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Nigel Harris

Political Paddling

(Winter 1962)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.11, Winter 1962, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Macmillan: Portait of a Politician
Emrys Hughes
Allen and Unwin. 25s.

It was sad that Emrys Hughes decided to write this book, and sad that a reputable publisher decided to publish it. Sad because the pitch is queered for a little while, and a real biography of Macmillan would be important and worthwhile.

Macmillan played a key political role in the 1930s in bringing together expanding sectors of industry and Tory radicals, and presenting a solution for the problems of the inter-war economy based upon a form of corporatist state capitalism. The Labour leadership in 1945 carried out a very similar programme in the name of socialism. To have explored the precise role of Macmillan in the interwar economic manoeuvres would have been very interesting, much more interesting than pursuing the personal career of the politician in the 1950s.

But all these complexities are lost on Mr Hughes. He has gathered together the bits of information that are already fairly well-known, padded it out with a great number of words and incidental quotations, and used the entire works to make cheap cracks about Macmillan the man. This sort of cheap offensiveness which no doubt stands the Opposition in good stead for a political critique (who really cares whether Macmillan wore a fur-hat in Moscow?) is hardly meat for anyone seriously concerned with politics. The performance tends to reveal more about the shallowness of the writer than the meaning of his subject – and as Mr Hughes claims to be a firm left-winger, it is an even sadder revelation.

The illusion that Mr Macmillan, his personal characteristics and oddities, are important determining factors in Government policy is one shared equally by Conservative and Labour benches, and by all who seek only to paddle in the rather deep pool of politics.

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