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Useful Notes: Harold Macmillan

"Indeed let us be frank about it, most of our people have never had it so good."

"Events, my dear boy, events."

Harold Macmillan (1894-1986) was Prime Minister of the UK from 1957 to 1963. He came to power after Anthony Eden resigned and won a landslide victory in 1959. In 1963, misdiagnosed with prostate cancer, he suddenly resigned.

Known as "Supermac" (a nickname coined by cartoonist Victor "Vicky" Weisz as an insult), Macmillan's time in office was a prosperous time for Britain, though not without some bumps such as a wage freeze, caused by balance of payments issues. He famously told Britons in 1957 that they had "never had it so good". 1962 saw the "Night of the Long Knives", where eight members of his Cabinet were sacked in one go. The next year saw the Profumo scandal, which can be summarised as "Cabinet minister sleeps with prostitute who is also sleeping with Soviet spy" (or, even more succinctly, as "British politician sex").

Mac got on well with John F. Kennedy, seeing himself as a kind of mentor to the young President. Just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, he passed a copy of Barbara Tuchman's history book The Guns of August to Kennedy, with his recommendations. Earlier on he was also friendly with President Eisenhower, the two of them having met During the War.

Superior Firepower in the UK was increased during this time (the Thor missiles were deployed) and the decision was made to buy Polaris from the US. A reluctance to share nuclear secrets with France led to de Gaulle vetoing the UK's first attempt to enter the EEC.

Besides the two quotes given above, he is also famous for his "Winds of Change" speech in South Africa in which he made it clear that black majority rule was inevitable (needless to say, his apartheid South African hosts disagreed). Several British colonies in Africa were decolonized during his premiership: Gold Coast (today Ghana), Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Before entering politics, Macmillan had been a soldier in World War I, one time, reading poetry while waiting to be rescued from no man's land.

Following Mac's resignation, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who many Brits haven't heard of, spent a year as PM, before losing to Harold Wilson.
Anthony EdenUsefulNotes/The Men of Downing StreetAlec Douglas-Home
Clement AttleeHeads Of StateAlec Douglas-Home

alternative title(s): Harold Macmillan
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