tits. Except Magauire. He is a right tit and all."

Anonymous said...

Whilst it was clearly humiliation internationally, my impression is that most of the country supported the stance taken over Suez and felt bitterly thwarted by the stance taken by former allies. Eden's illness allowed a quick regime change which took the sting out of the issue come election time.

Add in a more deferential age, and a far slower pace of national debate and news and Macmillan was able to go to the polls still enjoying his honeymoon.

Tobin

Anonymous said...

This is all nonsense. If Thatcher had gone every time the Tories had lost an 80s by-election, well.....

If you are giving the Tories the lesson to follow in Harold Macmillan's shoes, however, that would be news. A bit different from the "robust" views we expect of you Iain!

Iain Dale said...

If you had bothered to read the post you would have seen my lesson was for Labour, not the Tories!

Alan Douglas said...

Adam says "the obvious point of affluance, with a 40% rise in GDP from 1951-64 under the Tories and 13 fold increase in TV ownership etc - "you've never had it so good"

Spot on, but may I suggest a refinement ? The affluence and rising ownership were facts, but the real reason was that the "aspirational classes" could see their aspirations being met from their own efforts.

Nowadays the aspiration is for a bigger government wage or pension, or to huge numbers of people, a bigger government handout, whether in social payments or "funding".

In either case, as the money is unearned, or not properly exchanged for by sweat of arm or brow, it will not produce that golden glow that aspirations met or being met in the immediately visible future will produce.

Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, please create circumstances where we can see that what we endeavour will lead to betterment for not only "the state" as in socialism, also called communism, but for us as individuals and families and social groups as well.

Alan Douglas

haddock said...

adam,
".....when people were concerned by the balance of payments....."

perhaps modern politicians should learn from Macmillan and be concerned

David Boothroyd said...

The Macmillan government in 1957 and early 1958 was still quite unpopular; looking at opinion polls show that Labour led throughout 1957, with the strongest lead being in September 1957 when there was an economic crisis and interest rates went up from 5% to 7%. Still unpopular in 1958, Labour won the LCC election with a landslide in April.

The Conservatives recovered very suddenly over the summer, probably due to the withdrawal from Suez and a ratcheting up of the Cold War by Khruschev. The economy had also recovered and purchase tax and income tax were cut in the 1958 budget. However the real reason was economic. There was a recession in 1957, but a very strong recovery in 1958.

The Labour Party being divided did not help at the 1959 election, but it is fairly clear that Gaitskell's reading that the manifesto policies of nationalization of a small amount of industry caused the loss of the election was at best a big exaggeration.

Auntie Flo' said...

Yes, Adam's right. Affluence was the key factor. When Supermac said we'd never had it so good he was telling the truth.

And Supermac seemed a kindly patrician, a grandfather figure, whom many working class people loved.

Remember, the Brits had not long emerged from the horrible deprivations, austerity and rationing of wartime. Wasn't rationing still in force until 1957?

Contrast the late 1950s with what went before.

The majority of working people had moved from the countryside and a poverty stricken agricultural existance around the turn of the century just 50 years or so previously - when there'd been mass migration from the countryside to the towns.

Not long afterwards WW1 broke out. Then the dire poverty of the depression years of the 30s followed by the nightmare of WW2 from the mid thirties to mid forties.

A long period of prosperity and settled peacetime from the late 1950s on seemed like heaven in relation to the first half of the century and that was really only the case under Mac.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Macmillan also had a personal following and was well regarded by the working classes. He had fought in WWI and built umpteen thousand new council houses after WWII.

He was also, or appeared to be, witty and relaxed; a pleasant change from men like Attlee and Stafford Cripps.

Anonymous said...

The reason was simple, people actually believed in the, 'You've never had it so good' In fact Macmillan actually added, 'But will it last' It didn't of course, but then it never does.

Auntie Flo' said...

Supermac was renowned for his courage, competence and compassion. Rare attributes in a politician. He was like Cameron!

Mac didn't come from old money, his father was a self-made man. And Mac was profoundly influenced by the depressed state of his constituency of Stockton On Tees. He became a member of a left-wing group within the party which pressed for social reform and wrote a book called The Middle Way, so Supermac was seen as one of us.

He had been wounded three times during WW1, as a minister had overseen the construction of a million badly needed homes and was widely respected for his centrist, one nation Conservatism.

So, as prosperity rose we believed him when he said, "We're all midle class now.

A number of sociological studies during the 1960s set out to examine what became known as the embourgeoisment of the working class.

One which studied the Luton car workers concluded that the working class had become so prosperous and embourgoised that they didn't find themselves in conflict with Capitalism any longer and had lost the will to strike.

However, no sooner did the researchers publish their findings than a pay restraint policy stopped the car workers getting their pay rises and a series of wild cat strikes followed!

hatfield girl said...

There was a large, highly skilled working class whose children benefitted greatly from Butler's Education Act and were establishing themselves as middle class (by the 1960s there were academic studies of this by people like Goldthorpe); tertiary sector educational chances were opening up to meritocratic grammar school entrants; MacMillan built vast numbers of attractive, if modest, houses; the colonial empire was steadily transformed into an on the whole friendly and coherent Commonwealth with whom we had extensive trading relations and from whom we gained cheap food as well as mineral resources; much of the command economy left over from the war was dismantled; there was a high level of social peace, not least from the short spell of National Service which often served to offer technical and remedial training to those who had not succeeded earlier.
There was great cultural self confidence, in part rooted in success in war and the ending of authoritarianism in the Axis powers (though not, sadly, in the East and Russia, or even in parts of the UK and its political organisations); trade unions had many Conservative members though, and the planned communist trade union takeover and confrontationist mode was in its infancy.
Suez and Eden belonged to an earlier political model and class; MacMillan was much less grand and understood that working people want the government to be light handed, competent, ensure the absolute basics, and hold the ring so we all get a fairish chance - not expensive, intrusive and patronising. The Conservatives spoke to most of us and they have started doing so again. Labour, particularly Brown, are running in the opposite direction to all this. So perhaps they should turn round.

Matthew said...

Not sure that I'd agree with the final comment in that Britain was I think (and it's been a few years since I looked at it) majority urbanised by the 1851 census: very different to the rest of Europe at the east.

As to the post-Eden era, if anything the public saw Eden as an anomaly at the time. The Tories were helped by the fact that the Labour party were going through a poeriod of not knowing what they were there for - post Bevan,pre Wilson as it were - and the public reognised that. It also helped the Tories that a residual working class Unionist vote (best seen in Scotland) remained. For a variety of reason that began evaporating within 5 years.

Auntie Flo' said...

Matthew said...
Not sure that I'd agree with the final comment in that Britain was I think (and it's been a few years since I looked at it) majority urbanised by the 1851 census: very different to the rest of Europe at the east.


I concede that, you're right. However, there was still a considerable amount of rural migration to the towns up to and after 1900. Agriculture declined from about 12% of the economy in 1900 to about 2% now.

Yak40 said...

auntie flo'

IIRC (and I was very young then), food rationing ended with the Conservative general election victory in 1952 (or thereabouts)when Churchill got the women's vote by promising to end it & the associated bureaucracy of coupon books etc.


"Hugh Gaitskell " now what was it that did him in & wasn't there some sort of conspiracy story with it ?

I also agree that they were giants then, on both sides of the aisle, compared to the mostly lightweights of today.

Philipa said...

MacMillan started the inexorable slide into Europe and appointed Ted Heath as negotiator and look how well he turned out! After the Profumo affair 'Supermac' kinda gave up and left office (pity Bliar didn't learn something from that). Alec Douglas-Home's tenure was short lived and he lost to Harold Wilson's Labour government for the first time since Winston Churchill's 3rd term in the early fifties. Not exactly the great example is it?

That particular Labour government gave us Roy Jenkins, born in 1920, Balliol scholar and one time PPS to Clement Attlee, was Home Secretary from December 1965 to November 1967. In this position he was instrumental in the most wide-ranging social reforms that the 1960s Labour governments would enact. Reflecting on Jenkins’ obituary in 2003 Neil Clarke wrote: “by 1964, when Labour eventually regained power, much had changed. A group of middle-class, mainly Oxbridge-educated "intellectuals" had risen to prominence in the party and, for these "modernisers", led by Jenkins and his Oxford friend Tony Crosland, the main aim was the social, rather than the economic, transformation of Britain. Although their views had little support among the British public at large, this group was able to push through its liberalising agenda when Jenkins became Home Secretary in 1965. Already, earlier that year, the death penalty had been suspended. Now it was full steam ahead to give support to private members' Bills to decriminalise abortion and homosexuality, relax censorship and make divorce easier. Jenkins's impact at the Home Office did not end there. He also embarked on the most radical programme of penal reform since the Second World War. … The Act introduced the parole system of early release of offenders serving sentences of three years or more, established the Parole Board and introduced the system of suspended sentences ... Jenkins was of course convinced that the "permissive society" was the "civilised society". In this, he - alas - got it all terribly wrong. What underpins civilised society is not permissiveness, but self-restraint, … What Jenkins failed to see was how the freedoms he espoused would lead to the degeneration of British society and the selfish, me-first libertinism of today.” Such a long quote cannot be shortened as the influence on society was huge. If the Sixties is distinctive in it’s own right for anything in history then it has to be Jenkins’ social reforms.

In 1969 Roy Jenkins said# "The permissive society has been allowed to become a dirty phrase. A better phrase is the civilised society". Surely that depends on what is permitted? In 1967, after Jenkins’ reforms, remember Rees-Mogg, a conservative member of the establishment, recorded his view that “sound traditional values include those of tolerance and equity”. There was equity between those who had done right and those who had done wrong. (Rees-Mogg famously supported Mick Jagger when arrested for drug possesion) There was no longer any chastisement for unsound behaviour. This was ended in the Sixties. The Sixties were distinctive in their own right for the end to established morality and significant in bringing about changes to our society that are still being felt today.

Not completeing his term in office and losing out to Labour is some kind of achievement to be copied, Iain? You really do feel sorry for Gordon Brown don't you!

Anonymous said...

David Boothroyd said...

"The Labour Party being divided did not help at the 1959 election, but it is fairly clear that Gaitskell's reading that the manifesto policies of nationalization of a small amount of industry caused the loss of the election was at best a big exaggeration."

Not wholly exaggerated. Much of the working class may have said they liked the idea of nationalisation but they wouldn't vote for it. They respected Gaitskell but they feared the Left. They knew the the Trades Unions were (and therefore the Labour Party at least partially was) controlled or significantly influenced by the Communist Party.

Anonymous said...

People don't give a flying xxxx about foreign policy (as long as their kids aren't being killed) People are interested in what their pay buys them.
freedom to prosper

Anonymous said...

Iain; please sign a self-denying ordinance about the use of the phrase "out there". I am not "out there", and resent those in the media calling me such.

As to your question, Eden's resignation purged the body politic and allowed us to continue feeling that we are a moral country. The Tories therefore got back in under Super Mac.

New Labour's war of aggression in Iraq needs purging by Blair's arraignment before the World Court in the Hague. If not, then it's curtains for Labour whatever the economy does. God is not mocked.

Auntie Flo' said...

Key factors nulab could learn from Supermac:

1. Widely respected by W/C:

2. Due to his genuine respect
& compassion for them

3. His honesty and integrity

3. His genuine centrism & left
wing Conservatives

4. Authentic one nation politics

5. His competence - due to:

6. His eclectic experience
outside politics.

7. Successful manager of economy
improver of living standards

7. " A magnificent politician"
(Socialist playwright, Benton
who set out to satirise him &
found himself liking the man)

Auntie Flo' said...

Contrast Supermac with the zilch experience of nulab's high command

Following from table on Labourhome - thanks LH.


Gordon Brown - College lecturer

Alistair Darling - solicitor with 9 years practise experience before becoming an MP

Jack Straw - 3 years legal experience before political adviser and TV researcher

Geoff Hoon - 8 years legal experience

Harriet Harman - 4 years legal experience

Andy Burnham - career politician

Des Browne - 23 years legal experience

Douglas Alexander - career politician

Ed Milliband - career politician

Ed Balls - 4 years at Financial Times

John Denham - a hotch potch of campaigner stuff

Hiliary Benn - Trade Union post

David Milliband - Researcher

Alan Johnson - postman then union official

Jacqui Smith - Economics lecturer in a sixth form

John Hutton - Law lecturer

Hazel Blears - 6 years legal experience

Shaun Woodward - 8 years TV researcher

Ruth Kelly - economics writer for Guardian then civil servant (a reporting division)

Yvette Cooper - researcher

James Purnell - BBC Head of Corporate Planning

Paul Murphy - College lecturer


There's your answer nulab.

Auntie Flo' said...

There's your answer nulab:

1. New shadow ministerial team

2. With broad life/work experience

3. Who've empathy/ respect for W/C

4. Stop fearing & controlling W/C

5. Root out divisive 2 nation dogma

6. Ditto spin, lies and liars

7. Respect & obey real democracy

8. Sack Stalin

9. Abandon 'more tractor' politics

10.Abandon 5 year plans

11.Treat us as your masters, not
your servants

12.Years in the wildness learning
what the Conservatives have:

13.Competence/ respect/ one nation
politics/ humility

Rohan said...

Quite simply no party was more ruthless than the Conservative party in junking the incompetent. The 'magic circle' saw off Eden and then MacMillan when Profumo hit. Mac had weakened his position by then of course following the infamous 'night of the long knives' when he lost his bottle and sacked eight members of his Cabinet.

Rising living standards played a large part in the electoral success of the TP. After post war austerity it did seem that the UK had turned a corner. We forget now but rationing and other war time controls were not eased until the 1950's. But that success was paid for with poor budgetary control. Remember he lost his entire Treasury team in a 'little local difficulty'. Today it is doubtful with our 24/7 media that he would have lasted as long in office.

Some posts on here have created the impression that Super Mac was a proto-Thatcher. Humble roots and all that. This was a self-serving myth created by Mac. It was his great-grandfather who left Scotland to start what became one of the great publishing houses. By the time that young Harold came along the family was sufficiently well established for him to marry into the Devonshires. And when he was PM he appointed his nephew (by then Duke) to government. An act described as "the greatest act of nepotism ever".

The problem is that there is no magic circle for Labour. And the small matter of the party constitution to follow. As I said the other day they're stuck with Brown. And he's heading for the rocks!! LOL

Anonymous said...

There are lot of detailed comments posted which are certainly valid - but they do seem to overlook one point.

Macmillan was the ultimate boom and bust politican. The Conservatives (and am a Tory before I am accused of partisan bias) stoked the economy into a boom prior to the election and then faced a very bad slow-down post-election (leading to the night of the long knives etc).

I hope Brown doesn't learn this lesson from MacMillan. For all the comments about Labour divisions and allegiance of the working class - in the end it was the economy.

On a separate note did anyone else laugh during the Andy Marr interview of Prescott. Apparently Brown is the "best person to run the economy stupid". Obviously we all know Prescott is an idiot and shouldn't try to take his comments as spoken. But his strange mangle of cliche and quote was hilarious - particularly as the BBC used that snippet in its hourly news broadcasts all day.

Auntie Flo' said...

Phillipa said:
Not completeing his term in office and losing out to Labour is some kind of achievement to be copied, Iain?


The final straw for Macmillan's premiership was surely the Profumo affair and the effect it had on his health. That was a huge scandal in its day. Nulab have survived several far worse scandals because sleaze and scandal have become de rigor for this lot.

Consider what Supermac had to contend with, and survived, prior to Profumo and his resignation on health grounds.

He was three times dreadfully injured during WW1. Yet unflappable, Supermac lay calmly reading Aeschylus while wounded and under fire in no man's land.

The effects of his injuries are undplayed. My father was similarly injured twice during WW2. Throughout the rest of his life pieces of shrapnel would suddenly appear, sticking out of his body. He died from those injuries before he was 50, 22 years after the war.

Macmillan would never have recovered from the terrible injuries he'd sustained. So for him to take on the hugely stressful job of PM was an act of huge courage.

He was one of Churchill's lieutenants in opposition against Neville Chamberlain re Munich with all the stress that entailed.

He was Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Suez crisis, with all the infighting behind the scenes.

Remember him dismissing the resignation of his entire Treasury team as "a little local difficulty"?

Yet he never lost his famous unflappability or wit. I remember him responding to Khrushchev banging his shoe on his desk at the UN with, "May I have a translation of that?"

Then came the politically crushing Profumo affair of 1963.

"Events, dear boy, events", as he once quipped.

Phillipa, Supermac had overcome more challenges in his courageous life than most other men or politicians ever have to.

He surely earned the right to our respect for his capability despite the fact that that one event too many was too much for him and his ruined health to overcome?

Anonymous said...

I was brought up in a traditional aspirational working class home (father engineer and union man, education top priority). As a schoolboy I heard MacMillan on the 1959 campaign trail in the London suburb of Greenford. Very John Major, a simple and direct open air address. A straightforward speaker with a positive message about how life was good and could get much better. He wouldn't have got my father's vote, but I am sure that he persuaded many of my friend's parents.

Meaningless laundry lists from an automaton in a bunker can't deliver that essential element of credibility.

NuLab's problem is that they have driven out anyone with a genuine concern for the average citizen and the humanity to express it clearly.

Auntie Flo' said...

Rohan said:

"Some posts on here have created the impression that Super Mac was a proto-Thatcher. Humble roots and all that. This was a self-serving myth created by Mac. It was his great-grandfather who left Scotland to start what became one of the great publishing houses."



Not quite. As the BBC's Biog of Macmillan states:

"His paternal grandfather, Daniel MacMillan (1813-1857), was the son of a Scottish crofter who founded Macmillan Publishers."

Crofter to Prime Minister and peer in two generations. - quite an accomplishment.


"The 'magic circle' saw off Eden and then MacMillan when Profumo hit. Mac had weakened his position by then of course following the infamous 'night of the long knives' when he lost his bottle and sacked eight members of his Cabinet."


I partly agree with that, however I think it weakens your argument that you ignore the effect of Macmillan's poor health in this.

Macmillan wasn't a bottler, he was a walking miracle with huge guts.

His health had been poor even as a child. My guess is part of his health problem was a tendency to suffer from clinical depression.

I don't see him as another Thatcher, he was far less divisive and more sensitive than her.

Wasn't he sent down from Eton because he was gay and wasn't he forced by the cruelty of his times to live in denial of that throughout his life?

He fought with huge courage during WW1 and was injured five times (not three as I previously stated) during a very distinguished service career.

It took him four years to partially recovery from the terrible nature of his last injury which ruined his already fragile health.

I doubt if the magic circle would have needed to see Macmillan off if he'd had the necessary robust health for the job. Perhaps his real weakness was in over estimating his own ability to overcome his health problems under the stress of the premiership?

Or perhaps not. Didn't Mac expect to serve as PM for just 6 weeks yet was so liked that he found himself unintentionally serving for 6 years?

All credit to him then.

neil craig said...

I suspect Suezs not quite so unpopular among ordinary voters than among the chattering classes. Our legal position vis a vis the canal had some validity & many people thought that the Americans had not shown proper loyalty to their "special relationship" ally by turning on us to prevent an invasion of a middle eastern didctatorship.

Rohan said...

Auntie Flo - Thanks. But he Beeb is wrong I'm afraid. I have an extensive collection of books on Mac in my library. I find him a compelling and interesting figure. On my shelves is a book Harold MacMillan - A Life in Pictures signed in fact by the great man himself. On p.2 you will see a photo of the croft of his great-grandfather.

He wasn't gay so far as I am aware. He was certainly a cuckold with Boothby rumoured to be the father of his last daughter. I got the distinct impression that he was asexual rather like Balfour. But certainly his wife's infidelity tortured him - she pursued Boothby. Politics became an outlet for his frustrations.

He created a public persona. He was not, say, an F E Smith. For example, his public speaking skills were dire to begin with. But with practice and help from people like Lloyd George he was transformed into a polished performer. (I am always amazed when people are so impressed by Dave Camerons' ability to speak without notes - how the hell do people think they did it in the past?)

Like many men of his generation - Attlee was another - the Great War had a profound effect. The second war world also transformed his career too.

I think he did wobble when he had prostrate problems. Ironically it saved him. He probably lived a lot longer as result of stepping down. Being PM seems to age people five years for every year they hold office. Just look at Brown and Blair.

Anonymous said...

By coincidence I watched Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain on TV last night, which was about the 1950s. I may have blinked, but there was no mention of 'never had it so good' and little attention paid to how much higher living standards were at the end of the decade than at the start of the 50s (or for that matter, the 40s, 30s etc.) It was all Suez ('going to war in the Middle East based on a lie'); race riots, strikes and how out of touch Macmillan and his Eton chums were. Macmillan's landslide victory in 1959 was even mentioned!

trevorsden said...

It 'was the economy stupid' ... rising living standards and memories of austerity under Atlee. Things had fallen away by 62, but it was a prostate not the magic circle which caused his resignation.

MacMillan was a mainstream conservative, just like Cameron. He was also the former Chancellor but in his case the economy did not come back to bite him.

The problem for Labour is that the economy is going to struggle to perform over the next 2 years, although its possible the oil price is a bubble of speculation - even if that bursts its seems to me its going to stay historically high, as is government borrowing.

All of this has come as a complete surprise to Labour and so the core circumstances are going to be different and they have a leader who is not seen in the same light as MacMillan.

Auntie Flo' said...

Rohan said:

Some posts on here have created the impression that Super Mac was a proto-Thatcher. Humble roots and all that. This was a self-serving myth created by Mac. It was his great-grandfather who left Scotland to start what became one of the great publishing houses. By the time that young Harold came along the family was sufficiently well established for him to marry into the Devonshires


That Scots crofter great grandfather made good story may have been a myth too, Rohan.

Whatever the truth of it, for many years Harold MacMillan's parents and grandparents were not wealthy people in any sense of the word.

Ironically, Supermac's father, Maurice, was for a time a poor schoolmaster, poorer than Gordon Brown's father - who was a rector/headmaster and who had the nice little income supplement of company dividends (and Trust Fund income?) from Gordon's mother's family business.

Maurice's father died aged about 40 and Maurice, his widowed mother and siblings, were reduced to living with Maurice's uncle, so clearly were not a wealthy family or they would not have had to rely on the brother's charity.

Auntie Flo' said...

My sources were the censuses from 1841 to 1901, by the way, Rohan. I'm a part-time local historian and archivist:

Supermac's father, Maurice Crawford MacMillan, was the son of:

Daniel Mcmillan, born c 1813 Scotland, died 1853 England, and
Frances Eliza Mcmillan (nee Crawford?), born c 1814 Cambridge.

1841 Census. Harold's grandfather, Daniel, had migrated to London (!) and was working as a bank clerk for a merchant bank in Holborn, while living at a seedy lodging house in Bartlett Buildings, Holborn.

Definitely no money or publishing business there.

Daniel's brothers and sisters: Maurice M Mcmillan, Ivory merchant's Clerk, born c 1811, Scotland, Alexander Mcmillan, Ivory merchant's Clerk, born 1819, Scotland, Judith McMillan, born c1821 Scotland, Ann (Alice?) Mcmillan, servant, born (1806?) Scotland, lived with him. James McMillan, a married manual labourer living nearby and born in Scotland may well have been another brother.

No money there either.

1851 Census: Daniel (now spelled) Macmillan, is a bookseller.

Nothing to suggest that he had his own shop, though it could have been his business - if so, it seems I was right in saying it was supermac's grandfather started the family business :)

Anyway, Daniel was living at 30 Regent Street, Cambridge and had married Frances Eliza, born c 1814,Cambridge. No suggestion they had any wealth.

1861 Census: Daniel had died (in 1853, I believe) and Frances was living at the home of her dead husband's brother, Alexander, at 29 Market Hill, Cambridge with her son, Maurice Crawford Macmillan (Supermac's dad) and her daughter Catherine.

Frances is described as a book seller/publisher, however Frances and her children are clearly not a wealthy family. She does not appear to own this business as she is not described as the head of household - which she would have been if she was the owner - my guess is she works for Alexander.

Alexander is listed as a bookseller /publisher and is married to Caroline with children, Malcom(Kingsley?), George Augustine, Margaret Ann and Olive. My guess would be that 'publisher' at this stage might refer to something like serial story sheets or penny dreadfuls, nothing very grand about this lot.

1871 census. Alexander (born Ayreshire, Scotland, the first time the MacMillan's birth county is mentioned on the censuses) is now a publisher living at the Elms in Streatham with his wife, Caroline, their children, Daniel and Frances's children and a great hoard of servants. This is the first indication that anyone in the MacMillan family is well off.

There's no sign of Frances (dead?) or Maurice on the UK censuses - is he overseas, in service?

1881 census. Maurice Crawford MacMillan pops up again as a single (very poorly paid) schoolmaster,living with his sister Catherine C MacMillan at Knapdale, the Streatham home of his uncle Alex, who was still a publisher.

1891 census. Only then did I find Harold's father, Maurice, making any money. He is listed as a book publisher and living at at 51 Cadogan Place, Chelsea with his wife, Helen A MacMillan, born 1859, USA, with sons Daniel M, born 1884, Wandsworth, Arthur J, born 1890, Chelsea, plus a few servants.

The reason for Maurice's improved position now may lie in Hampshire, where the 1891 census shows his uncle Alexander aged 72, married to a new Italian wife in her 40s and with two new children. Alex still describes himself as a book publisher. Could he be the retired owner of Maurice's publishing business and Maurice his manager. or a shareholder?

Or did Maurice's American wife have sufficient money to set them both up in business? Or perhaps Maurice worked overseas/ in the services around 1871 and saved up his cash?

1901 Census. Maurice Crawford MacMillan, still a book publisher, is now living at 52 Cadogan Place, Chelsea with his American wife Helen Artie plus:

Maurice Harold MacMillan, their son, aged 7, born 1898, Chelsea, the nurse, Caroline Last, cook, parlour maid, house maid, kitchen maid, lady's maid - maids all ovcer the place now - i.e. They're made!

So Harold's family didn't actually become better off until some time between 1881 and 189i.

Mr Angry said...

Labour, and their supporters, are simply in denial about their current well deserved unpopularity. They are seeking to blame it all on Brown and believe that a change of leader will solve their problems. Having spent the last several years trying to kid themselves that Blair was the problem and that once Brown took over all would be well this claim rings very hollow. The truth of the matter is that the electorate don't like the Labour party, their policies or their approach any more and a change of leader is not going to fix that.

People can now see, after over a decade of Labour government, that Labour are an oppresive, interfering, bullying, money wasting, hypocritical bunch who have taxed us till the pips squeak without delivering very much at all in return. When you then add to that the collapse in law and order, the results of uncontrolled immigration, and the all pervading stink of mindless political correctness the only wonder is that anyone at all still votes Labour.

Oscar Miller said...

Looks like Adam's going to do well in his exam. Good luck. It's worth bearing in mind that rationing only finally ended in summer 1954 - austerity was associated with Atlee - in particular the forbiddingly out of touch and austere chancellor Sir Stafford Cripps. Women were key to Tory victory in 1951 and they continued to be very important in voting Conservatives back into power. They'd had enough of queuing and scarcity.

Philipa said...

Hi Auntie Flo *waves*

I am, as ever, happy to be corrected by you. However I do emphasise that I sincerely wish Tony Bliar had copied Mac's example of integrity and left office. But of course you are right - Tony Bliar doesn't have any integrity.

Auntie Flo' said...

Hi Phillipa,

Returns wave.

Thanks! Good to hear from you again. How are things with you? Any better now? I do hope so.

Philipa said...

Ditto Auntie Flo - please pop by my place; link from Newmania's blog. Would love to see you :-)

(thanks Iain)