Sunday Telegraph, 14 November 2004
‘Vividly written by a young academic, it is a remarkable achievement’
In the memoirs and biographies of his contemporaries, Reggie Maudling – “hired by Winston Churchill, fired by Margaret Thatcher” – is a marginal figure: a puzzling walk-on part in the Tory leadership crisis of 1963, a witty man with a clever turn of phrase, or a tragic figure who squandered his natural talents. In histories of political scandals, he is depicted as a greedy failed politician who crossed the line in to corruption. This biography redresses the balance, presenting a picture of a man who was feared and respected inside and outside his party and who was a major influence on post-war Britain. To Thatcherites, Maudling represented the very worst of post-war Conservatism. He had given away an empire, appeased the unions, built up the public sector, welcomed the permissive society and worked for co-existence with the Soviet Union. His ideas now seem well to the left of New Labour. With full access to Maudling’s private, ministerial and constituency papers, the support of the Maudling family and from interviews with colleagues and opponents, journalists, friends and business contacts of Maudling’s, Lewis Baston tells the full story of Maudling’s rise and fall.
From the Inside Flap
Reginald Maudling, seen by the Observer in 1955 as ‘a future Prime Minister’, never fulfilled his early promise. In this, the first biography of Maudling, Lewis Baston presents a picture of a popular and respected politician with a major influence on post-war Britain whose career ended in scandal and ignominy.In the 1960s and 1970s Maudling occupied a succession of high offices and was twice a candidate for the Conservative leadership. He was also a political thinker whose ideas influenced Tory politics for thirty years. He helped liquidate the British Empire, he was the unions’ favourite Tory Chancellor, a permissive Home Secretary and an outspoken opponent of Margaret Thatcher. He now seems well to the left of New Labour.
When Maudling failed to reach the top in 1965, the impact on his life was devastating. His personal and business life started to go wrong and he lost his ethical moorings. He formed a business partnership with corrupt architect John Poulson and sought riches in the Middle East. When Poulson’s corruption was revealed in 1972, Maudling resigned as Home Secretary. In the years that followed Maudling was investigated by the Fraud Squad (who wanted him prosecuted), bankruptcy investigators, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Inland Revenue. The true scale of his involvement in the Poulson scandal is revealed here for the first time.
With access to previously secret government and police files, and interviews with family, friends, colleagues and investigators, Lewis Baston is in a unique position to tell the full tragic story of Maudling’s rise and fall, and reveal the man behind the politician. Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling restores an extraordinary man to his rightful place in the history of twentieth-century Britain.