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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of how a good man can be undone, 18 Feb. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Reggie (Hardcover)
I read this book because I'm interested in a political career. Reggie Maudling is a pretty obscure character these days, and I looked at it as an intriguing piece of Tory history, which geeks have to absorb. But from the first few chapters I was gripped by a story which couldn't have been better told by Balzac.
Baston has great enthusiams for his subject as an illustration of the moral that 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'
At times I felt like I was reading Stephen King - a man who loved his wife is dragged into debt by her voracious social climbing, a charitable enterprise gets out of control, he's feeling depressed and some disreputable businessmen come along with some attractive propositions, his kids have problems, the booze becomes a genial companion, and there is the normal round of broken friendships and betrayals that come with a political career. Reading it at 25 you might think what a despicable and corrupt man, at 35 you think, what a horror story, how easily this sort of thing can happen.
For all his faults, Maudling represented a genial tradition in the Tory Party, gifted, decent men, without zeal, who wanted to do the best for their country.
Baston writes with great authority and panache - here is a junior Hugo Young or Ben Pimlott whose talents should be given free reign on more bankable subject matter - or indeed maybe he should write novels. The book is a doorstep on a most unprepossessing subject matter, but I couldn't put it down - a great achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten figure, 18 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Reggie (Hardcover)
This is a fine, detailed biography that entirely conveys the man. In many ways, it is a better book than the subject deserves. Indeed, one struggles to think of many such quality biographies on figures of the second rank, especially those politicians of recent years, which is how - despite coming close Maudling to the top - he most certainly comes across. One thinks of Ben Pimlott on Dalton or David Dutton on Sir John Simon as comparable works.

I came to this book straight from reading Charles Moore's excellent first volume on Mrs Thatcher. An interesting contrast in biographical approach. Moore is fundamentally a journalist and does a marvellous job in regimenting his facts. Maudling left so much less in material that one feels in the early pages especially that Baston is making bricks with too little straw, though his navigation through the murky world of Maudling's financial dealings shows some mastery of detail. In truth, I found those chapters hard to follow, but I felt that was more due to the deliberately confusing nature of the financial dealings.

But it is in character that Maudling is so different from Mrs Thatcher: he drifts through this book. A charming, largely benign figure by instinct. But lazy to a fault, lacking in self discipline and in drive. He was taking lon lunches and neglecting his constituency in his thirties, well before the rot set in. His positives - the ease with which he delegates for example - derive from his negatives - he wasn't keen at the hard slog. One can argue that his time at the Treasury was a brave attempt to break out of low growth, but his term rightly damaged his reputation. At the Home Office, perhaps nobody could have resolved the dawning breakdown of the Ulster situation, but his utterly hopeless failure to get a grip was immensely damaging. The descent into drink and corruption, an enthralling story Baston chronicles in detail, is depressing but seems a natural turn for Maudling to take after what came before. Baston asks how different it could have been if Maudling had beaten Heath to the leadership in 1965, but in truth I came away with no suggestion that Maudling has the drive or capacity to take on a role of such complexity as the premiership. He could wing it, without preparation or effort, in areas within what we now call a comfort zone, but he was overwhelmed by Northern Ireland and that would have been true too of much of the job at No 10.

The sadness is that I expect this review not to be read. Maudling is now a forgotten figure and this biography, depressingly given its high quality, will not change that. A decade after publication, I bought the book on Amazon for a penny over the cost of purchase. Having read it, I'd happily pay the author a fairer price. He deserves it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Enjoyable, 12 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Reggie (Hardcover)
Reginald Maudling is in many ways a forgotten figure in the Conservative Party, this work attempts to redress this issue. It is well writtenwith interesting analysis and a nice pace to it but what really makes it is the subject matter. Reginald Maudling in many ways was one of the key figures in the Conservative revival post-1945 working on policies etc. By the late 1950s he was one of the coming men in the Conservative Party and when he became Chancellor he probably reached the high point of his career. However, after his rise came a fall from grace involving corruption and financial scandal which meant that even though he held senior government positions under Edward Heath his career never reached the heights that at one point it seemed likely to. All in all a good book showing how temptation, terrible desicions and bad associations can destroy the career of anybody.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Politics and Money, 13 Aug. 2010
Rlgorton "Political Hack" (Britain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Reggie (Hardcover)
At the heart of Lewis Baston's book is an account of how a compassionate and able politician turned his back on the values and ethics that should underpin public life. Maudling's career shows that the worlds of business and politics must not be become blurred. This biography should be required reading for anyone in public life. It was written and published long before the 2008 -2009 parliamentary expenses scandal. While the book records the rise and fall of a politician who held office forty years ago, it reminds the reader that politics and the pursuit of money can be a destructive mix.

In his biography of Reginald Maudling, Lewis Baston has produced a rounded portrait of a gifted but terribly flawed politician. Perhaps this book should on a reading list issued to Members of Parliament.
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Reggie by Lewis Baston (Hardcover - 27 Oct. 2004)
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