THE TORY LEADERSHIP
By IAIN MACLEOD Ulsrrit. Mr. Randolph Churchill's book* appeared there had been an unspoken agreement that the less said about the recent
struggle for the Tory leadership the better. `Macleod and Powell,' wrote a political com- mentator, 'have been reticent to a tactical fault.'
The Prime Minister went out of his way to be uncommunicative on television and in his press interviews. With the exception of an intervention by Martin Redmayne, the Chief Whip, to which I refer later, little or nothing was said. Specula- tion, of course, was feverish, but with little to feed on soon died. The scars healed swiftly.
Four-fifths of Churchill's book could have been compiled by anyone with a pair of scissors, a pot of paste, and a built-in prejudice against Mr. Butler and Sir William Haley. Its impor- tance comes from the fact that this is Mr.
Macmillan's trailer for the screenplay of his memoirs. The preface includes the sentence: 'Wherever possible I have consulted the principal actors in this drama.' Originally Mr. Churchill's preface said that he had been given full assis- tance by everyone except Mr. fain Macleod.
This had to be altered. Among those who either haven't been asked for or have refused comment on this book are the Lord Chancellor, Mr.
Maudling, Mr. Powell, Sir Edward Boyle, the Chief Whip, Lord Blakenham, Lord Aldington and myself. I do not imply that all or even any of those not mentioned did in fact help Churchill. I am sure that others also were not asked or, if asked, refused.
The attractive feature of the book is Churchill's enduring loyalty to and affection for Harold Macmillan. This flowers on the last page: . . the magnificent and heroic service—his last great service—that Mr. Macmillan rendered to the Monarchy, the nation and the Tory Party. From his sick bed, at the risk of his life. . .
Churchill knows well (and acknowledges more than once in the book) that I share the loyalty and affection that be has for Macmillan. I was, I think, at the end perhaps the only member of Macmillan's Cabinet to hold steadily to the view that the Tory Party would do better under Macmillan's leadership at the polls than they would under any of the possible alternatives.
Both of them then must know how much I would like to underwrite Churchill's conclusion in full. I cannot. And in so far as I can subscribe to the theory that Macmillan performed a signal service to the Tory Party, I can only do it by rejecting the basic assumptions of the book and arguing from the one premise that seems to me to offer a logical, defensible, and indeed honourable explanation of what happened.
Churchill writes: 'It can be argued that Mac- millan did all he could during his seven years as Prime Minister to advance the fortunes of Butler.' Almost anything can no doubt be argued, but no one close to politics or to Harold Mac- millan could seriously support this suggestion for a moment. The truth is that at all times, from the first day of his Premiership to the last, Macmillan was determined that Butler, although incomparably the best qualified of the contenders, should not succeed him. Once this is accepted, all Macmillan's actions become at least explicable. He thought that three of the members of his Cabinet who were in the House of Commons,
* THE FIGHT FOR THE TORY LEADERSHIP. By Randolph S. Churchill. (Heinemann, 7s. 6d.) apart from Butler, were papabile and of sufficient seniority to be considered: Maudling, Heath and 'myself. It was not by accident that he brought forward these three respectively to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister in charge of our bid to enter the Common Market, Chairman of the Party and Leader of the House of Commons. He planned this and hoped that one of the three would show himself clearly as the future leader. It was not by accident that the three sessions of the much publicised and somewhat pointless plan- ning weekend at Chequers on the modernisation of Britain were presided over by the same three. Home, who left Chequers that very morning for an engagement abroad, was not even at the conference, and no one commented on his ab- sence. Macmillan's private preference between the three of us is known to have varied, but when the time came he was clear that none of us had emerged with the necessary decisive lead.
Instead then of turning to Butler, who had enormously strengthened his claim with a per- formance of matchless skill in the handling of the closing stages of the Central African Federation, Macmillan, having scanned the Cabinet list, began, as Churchill records, to con- template Hailsham. True, Macmillan had treated Hailsham with scant courtesy after the 1959 elec- tion, but • Hailsham had always had (and still has) a strong hold on the affections of the right wing and of, many key party workers. Unfortu- nately, as many thought and Marylebone con- firtned (see also the significant difference in his figures in the Daily Express poll below), he has nc drawing power in the crucial central area of politics. And Butler has. Home at this stage and for some time to came had ruled himself out. Only Hailsham could stop Butler. And when Hailsham failed to gather enough support, then Macmillan still refused to accept Butler. He turned to Home.
The only interesting part of Churchill's book is the account of the advice Macmillan tendered: of how having first supported Hailsham in the decisive days, he switched to Home; of how he organised the collection of opinions by Lord Dilhorne, Lord St. Aldwyn, Lord Poole, Mr. John Morrison and Mr. Martin Redmayne. Eight of the nine men mentioned in the last sentence went to Eton. Redmayne did not and it is appro- priate to start by considering his role. He as Chief Whip had the key task. He discharged it with the dogged, agreeable blend of tenacity and loyalty with which he approaches all his chores.
It is important to consider to what and to whom the loyalty of a Chief Whip should be directed. Not, I think, to any individual. Nearly all ap- pointments owe more to the advice of the Chief Whip tha'n to that of any Minister. In recom- mending appointments or dismissals, no Chief Whip allows himself to be influenced by con- siderations of personal friendship. He must; if he is a faithful servant of the party, think first and last of the party. He, too, in the classic phrase, must be 'a good butcher.' It follows that if a Chief Whip becomes convinced that the Prime Minister is a major liability to the party he would be failing in his duty not to consider alternatives and, if need be, to press, for change. Again, if as happened in this case, a Prime Minister has to resign, it is the duty of the Chief Whip to consider which man is `best' for the party, and, if he comes to a clear conclusion, to
do all in his power to achieve that result. Churchill wholly underestimates the significance of the fact that Redmayne believed that Home was the right man. His judgment may have been right or (as, of course, I believe) wrong., That it was sincere is beyond argument.
In a still higher sense, the same duty applies to an outgoing Prime Minister, and I can accept that Mr. Macmillan discharged it with equal sincerity. He thought, and it is only honest to admit that many others shared his view, that Butler had not in him the steel that makes a Prime Minister, nor the inspiration that a Leader needs to pull his party through a fierce general election. I did not agree. That Butler is mystifying, complex and sometimes hard to approach I would concede. But, on the other hand, he has the priceless quality of being able to do any job better than you think he will, and of attracting to himself wide understanding support from many people outside the Tory Party. And without such an appeal no general election can be won.
The key day was Thursday, October 17, a day which for me began as an ordinary working day and ended with my firm decision that I could not serve in the Administration that knew Lord Home was to be invited to form. The first' indication that the day was going to be unusual came at breakfast. My wife came back from a long telephone conversation with one of our oldest friends (mainly concerning the affairs of a voluntary society in which they are both interested) to say that the succession was to be decided that afternoon. The informa- tion was third-hand, but the links were strong, and the original source the one man who would certainly know. I was surprised, but not dis- turbed. To me it seemed clear that if the situation was going to gell swiftly, the choice must be Butler: if there was deadlock, it would surely come back to the Cabinet. I had not, •of course, appreciated then that it was in fact an essential part of the design that the Cabinet should • have no such opportunity. Churchill's book makes this plain.
My only important engagement in the morn- ing was a meeting at No. 10 called by Butler to consider the difficult closing stages of the Kenya conference. Both Maudling and I attended as ex-Secretaries of State for the Colonies. I walked away with Maudling to his rooms at the Treasury. I had always held Maudling in high and warm regard and throughout considered him a possible Prime Minister. Alone in the Chan- cellor's room over a drink I told him of my wife's telephone conversation. He had heard nothing, and had in general reached a similar conclusion to mine. Naturally his own chances (which he recognised were now slim) depended on the issue being protracted. A decision today, he thought, could only be for Butler. And with this he was more than content. fie spoke on the telephone to Lord Dilhorne, and the Lord Chan- cellor confirmed that he and others were to present their collective views that afternoon.. They had already been separately to see Mac- millan that morning. To all suggestions that the Cabinet (or the Cabinet less the chief con- tenders) should meet, Dilhorne was deaf; as he had been, I have since learned, to at least one
more similar request. No doubt he thought he was acting wisely.
Curiouser and curiouser it seemed, and Maud- ling and I decided to stay in touch. I joined him and Mrs. Maudling for lunch. Butler we discussed a good deal. Hailsham we mentioned once, but we both knew that his bandwagon had long ago stopped rolling: indeed, the oppo- sition to Hailsham (not, of course, on personal grounds) was and was known to be so formidable that it remains astonishing that he was not given clear warning of it in advance of his declaration that he would disclaim his peerage. Home we never mentioned in any connection. Neither of us thought he was a contender, although for a brief moment his star seemed to have flared at Blackpool. It is some measure of the tightness of the magic circle on this occasion that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Leader of the House of Commons had any inkling of what was happening.
After lunch I returned to the Central Office to clear some papers. In mid-afternoon the tele- phone rang. It was an important figure in Fleet Street. He told me the decision had been made, and that it was for Home. He himself found this incredible, but he was utterly sure of his source. I telephoned Maudling and Powell arid arranged to meet as soon as we could at my flat. Powell's views I knew coincided with mine and both at Blackpool and in the days following the con- ference we had been closely in touch. Almost at once the phone calls started from the leading newspaper political correspondents. Each of them had the same story. Someone, I presume, thought it proper even before the Prime Minister had resigned to prepare the press for the (unexpected) name that was to emerge. News management can be taken too far.
Before, however, any action could be contem- plated, the story had to be confirmed beyond doubt. Maudling thought he knew someone who could clear this up, and he left us for half an hour. He telephoned back with confirmation and rejoined us, as did another member of the Cabinet. Lord Aldington also came to my fiat and joined in our discussions. Meanwhile the stream of telephone calls from the press con- tinued.
If we were going to make any serious protest against an invitation being extended to Lord Home, it was essential that he should know about this at the earliest moment. Powell and I each decided to speak to him direct. I had a dinner engagement myself, but telephoned Lord Home, who was out, and made an appointment for Powell and myself to see him after dinner.
From the beginning 1 was in no doubt that if, as Joint Chairman of the Party and Leader of the House of Commons, I felt strongly enough to tell Lord Home that I thought it wrong for him to accept an invitation to form an adminis- tration, I could not honourably serve with him in that administration. 1 slipped away for a moment to find my wife in her room. I told her what I thought the end might be, and yet that I felt clear that in the true interests of the Tory Party another point of view must be put. She agreed with me at once and has continued to back my decision through all the unpleasant- ness, local and national, that we knew we must face. Then my wife and I went off to the Politi- cal Committee's Dinner of the St. Stephen's Club, where 1 made as gay and confident a speech as I could. After the dinner I telephoned Powell and went round to his house in South Eaton Place. When we telephoned Lord Home from there it was apparent that we could not see him without running the gauntlet of the reporters who had already encased him. So we spoke on the telephone.
I spoke first. I told him that there was no one in the party for whom I had more admiration and respect; that if he had been in the House of Commons he could perhaps have been the first choice; but I felt that those giving advice had grossly underestimated the difficulties of presenting the situation in a convincing way to the modern Tory Party. Unlike Hailsham, he was not a reluctant peer, and we were now proposing to admit that after twelve years of Tory govern- ment no one amongst the 363 members of the party in the House of Commons was acceptable as Prime Minister. I. felt it more straight- forward to put these views to him tonight rather than perhaps have to put them in other circum- stances tomorrow.
I did not hear what Powell said to Lord Home, but I believe that he spoke to him on similar lines.
One by one the others, Maudling, Aldington and Erroll, joined us at Powell's house after their evening engagements. Thus came about the famous 'midnight' meeting. Churchill falls into the common error of assuming that only those events that were recorded happened. In fact, there were to my knowledge three meetings of Ministers that evening and there may well have been others. The reason this one was discovered was that Henry Fairlie, on telephoning the home of one of those attending it, was given a second number to try. This he traced as Enoch Powell's. Derek Marks, acting on a hunch that there might be a news story somewhere (and how right he was!), had decided to go and investigate for him- self. He deserves whatever award there is for the scoop of the year. But that is to digress.
Shortly before Powell and I spoke to Lord Home, Hailsham had telephoned, having heard the report of the intended nomination of Lord Home, and he remained in closed touch with one or other of those present during the rest of the evening.
Before long it was established that Maudling and Hailsham were not only opposed to Lord Home but believed Butler to be the right and obvious successor and would be ready and indeed happy to serve under him. The rest of us felt this understanding between those hitherto the three principal contenders was of decisive im- portance: the succession was resolving itself in the right way. We telephoned the Chief Whip, who, rather than embark on a lengthy discussion over the line, decided to join us. He naturally did everything he could to persuade us to accept the situation as he saw it, but we finally asked
him to report to the Prime Minister the fact of the understanding which had arisen between Butler, Maudling and Hailsham. He promised to do this.
Before the meeting ended, Powell and I, with Maudling, spoke to Butler himself, told him what had been agreed, and assured him of our support.
Next morning Churchill discovers a new ' "Stop Home" movement, this time organised by Hailsham.' He is wrong. Hailsham didn't arrange the meeting between Butler, Maudling and Hailsham. I did. It is not true that `Maudling failed to rally to Butler.' The meeting in effect was the logical outcome of what had happened the previous night.
But events were moving fast. Macmillan rallied Lord Home with the curious observation, 'Look, we can't change our view now. All the troops are on the starting line. Everything is arranged . . . ,' sent his letter of resignation to the Palace. and the same morning tendered advice to the Queen in the form of a memoran- dum which we are told incorporated all the four reports which Macmillan had asked for. So Churchill has it and his source should know. The memorandum then purported to be not the advice of one man, but the collective view of a party. There is no criticism whatever that can be made of the part played by the Crown. Presented with such a document, it was unthinkable even to consider asking for a second opinion. Nevertheless, the procedure which had been adopted opens up big issues for decision in the future. That everything was done in good faith I do not doubt—indeed, it is the theme of this review to demonstrate it--but the result of the methods used was contradiction and misrepresentation. I do not think it is a precedent which will be followed.
When Lord Home was sent for by the Queen and began inquiries to see whether he could form a government if he accepted her commis- sion, Maudling and Hailsham kept to their agreement with Butler and declined to serve unless Butler did. Butler himself reserved his position, intimating that he would not serve under Lord Home unless satisfied that it was `the only way to unite the party.' At this stage at least two members of the old Cabinet besides myself—Powell was .one of them—who knew what the situation was, used their influence towards what they believed the right solution by answering Lord Home's inquiry in the negative. When, in the event, Butler decided to serve and Lord Home's government was formed, - Powell thought it right to stand by the answer he had given.
I myself had two short interviews with Lord Home, one before and one after he became Prime Minister. Both were very friendly but brief. 1 am sure he would have liked me to change my mind. I like to think that he knew that I could not. For myself and for Powell it had become a matter of 'personal moral in- tegrity.' The words are those of another member of the Cabinet.
When then did Home emerge as a contender? Hindsight is invaluable for politicians. People assure me now that `everyone' knew for days or weeks or even years. In fact, the Cabinet left for Blackpool assured that Home was not a contender and that (if Macmillan's health failed) Hailsham probably was. On the Thursday I appeared on television with David Butler and listened to his appraisal of the contenders' chances. When he asked me afterwards (off screen) for comment, I said that it was a line analysis and only obviously wrong in one assess- ment. I promised to tell him 'when all this is over' what was wrong. Lunching with him re- cently I explained my comment. Home, I told him, was at the time of the broadcast in no circumstances a contender. Nor, in spite of his own hedging television appearance, can he have been when he spoke on Friday to the National Union. Nor do I believe that to the mass meeting on Saturday he could, have used these words, `We choose our leader not for what he does at Party conference but because the leader we choose is in every respect the whole man who is fit to lead the nation,' if his own hat was already in the ring. On the Tuesday following Blackpool a member of the Cabinet came to see me. He had been trying without success to have a meeting of the Cabinet called to consider the situation. I gave him splendidly ironical advice in the light of what was already afoot. `Try Alec,' I said, `he's not a contender, and he ought to be a kingmaker.' He took my advice, but not surprisingly without result.
Although I am sure his friends were urging him to declare himself earlier, the explanation that seems least in conflict with the known facts is that sometime on Sunday or Monday—anyway, post-Blackpool—Lord Home began to organise his position.
On Friday, October 25, timing his speech to coincide with the opening of the Kinross cam- paign, the Chief Whip at Bournemouth set out to show that Lord Home was not a compromise candidate. Churchill (or rather Macmillan) by seeking to extend the argument to the other three groups brings the whole structure down in an absurd, even laughable welter of confusion. Home had formidable support. Much better to leave it at that. Any successful contender would have been a compromise selection. The account in Churchill's book therefore cannot be allowed to stand as history.
Redmayne said, and added, very properly, that some people would criticise him for reveal- ing information given in confidence, that even on the first preferences Home had a very small lead. I am neither impressed nor surprised. The Chief Whip had been working hard for a week to secure the maximum support for Lord Home. So, quite properly, had several of the leading figures of the back benches. That in such circumstances Lord Home achieved a majority of one or Perhaps two will amaze few people. And if the recording of opinions approached the con- fusion known to have been engendered by the method of sounding the Cabinet the margins of error must have been enormous. On the Third l'rogramme Redmayne after repeating this went further. He said: `The various sources of advice to greater or . less degree came to the same conclusion.' One can at least be confident that this was so for the House of Lords. Churchill records: `St. Aldwyn was able to report that the Peers were overwhelmingly for Home.' I'm sure they were. It reminds me of the verse composed In epitaph for Tom Harrisson who with Madge founded Mass Observation—Dr. Gallup's fore- father:
They buried poor Tom Harrisson with his Mass Observer's badge \nd his notebooks: there were twenty thousand odd.
And he'd not been gone a week when a report arrived for Madge
Heaven's 83.4 per cent pro God.
We are also solemnly told exactly what Field- Marshal Viscount Montgomery thought and said. I would only comment that I personally Would pay more attention on this issue to the
views of a branch chairman if the Young Con- servatives or of the Trade Unionist Advisory Committee than to those of Lo'rd Montgomery.
The point of view of the constituency asso- ciations at Blackpool is put forward in Churchill's book as 60 per cent for Hailsham and '40 per cent for Butler. This doesn't seem to leave much for the rest of us and the spread was of course much wider. Then there is an involved explana- tion leading to the conclusion that only Home could avoid a split in the party. In another part of the book Churchill derides a Daily Express poll which produced the following result on Wednesday, October 16, in percentages: All Parties Tories Only
Butler .. .. 394 38
Hailsham .. 214 27 Maudling .. 11 10f
Home .. 94 10
Others and undecided ,184 144
I believe in fact that this coincided closely with the actual figures. Churchill with a wealth of selective quotations tries to show how wrong the papers were. My account may do something to correct this. Most of the papers had a shrewd idea of what Ministers and MPs thought. In particular the lobby correspondents have been shown by events to have made a more accurate assessment of opinion in the Cabinet than the one attributed by Churchill's book to the Lord Chancellor.
For it is with the revelation of the Cabinet's opinions that we reach true absurdity. Not, I emphasise, as a matter of my personal opinion, but on the known and published facts. This first is Churchill's account. 'Dilhorne arrived at the hospital at 10.56 and he reported to the Prime Minister that most of the Cabinet were yery strong for Home. Whereas originally there had been six adherents of Butler and six of Hailsham, Dilhorne had to report that the over- whelming consensus now pointed to Home. Home had the best chance of uniting the Cabinet if he could be persuaded to disclaim his peer- age.' I cannot imagine what `originally' means unless it is suggested that there were two or more polls by the Cabinet. On Friday, October 18, five members of the Cabinet met for a sandwich lunch. None thought Lord Home the first choice. Butler, Hailsham and Boyle were not present. That makes eight. Of the others I only know the point of view of five: two for Home, three for someone else. From my personal knowledge then eleven were for candidates other than Lord Home and two in support. There were some half a dozen others. But even if there wasn't a single one of these for Butler or Maudling or Hailsham, the figures in the book (as other reviewers have pointed out) are simply impossible. How can one explain the inexplicable? William Rees-Mogg in the Sunday Times simply says that he `declines to believe that Lord Dilhorne who be- haved very properly throughout used the phrase "overwhelming consensus" or any similar
phrase. . . 1 think there must be another answer, if only because one can scarcely contem- plate such a story being told with no foundation in fact. The answer must be that many Cabinet Ministers used words similar to those 1 used on the Thursday evening to Lord Home. And that the expressions of genuine regard for him some- how became translated into second or even first preferences.
There is of course much still to be told. Never- theless what I have written does, I hope, enable the central drama to be seen in perspective. People inside and outside the Tory Party will
assess the result in their own way. There will not even be agreement as to which items should be assigned to the credit and which to the debit side of the ledger. I hold that the main conclusions are these. First, that there is real respect for the Prime Minister throughout the Tory Party. Second, that the Tory Party for the first time since Bonar Law is now being led from the right of centre. That this chimes with the wishes of many good Tories who were disturbed and angered by some aspects of our policies these last twelve years need not be doubted. Nor need it be doubted that there is anxiety among those Tories who believed most fiercely in those policies. Third, we are now on record as having rejected Mr. Butler once more as a potential Prime Minister. Indeed we have confessed that the Tory Party could not find a Prime Minister in the House of Commons at all. Fourthly, we have gravely weakened the House of Lords. Not only by the departure of the two outstanding Conservative Ministers who were Peers, but be- cause the long-term effect of the use to which the Peerage Act was put can only be to diminish the importance, even the relevance, of the hereditary principle.
I have argued that when the office of the leader of a great political party has to be filled it is wholly proper that all those who feel strongly should do their utmost to ensure that their view prevails. Such actions must sometimes cut across personal friendships. They need not destroy them. In this case I think they did not.
The decisive roles in the selection of Lord Home as Prime Minister were played by Mac- millan and Redmayne. I am certain that they acted at each stage in the interest as they saw it of the sort of Tory Party in which they believe. So did 1.
© THE SPECTATOR LTD., 1964.