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Alec Douglas-Home [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

D.R. Thorpe
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Oct 1996
Alec Douglas-Home, who died in October 1995, was a member of every Conservative administration from 1935 to 1974. At his death he was the oldest survivor of the pre-war House of Commons, a service of Gladstonian length. This biography examines the many events in which he was involved, including Munich, Suez, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Rhodesian rebellion, and the Tory leadership struggles over 20 years. It is based on exclusive access to the private papers at the Hirsal. The study provides a comprehensive portrait of a turbulent era in recent world history, and of a man who was described by Margaret Thatcher as representing "all that was best in his generation".

Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd; illustrated edition edition (28 Oct 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856192776
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856192774
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 17 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 857,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Home From Home 24 Jun 2010
In 1963 Harold MacMillan, who had managed to see off a number of scandals in the Conservative Party the previous year, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and announced he would resign as Prime Minister as soon as a successor was agreed. No politics student watching the emergence of Alec Douglas-Home, Lord Home as he was then, could fail to be fascinated by the chain of events. The outright favourite was Rab Butler with Reginald Maulding next in line to succeed Butler. Home, who had deservedly earned a reputation as a good Foreign Secretary, was a rank outsider with several disadvantages.

He was in the House of Lords - a fact which had been sufficient to exclude from the premiership both Curzon in 1923 and Halifax in 1940. Thanks to Lord Stansgate (Anthony Wedgewood Benn) an Act of Parliament had just been passed allowing Peers to renounce their peerages. This provided Home with the opportunity to return to the Commons where he had served fifteen years as an MP. At the 1963 Party Conference Home gave a masterful speech on Foreign policy while Butler's final rallying cry to the assembly fell flat. Quintin Hogg misjudged his bid for the leadership and Home emerged from what were called at the time the "customary processes". He was the last one to do so as general dissatisfaction with these processes led subsequently to a more open method of election.

Home was born in England of Scottish ancestry. He moved amongst the political elite with the ease expected of an Old Etonian. He regarded politics as public service and was an administrator of the highest quality. He avoided grand gestures, kept his own counsel and mastered his brief. Home was the product of the pre-war aristocracy and, by his own admission, was not particularly suited to the television age.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The author portrays Sir Alec Douglas-Home as a man who was obviously able to charm and influence a great many movers and shakers, and enjoyed the loyalty of many who worked for him. Many it seemed liked Sir Alec, and this, coupled with an unerring ability to know what would 'wash' with the Conservative Party, was what helped him get to the top of the greasy pole. However, we learn little about the man's inner convictions (apart from his steely opposition to Communism), his brand of Conservatism, his vision of Britain. The author is reverential and clearly a fan of his subject rather than a critic. This all goes to create the impression that Sir Alec 'deserved' to become leader of his party and PM in October 1963, and that he 'ought' to have defeated Harold Wilson in the 1964 General Election, when in fact there are a great many grounds to doubt the desirability of either scenario, both for the Conservative Party and for the country. What is clear is that Sir Alec belonged to a political caste that we will never see again in this country, and to read this biography is to look through a window onto a Britain (and a social class) that has vanished for ever. Curiously, I found this book one of the best I've come across in portraying the personality of Harold Macmillan (and better at this than revealing the essence of its main subject!). This is one of a number of high points in the book, which made it an enjoyable read. However, the book also has several faults, the most serious of which is the failure to substantiate clearly for the reader WHY Sir Alec was deemed to be such a successful Foreign Secretary. It is difficult to back this view up from the outcome of British Foreign Policy démarches between July 1960 and October 1963 and June 1970 and February 1974, and the author doesn't make the case convincingly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Last of the 'Amateur' Prime Ministers 18 Aug 2014
Alec Douglas-Home by D.R. Thorpe is a very good book about the last of what could be called the old-fashioned Prime Ministers. Although a highly ambitious and competent politician, Douglas-Home always gave the impression that he was merely a country gent who happened to have held some of the highest offices in the land. The reality was very different, from his entry into politics through his time as Chamberlain's PPS at Munich he was regarded as a high-flyer, however, nothing belies the image of the accidental politician more than his seizure of the Premiership in 1963 (although, he could never be judged as anything more than a forgettable, middling Prime Minister) and his very narrow defeat to Harold Wilson a year later.

The book itself is well-written, detailed and informative, plus provides details not just on the life of Alec Douglas-Home but also of the rise of Scottish Nationalism, the end of the British Empire and the modernisation and evolution of the Conservative Party. All in all, a very good, sympathetic, book about one of the last 'gentlemen' politicians who posterity has judged a little too harshly, focusing too much on his time as Prime Minister and the caricature that this created of him rather than his whole career.
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