19 February 2009

RAB’s life remembered on his wife’s death


The Times has an obituary on Lady Butler, RAB’s 2nd wife, who has died at the age of 101.  Her death recalled for me RAB’s life.  Her memoir, August and RAB, gives a wonderful insight to their relationship.

When I first became interested in politics in the mid 60’s, RAB was already Master at Trinity College.

RAB’s influence on British politics was profound, none more than his 1944 Education Act.  He didn't have the ruthlessness to get to the top (he missed out three times in 1953, 1957 and 1963), and there has always been doubts on whether he would have made a good PM.

RAB had sound judgement but could be very indiscrete at times.  He was a master of deadly phases both in public and private.

On Eden:

half mad Baronet, half beautiful woman


the best Prime Minister we have

This one stands out for me:

In politics you must always keep running with the pack. The moment that you falter and they sense that you are injured, the rest will turn on you like wolves.

RAB’s falling out with Macmillan was a forerunner of the Blair/Brown feud (RAB would have been amused), and is well worth catching up on.

His autobiography, The Art of the Possible , is rightly regarded as one of the best political memoirs.  Anthony Howard’s biography, RAB, also stands out.  The best account of why he never became leader is found in a book of essays called The Lost Leader by Edward Pearce.  It is a masterpiece.

Political history and biography is stimulating for a political obsessive like me.  What a pity we have to spend so much time passing judgement on present day affairs.

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