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The Macmillan Years

An interim appraisal, written by Alan Hodge, of the career of a Prime Minister who had just left office after nearly seven years in power.

After signing a visitor's book in Wolverhampton in 1958, Mr. Macmillan made a speech in which he referred to his residence at Downing Street. “I am giving my temporary address,” he said, “although I do not think it will be all that temporary.” Nor was it. Nearly seven years is a long span for a modern Prime Minister. Asquith held office for eight, beginning brightly in the flush of Liberal reform, and ending grimly in 1916 amid the devious intrigues of a war that could easily then have been lost. Sir Winston, in his first spell at the head of affairs, enjoyed five years of unparalleled effort that has become an epic in the history of Britain. Lord Attlee had six years—a lengthy period in which some necessary Socialist experiment was imposed upon the slow natural process of post-war recovery, with results that in retrospect seem more bearable than they did to those who endured the austerity of the time. Lord Attlee left office in 1951 and twelve years of Conservative government have since gone by. How is Mr. Macmillan’s part in it, now that he has resigned, likely to look in perspective?

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