The Failure of the Middle Way: The Macmillan and Home Conservative Governments 1957–64

  • Geoffrey K. Fry


‘Macmillan was a Whig, not a Tory … he had no use for the Conservative loyalties and affections; they interfered too much with the Whig’s true vocation of detecting trends in events and riding them skilfully so as to preserve the privileges, property and interests of his class.’ So wrote Enoch Powell,1 appalled at the ruthlessness with which Macmillan pushed aside Butler in order to replace Eden as Prime Minister. Much of Macmillan’s subsequent behaviour and that of the Governments he led could be interpreted as justifying Powell’s analysis all the way down to his ridiculous choice of successor. However unimpressive he had been at the Foreign Office and at the Treasury, from the beginning of 1957 to mid-1961, Macmillan commanded British political life. A foolish socialist cartoonist dubbed him ‘Supermac’, and, successfully for a time, Macmillan cultivated an image of ‘unflappability’, a form of Edwardian effortless superiority. Macmillan was said to see Butler as his social inferior,2 though even he must have wondered if marrying into the Devonshires was worth the personal humiliation it brought, and nobody could take seriously any suggestion of intellectual superiority. Bevan was not alone in disliking merit being spurned when Butler was passed over,3 and, for Macmillan, to judge from the defensive nature of his over-extensive memoirs, social confidence was not enough.


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Copyright information

© Geoffrey K. Fry 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey K. Fry
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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