Iain Macleod

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The Right Honourable
Iain Macleod
Campaigning in 1970 general election
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
20 June 1970 – 20 July 1970
Prime Minister Edward Heath
Preceded by Roy Jenkins
Succeeded by Anthony Barber
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 November 1965 – 20 June 1970
Leader Edward Heath
Preceded by Edward Heath
Succeeded by Roy Jenkins
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
9 October 1961 – 20 October 1963
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by R. A. Butler
Succeeded by Selwyn Lloyd
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
9 October 1961 – 20 October 1963
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Charles Hill
Succeeded by The Lord Blakenham
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
9 October 1961 – 20 October 1963
Leader Harold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by R. A. Butler
Succeeded by The Lord Blakenham
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
14 October 1959 – 9 October 1961
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Alan Lennox-Boyd
Succeeded by Reginald Maudling
Minister of Labour and National Service
In office
20 December 1955 – 14 October 1959
Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Walter Monckton
Succeeded by Edward Heath
Minister of Health
In office
7 May 1952 – 20 December 1955
Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Preceded by Harry Crookshank
Succeeded by Robin Turton
Member of Parliament
for Enfield West
In office
23 February 1950 – 20 July 1970
Preceded by Ernest Davies
Succeeded by Cecil Parkinson
Personal details
Born (1913-11-11)11 November 1913
Skipton, Yorkshire, England
Died 20 July 1970(1970-07-20) (aged 56)
Westminster, London, England
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Iain Norman Macleod (11 November 1913 – 20 July 1970) was a British Conservative Party politician and government minister. He is credited for coining the term nanny state.

Early life[edit]

Iain Macleod was born at Clifford House, Skipton, Yorkshire, on 11 November 1913. His parents were from the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland, belonging to the branch of the Macleods of Pabbay and Uig. They moved to Skipton in 1907. Macleod grew up with strong personal and cultural ties to Scotland, as his parents bought in 1917 part of the Leverhulme estate on the Isle of Lewis, where they often used to stay for family holidays. Macleod's father, Dr. Norman Alexander Macleod, was a well-respected general practitioner in Skipton, with a substantial poor-law practice.[1]

He was educated at Ermysted's Grammar School in Skipton and at Fettes College in Edinburgh. Macleod showed no great academic talent but did develop an enduring love of literature, especially poetry, which he read and memorised in great quantity. In 1932 he was admitted to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained a Lower Second in History three years later.[2]

He was one of the great British bridge players. He won the Gold Cup in 1937, with teammates Maurice Harrison-Gray (Capt), Skid Simon, Jack Marx and Colin Harding. A bridge connection earned him a job offer with a printing company, but by the late 1930s he was living the life of a playboy off his bridge earnings; he only gave up playing seriously (and relying on his bridge earnings) in the early 1950s when his developing political career became his priority.[3] He wrote a book that contains a description of the Acol system of bidding: Bridge is an Easy Game, published in 1952 by Falcon Press, London.[4]

War Service[edit]

Macleod joined the Royal Fusiliers as a private in 1939 but was commissioned into the Duke of Wellington's Regiment and fought briefly in France in 1940, suffering a serious war wound to the thigh which, particularly when combined with a later spinal condition (ankylosing spondylitis),[5] was to leave him with pain and a limp thereafter. Following his recovery from injury (and attendance at staff college), he landed in France on D-Day as Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General (DAQMG) of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division and continued to serve in France until November 1944 when he returned to Yorkshire. He ended the war as a major.

At one point during the war a drunk Macleod almost killed his senior officer, as the latter had retired to bed rather than play stud poker with him. He shot at his door until his revolver ran out of bullets, and then passed out after smashing down the door with a heavy piece of furniture. He demanded an apology the next morning for his refusal to play, although the two men remained friends thereafter.[6]

Entry into Politics[edit]

He unsuccessfully contested the Western Isles constituency at the 1945 general election. There was no Conservative Party in the seat, so Macleod advertised an inaugural meeting. He and his father, a lifelong Liberal, were the only attendees, so Macleod elected his father Association Chairman and he selected his son as Parliamentary candidate, in due course receiving a letter of endorsement from Winston Churchill.[7] Macleod came bottom of the poll, obtaining 2756 votes out of 13,000.[8]

In 1946, he joined the Conservative Parliamentary Secretariat, subsequently merged into the Conservative Research Department. Here he became close friends with Enoch Powell, but the two fell out over Powell's 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, and Macleod refused to speak to Powell again after the speech. Macleod's subsequent dealings with him were, Powell said, as if he was a pariah though Macleod 'knew what I said was not motivated by what is crudely called racialism, but he behaved as if he did not know'.[9]

Political career[edit]

Minister of Health[edit]

At the general election of February 1950 he won in the parliamentary constituency of Enfield, West. In October 1951 Churchill again became Prime Minister. A brilliant Commons performance in March 1952 by Macleod against former Labour cabinet minister Aneurin Bevan, in a debate on medical care, caught Churchill's attention. Within seven weeks, and less than a year after being elected to Parliament, on 7 May, Macleod was appointed Minister of Health. In this position, later in 1952, he famously made the announcement that British clinician Richard Doll had proved the link between smoking and lung cancer. He did so at a press conference, throughout which he chain-smoked.

Colonial Secretary[edit]

Macleod and Julius Nyerere at the Constitutional Conference, Tanganyika, March 1961

In the Eden and Macmillan governments he served first as Minister of Labour and National Service (1955–59) and then as Secretary of State for the Colonies (1959–61). Here he presided over considerable decolonisation, seeing Nigeria, British Somaliland, Tanganyika, Sierra Leone, Kuwait and British Cameroon become independent, and in Kenya ending the state of emergency and freeing Kenyatta. He made a tour of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1960. His work in promoting decolonisation, though it enjoyed Macmillan's personal support, was resisted by the Conservative Right; his role in negotiations over the future of Rhodesia attracted the damaging and much-remembered description of Macleod by the party grandee, the Marquess of Salisbury, as "too clever by half".[10] In one instance in this period, during a visit to Nyasaland (later Malawi) in 1960, he is described as having been "gratuitously and grossly offensive, extremely rude and downright unpleasant at a meeting with the Governor, the provincial commissioners and senior police officers". On the following day, according to the same report, he "lost control of himself, shouted at the non-official members of executive council and told one of them to 'mind his own bloody business'".[11]


In 1961 Macleod published a sympathetic biography of former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, whose reputation then stood at a very low ebb because of recent memories of the Munich Agreement. The book was largely ghostwritten by Peter Goldman, whose own promising political career would be aborted when he lost the Orpington by-election the following year.[12] Macleod was most interested in social policy and had most input into the parts up to 1931, including Chamberlain’s time as Lord Mayor of Birmingham and as Minister of Health.[13] It had been intended as a potboiler to earn money for his daughter’s social season, and Macleod had been reluctant to read seven boxes of papers from Chamberlain’s sister Hilda (Chamberlain’s letters to whom are an important primary source); it added little to the portrait painted by his official biographer Keith Feiling.[14]

Macleod used government papers in breach of the "Fifty-year rule" then in operation. Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook persuaded the Prime Minister to demand an amendment to conceal the degree to which the civil servants Horace Wilson and Warren Fisher had demanded the former King Edward VIII (then still alive) “to reorder his private life”.[15] Former Prime Minister Lord Avon, who cherished his (somewhat exaggerated) reputation as an opponent of "appeasement", complained that such a book by a serving Cabinet Minister might be thought to express official sympathy for Chamberlain's policies. Downing Street had to brief the press that Macleod had written purely in a personal capacity.[16] Robert Blake wrote in his review in The Times (26 November 1961) that “when national security is at stake one does not judge a statesman by his successes at slum clearance” [17] Macleod later told Alan Watkins (in “Brief Lives” 1982) “It was a bad book. I made a great mistake in writing it. It made me no money, and it has done me a lot of harm”. Watkins conceded that the book “had been grudgingly and meanly reviewed”.[18]

Macleod contracted to write a second book (due for September 1962, but postponed), called “The Last Rung”, on leading politicians who had failed to become Prime Minister. He completed chapters on Austen Chamberlain, Lord Curzon and Lord Halifax, and planned to write a chapter about Rab Butler.[19]

Conservative Leadership Contest, 1963[edit]

In 1961 he became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, leader of the House of Commons, and chairman of the Conservative Party organisation. When Harold Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister in 1963, Macleod, despite his ability, was not considered a serious prospect for the leadership.

When the results of the "customary processes" became known on 17 October (the “key day” as Macleod later called it), Macleod was, along with Enoch Powell, Lord Hailsham and Reginald Maudling, angered at the supposed choice of the Earl of Home (later Sir Alec Douglas-Home after he had "disclaimed" his peerage). They attempted in vain to persuade Rab Butler, Macmillan's deputy and whom Macleod had assumed would succeed him, not to serve in the hope that this would prevent Home from forming a government. Macleod and Powell eventually refused to serve under Home as Prime Minister.[20] Had he become Prime Minister, Butler had planned to make Macleod Chancellor of the Exchequer and had discussed the names of economists who could be asked to advise.[21]

Lord Dilhorne, who had polled the Cabinet for their preferences, had listed Macleod as "voting" for Home. Some have seen this as a mistake, others as evidence that the consultation process was heavily rigged (i.e. that anybody who expressed the slightest willingness to serve under Home as a compromise if necessary was listed as "supporting" him). Macmillan's official biographer Alistair Horne believed that Macleod's description of 17 October as “the key day” is evidence that he “changed his mind”, having not previously had a particularly firm opinion. Macmillan’s view was “well, you know … Macleod was a Highlander!” Others (e.g. Macmillan's biographer D.R. Thorpe) have suggested that Macleod actually did express a tactical preference for Home, in the hope of bringing about a deadlock in which he would enjoy greater bargaining power or perhaps even become Prime Minister himself, and that his subsequent anger was a result of guilt that he had helped to bring about a Home "victory".[22] Butler himself commented “Macleod was very shifty, much more so than you think”. Nigel Lawson, later to succeed Macleod as editor of "The Spectator", believed Macleod was “too clever by three quarters”. “His petulant refusal to serve under Home and the extended explanation he gave for it both deprived the government of its most effective political street fighter and undermined the new prime minister’s legitimacy” ("The Daily Telegraph" 3 October 2004).[23] However, Lord Aldington, David Eccles, Sir Michael Fraser and Eve Macleod all rejected this interpretation of Macleod's actions. Ian Gilmour argues that Macleod’s subsequent refusal to serve under Home makes it “inconceivable” that he had "voted" for him.[24]

The Spectator[edit]

While out of office in the mid-1960s he served as editor of The Spectator, where he caused further controversy by publishing on 17 January 1964 a candid account of the 1963 party leadership contest, claiming perhaps unfairly, that it was a stitch- up by an Etonian 'magic circle.'[25] Macleod's article was written in response to a book by Randolph Churchill, which he described as “Mr Macmillan’s trailer for the screenplay of his memoirs”.[26] In his posthumous book “The Art of Memory” (April 1982) Butler wrote that “every word” of the “Spectator” article “is true”.[27] Ian Gilmour also suggests that Dilhorne’s refusal to speak out against Macleod in January 1964, when Macleod’s credibility was at a low ebb, is strong evidence that Dilhorne knew his figures to be suspect.[28]

Thorpe argues that Home was well ahead of Butler in Cabinet preferences if Dilhorne's official figures are to be believed (although he accepts that Edward Boyle’s preference was misrecorded as being for Home rather than Butler), and also criticises Macleod for only taking the preferences of the Cabinet into account, not those of junior ministers and backbenchers who were also polled.[29]

Colleagues “cut” Macleod in the House of Commons after the article and the affair permanently damaged his chances of becoming leader.[30] Macmillan later advised Home, if asked why the Conservatives could not find a Prime Minister in the Commons and had had to appoint a Lord, to retort that “The Spectator” could not find an editor from amongst the journalists’ profession and had instead had to appoint Iain Macleod.[31]

Macleod returned to the shadow cabinet under Home after the 1964 election.

Shadow Chancellor[edit]

Macleod did not contest the first ever party leadership election in 1965, but backed Edward Heath, whom he did not particularly like but thought would be a better leader than Maudling. He expected to have received 40-45 votes had he stood.[32]

The coinage of the word stagflation is attributed to him. Speaking in the House of Commons on 17 November 1965, he said: "We now have the worst of both worlds — not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of 'stagflation' situation. And history, in modern terms, is indeed being made."[33]

Not helping his acceptance by the more right-wing elements of his own party at the time, Macleod was against the death penalty and supported legalisation of abortion and homosexuality. Indicative of his centrist leanings, Macleod established good personal relations with several of his Labour opposite numbers, including both Bevan and James Callaghan, even though he clashed with Callaghan numerous times at the dispatch box while serving as Shadow Chancellor in the 1960s (by contrast, he did not get on with Callaghan's successor as Chancellor, Roy Jenkins, considering him vain and arrogant).

As Shadow Chancellor in 1967 Iain Macleod helped to found the homeless charity Crisis.[34]

Chancellor of the Exchequer[edit]

On 20 June 1970, two days after the Conservative Party's upset election victory (which opinion polling had failed to predict), Macleod was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer by the new Prime Minister, Heath. However, on 7 July 1970 he was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. He was discharged 11 days later; yet at 10.30 pm on 20 July, while in 11 Downing Street, he suffered a massive heart attack and died at 11.35 pm.

There seems little doubt that Macleod's wartime injury had combined with his smoking and overwork to shorten his life. Newspaper boss Cecil King (in The Cecil King Diary 1970–1974) insisted that Macleod had been stricken during the 1960s by terminal cancer which had begun to affect his spine. However, Macleod's own doctor, a Dr Forster, said there was no evidence that Macleod was suffering from cancer at the time of his death. At the subsequent by-election, Macleod was succeeded by Cecil Parkinson.

Macleod left behind him an outline budget which some observers found surprisingly hard-line in its proposals for control of public spending. This included the infamous abolition of free school milk, which became the first significant Ministerial act of the new Education Secretary and future Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher; she would come to be known as "Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher", as a result.[35][36] He also bequeathed his successors a detailed plan for tax reform, much of which was put into action.


Many Conservative politicians of generations following Macleod recalled him as a highly effective speaker. He commented about Labour parliamentarians under Hugh Gaitskell (opposition leader 1955–63) that, when offered their choice of weapons, they invariably chose boomerangs. It is said that Macleod was the only Conservative debater whom Harold Wilson, Gaitskell's successor as Labour leader, was afraid of – he compared Wilson to a kipper, which has two faces. John Major specifically cited Macleod's example on taking office.

On another occasion Macleod said: "John Fitzgerald Kennedy described himself in a brilliant phrase as an idealist without illusions. I would describe the Prime Minister [Wilson] as an illusionist without ideals."[37]


Macleod met Evelyn Hester Mason (née Blois) in September 1939 when he was waiting to be called up for the Army and she interviewed him for a job as an ambulance driver.[38] After her first husband was killed in the war, they married on 25 January 1941. The Macleods had a son and a daughter, Torquil and Diana, who were born in 1942 and 1944. Evelyn Macleod was struck down in the summer of 1952 by meningitis and polio, but subsequently managed to walk again with the aid of sticks and worked hard to support her husband's career. After her husband's death she accepted a peerage in 1971 and took her seat in the House of Lords as Baroness Macleod of Borve. Macleod's daughter Diana Heimann was a UK Independence Party candidate at Banbury in the 2005 general election.

He is buried in the churchyard of Gargrave Church in North Yorkshire.


  1. ^ Richard Shepherd, Iain Macleod (London: Hutchinson, 1994), p. 6.
  2. ^ Shepherd, pp. 17–21.
  3. ^ Shepherd, p. 102.
  4. ^ "Bridge is an easy game". WorldCat. Retrieved 29 May 2014. It was revised by one Peter Donovan and reissued by Ashford Press in 1988 as Bridge is Still an Easy Game. OCLC 18324799.
  5. ^ Nigel Fisher (1973). Iain Macleod. Deutsch. p. 46. ISBN 0-233-96324-3. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Sandford 2005, pp. 285
  7. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 38
  8. ^ Shepherd, pp. 39–40.
  9. ^ Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998), p. 457.
  10. ^ Sandford 2005, pp. 285
  11. ^ Sir Glyn Jones, A Proconsul in Africa, by Colin Baker, pub. I. B. Tauris, London, 2000, p.69
  12. ^ Grigg 2002, p212
  13. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 270-2
  14. ^ Dutton 2001, p. 141-2
  15. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 270-2
  16. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 270-2
  17. ^ Dutton 2001, p.7
  18. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 270-2
  19. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 270-2
  20. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 326-7
  21. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 317
  22. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 326-7
  23. ^ Thorpe 2010, p. 574-6
  24. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 326-7
  25. ^ Vernon Bogdanor (18 January 2014). "The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government". The Spectator. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  26. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 320
  27. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 360
  28. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 326-7
  29. ^ Thorpe 2010, p. 574-6
  30. ^ Thorpe 2010, p. 574-6
  31. ^ Thorpe 2010, p. 574-6
  32. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 400
  33. ^ Iain Macleod. Column 1165. "Economic Affairs". House of Commons Debate 17 November 1965. Hansard. Volume 720. Columns 1155–284. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  34. ^ "Crisis history". Crisis (crisis.org.uk).
  35. ^ "Education: The Milk Snatcher". TIME. 28 February 1972. 
  36. ^ Smith, Rebecca (8 August 2010). "How Margaret Thatcher became known as 'Milk Snatcher'". The Daily Telegraph. 
  37. ^ Iain Macleod. Contribution by Mr Iain Macleod (Enfield West). "Economic Situation". House of Commons Debate 1 March 1966. TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  38. ^ Shepherd 1994, p.25

Other sources[edit]

  • The Macleods – The Genealogy of a Clan, Section Four by Alick Morrison, M.A., by Associated Clan Macleod Societies, Edinburgh, 1974
  • The MacLeods – The Genealogy of a Clan, Section Four by The Late Major Loudoun Hector Davenport MacLeod, RM, 1988

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Enfield West
Succeeded by
Cecil Parkinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Harry Crookshank
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Robin Turton
Preceded by
Walter Monckton
Minister of Labour and National Service
Succeeded by
Edward Heath
Preceded by
Alan Lennox-Boyd
Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Reginald Maudling
Preceded by
Rab Butler
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Selwyn Lloyd
Preceded by
Charles Hill
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
The Viscount Blakenham
Preceded by
Roy Jenkins
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Anthony Barber
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rab Butler
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1963: jointly with Lord Poole

Succeeded by
The Lord Blakenham
Media offices
Preceded by
Iain Hamilton
Editor of The Spectator
Succeeded by
Nigel Lawson