The Fall of the Mighty

Douglas Johnson compares and contrasts the downfalls of Neville Chamberlain and Margaret Thatcher.

Geoffrey Howe’s speech to parliament, 1990.
Geoffrey Howe’s speech to the Commons, 13 November 1990.

Alan Watkins concludes his concise and candid account of the downfall of Mrs Thatcher in November 1990 (A Conservative Coup, Duckworth 14.99) by suggesting that her departure has confounded the professors of politics. They had, he says, too easily accepted that the position of a prime minister who was in good health and who had an adequate parliamentary majority was impregnable. (This idea had been put forward notably by John Mackintosh, who was also an MP, in The British Cabinet, 1962). Mrs Thatcher, as she has reminded us, never lost an election and was never defeated in the House of Commons. But there was another prime minister who fell from power although he too had not lost an election and did not suffer defeat in the House of Commons. And that was Neville Chamberlain.

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