Reginald Maudling

Reginald Maudling

honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable,
name=Reginald Maudling
honorific-suffix =
term_start=14 January 1957
term_end=14 October 1959
primeminister=Harold Macmillan
predecessor=Sir Walter Monckton
successor=The Lord Mills
order2=President of the Board of Trade
term_start2=14 October 1959
term_end2=9 October 1961
primeminister2=Harold Macmillan
predecessor2= Sir David Eccles
successor2=Fred Erroll
order3=Colonial Secretary
term_start3=9 October 1961
term_end3=13 July 1962
primeminister3=Harold Macmillan
predecessor3=Iain Macleod
successor3=Duncan Sandys
order4=Chancellor of the Exchequer
term_start4=13 July 1962
term_end4=16 October 1964
primeminister4=Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
predecessor4=Selwyn Lloyd
successor4=James Callaghan
order5=Home Secretary
term_start5=20 June 1970
term_end5=18 July 1972
primeminister5=Edward Heath
predecessor5=James Callaghan
successor5=Robert Carr
alma_mater =Merchant Taylors'
Merton College, Oxford
birth_date =birth date|1917|03|17|df=y
birth_place =Finchley, London, United Kingdom
death_date-death date and age|1917|03|17|1979|02|14|df=y

Reginald Maudling (7 March 1917 - 14 February 1979) [ [ The Papers of Reginald Maudling] Retrieved 2008-02-25] was a British politician known for his intellectual brilliance, political pragmatism, and easygoing nature but slightly dogged by a reputation for laziness.

He held several Cabinet posts, including Chancellor of the Exchequer. He had been spoken of as a prospective Tory leader since 1955, and was twice seriously considered for the post; he was Edward Heath's chief rival in 1965. He also held many directorships in the British financial world.

He was responsible for Northern Irish policy during Bloody Sunday in 1972; shortly thereafter, he fell from power because of an unrelated scandal in one of the companies of which he was director.

Early life

Reginald Maudling was born in North Finchley and was named after his father, Reginald George Maudling, an actuary, who contracted to do actuarial and financial calculations as the Commercial Calculating Company Ltd. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Bexhill, to escape German air raids; he won scholarships to the Merchant Taylors' School and Merton College, Oxford. At Oxford, Maudling stayed out of undergraduate politics and studied the works of Georg Wilhelm Hegel; he was to formulate his conclusions later as the inseparability of economic and political freedom: "the purpose of State control and the guiding principle of its application is the achievement of true freedom". He worked hard, and obtained his degree in Classics with first class honours. [Baston, "Reggie" Chapter 1, and pp.40-42, 173-4; quotation, from Maudling's essay, "Conservatives and Control", on Baston, p. 41.]

Political career

Shortly after graduating he formed the idea of going into politics. He set up a meeting with Harold Nicolson to discuss whether it would be better, as a moderate conservative by nature, to join the Conservative Party or National Labour; Nicolson advised him to wait. Maudling was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1940. However he did not practise as a barrister, having volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force in World War II. Poor eyesight led him to the RAF intelligence branch where he rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant; he was then appointed Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair. [Baston, "Reggie", Chapter 2]

Failed to win seats

He wrote an essay on Conservative policy in November 1943, recommending that the Conservatives neither imitate the Labour Party nor reflexly oppose all controls; in the general election of July 1945, he was selected as parliamentary candidate for Heston and Isleworth, a newly created constituency in West London, although there were four applicants and he had no ties to the constituency. In the subsequent Labour landslide, Maudling was defeated like many others, although Heston was expected to be a safe Conservative seat.

After their defeat in the 1945 general election, the Conservative Party engaged in an extensive rethink of its policy. Maudling's argument, that the Party had depended excessively on the popularity of Winston Churchill and outdated economic slogans, was seriously considered. In November 1945, he became the first staff member of the Conservative Parliamentary Secretariat, later the Conservative Research Department, where he was head of the Economic Section; his biographer argues that this made him the first professional politician in Britain. He persuaded the party to accept many of the Labour government's nationalisation programme and social services while cutting government spending. In March 1946, Maudling was chosen the prospective candidate for Barnet, close to his birthplace in north London, and began giving speeches there. Labour had unexpectedly won the seat in 1945, but it was considered to be marginal. In 1950 he was elected as Member of Parliament with an absolute majority. [Baston, "Reggie", Chapters 3-5; "professional politician" (as opposed to gentleman amateur, born to politics, p. 49. Maudling had 53% of the vote in a three-party contest; the Conservative lead was 10,534 out of 70,687.]

Member of Parliament and Cabinet

Following the 1951 election, Churchill made Maudling a junior Minister at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. However, his experience of preparing economic policy led to his speaking on behalf of the Treasury on the 1952 budget and thus to an appointment, later that year, as Economic Secretary to the Treasury. With his mentor Rab Butler as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Maudling worked to reduce taxes and controls in order to move from post-war austerity to affluence. He endorsed Butler's great vision of a doubling of incomes within 25 years. Maudling was also a natural performer on television, which was to prove a great asset in his later career.

When Anthony Eden took over as Prime Minister in 1955, Maudling was promoted to head a department as Minister of Supply. He supported the invasion of Suez. The Ministry was responsible for aircraft production and supplying the armed forces, and Maudling came to agree with critics who argued that it was an unnecessary intermediary; he therefore recommended its abolition. Although supportive of Harold Macmillan's appointment as Prime Minister over the rival claims of Butler in 1957, Maudling found himself in difficulties over his position in the new government. He refused to continue at the Ministry of Supply and also rejected an offer of the Ministry of Health because Iain Macleod, with whom he had a rivalry, had held the post five years earlier and Maudling did not want to be seen as five years behind him.

Macmillan thought Maudling clever but also vain and somewhat lazy. He appointed him to the near sinecure post of Paymaster General and spokesman in the House of Commons for the Ministry of Fuel and Power, which was technically a demotion. Nine months later, Maudling had proved his usefulness and Macmillan brought him into the Cabinet (17 September 1957) where he acted more as a Minister without Portfolio: he had specific responsibility for chairing the talks to persuade the six members of the European Economic Community to join a free-trade area with Britain. This attempt was vetoed by General de Gaulle. Meanwhile Maudling became an underwriting member of Lloyd's of London in December 1957, although his assets were somewhat below average for other 'names'. [Baston, "Reggie", Chapter 6-8]

President of the Board of Trade

Maudling entered the front line of politics after the 1959 election when appointed President of the Board of Trade. He was responsible for introducing the government's proposals to help areas of high unemployment. This was achieved by paying grants to companies to create new plants in these deprived areas, and also by the government taking over unused land for development. Maudling also succeeded in negotiating a free trade agreement between the countries outside the Common Market, this became the European Free Trade Association and was some compensation for his failure to negotiate a free trade area with the Common Market. Maudling was opposed to any proposal to join the Common Market, remarking "I can think of no more retrograde step economically or politically". This remark was to be quoted against him when he was part of later governments applying for Common Market membership.

Reginald Maudling was for a short time, as Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1961, responsible for the process of decolonisation. In this position he chaired constitutional conferences for Jamaica, Northern Rhodesia and Trinidad and Tobago which prepared them up for independence; his plan for Northern Rhodesia was controversial and he had to threaten resignation before it was approved. However Maudling was keen to return to economic policy, and seized his opportunity when Macmillan made it clear in private that he supported a voluntary incomes policy. Maudling promptly made a persuasive case in public, and three weeks later was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in Macmillan's "Night of the Long Knives" attempt to rejuvenate his Cabinet. [Baston, "Reggie", Chapters 9 and 10]

Chancellor of the Exchequer

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Maudling soon cut Purchase tax and bank interest rates. His 1963 budget [ ["April - The Chancellor, Reginald Maudling, announces the Budget"] Illingworth Exhibition: Cartoons of the 1960s. Contemporary cartoon of the budget announcement. Retrieved 2008-02-25] aimed at "expansion without inflation". Following a period of economic difficulty, with a growth target of 4%. Maudling was able to remove income tax from owner occupiers' residential premises. He also abolished the rate of duty on home-brewed beer which in effect legalised it. This was the period in which Maudling was at his most popular within the Conservative Party and in the country.

However, later commentators have been less kind to Maudling - Harold Wilson and his Chancellor Jim Callaghan blamed the "dash for growth" that followed the 1963 budget for increasing Sterling's chronic instability between 1964 and 1967 and by greatly increasing domestic demand the budget certainly exacerbated the existing balance of payments problem. Maudling largely recognised this himself by the time of the 1964 budget and although he increased taxes then he did little to subdue demand in an election year.

By 1963 Maudling was being considered as a possible future Prime Minister after Macmillan. However, Macmillan's sudden illness and announcement of his resignation in October 1963 came at a time when Maudling was considered too junior. He had also performed disappointingly at the Conservative Party conference, which had become a hustings for the leadership. He retained his post as Chancellor under the new prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, and in the 1964 election Maudling had a prominent role at the helm of the party's daily press conferences while Douglas-Home toured the country.

Maudling was praised for conveying a calm and relaxed image, but was unable to prevent the party's narrow defeat. On the BBC's election results programme, the journalist Anthony Howard said that he believed that if Maudling had been leader, the narrow Conservative defeat would have been a narrow Conservative victory. [Baston, "Reggie", chapters 11-13. Howard quote from Maudling's autobiography.]

Failed leadership bid

Out of office, Maudling felt the loss of his Chancellor's salary keenly. He accepted the offer of a seat on the board of Kleinwort Benson in November 1964, one of the factors which led to his being shifted to spokesman on Foreign Affairs in early 1965. Unlike other potential leadership contenders, Maudling publicly maintained his loyalty to Douglas-Home as criticisms of his leadership mounted. When Douglas-Home resigned, after putting in place a system in which the leadership was directly elected, Maudling fought against Edward Heath for the position of candidate to the party centre-right. Unfortunately, for Maudling, Enoch Powell also stood as a candidate supporting monetarist and proto-Thatcherite economics.

Maudling's business directorships with Kleinwort Benson and others were mentioned by his opponents as evidence of his lack of commitment for the role, and he was felt to be too close to the Macmillan/Douglas-Home style of politics when the Conservative Party needed a fresh start. He won 133 votes against Heath's 150; Powell's 15 votes would have been more likely to go to Maudling had Powell not stood. The defeat was a surprise to Maudling, as the Conservative Parliamentary Party was felt to be more in tune with his policies than with those of Heath (although feeling in the country and in most newspapers favoured the election of Heath).

Deputy Leader and Home Secretary

Maudling served as Deputy Leader under Heath, and was also a prominent member of the Shadow Cabinet. However, he was neither close to Edward Heath personally or politically, and as a consequence his influence declined; his support for an incomes policy now went against party policy. He also tended to make gaffes, as for example when he said Harold Wilson had been following the same policy as the Conservatives on Rhodesia and "I can't think of anything he has done wrongly". When the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, Maudling was appointed Home Secretary; the most pressing problem at the Home Office was tackling the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Maudling did not enjoy this responsibility. After boarding the aeroplane at the end of his first visit to the province, he remarked "For God's sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country." [ [ The politics of drinking in power] BBC News Online, 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2008-02-25]

Maudling's tendency to exude reassuring calmness in interviews, normally helpful to him, was damaging when he referred to reducing IRA violence to "an acceptable level", a remark widely regarded as a gaffe. He also tended to trust the Unionist controlled Government of Northern Ireland and gloss over differences between their approach and that of the United Kingdom government. This approach backfired when the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland James Chichester-Clark resigned over a split in March 1971. That August, Maudling reluctantly authorised the Northern Ireland government to introduce internment without trial for terror suspects, which caused widespread upheaval and anger among the nationalist population due to its exclusive use on that community, [ [ Biographies of Prominent People - 'M'] CAIN Web Service. Retrieved 2008-02-25] and was followed by a massive escalation in the level of violence.

Bloody Sunday

Maudling's statement in the House of Commons after Bloody Sunday agreed with the British army's claim that the Parachute Regiment had only fired in self-defence, [ [,9171,903280-3,00.html The Bitter Road from Bloody Sunday] Retrieved 2008-02-25] and so inflamed the nationalist MP Bernadette Devlin, a witness to the events who was not called on to speak, that she punched him. [ [ Maiden speeches in short supply] BBC News Online, 2001-04-06 Retrieved 2008-02-25]

Eventually Edward Heath decided to bring in direct rule of Northern Ireland under a separate Secretary of State. Maudling's prominence within the Heath government led to lampooning by comedians, especially Monty Python, which Maudling himself took in good humour. On one occasion Maudling was called upon to present a TV award from The Sun to Graham Chapman of the Python team; Chapman fell to the ground on receiving the award and "crawl [ed] all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could." [ [ Graham Chapman's funeral speech ] ]

Regarding criminal justice, Maudling was mildly progressive. He made no attempt, despite his personal support, to reintroduce capital punishment after its abolition in 1969. He introduced Community Service, a new alternative to prison, and in 1971 modestly tightened the immigration rules. [ [ 1971: UK restricts Commonwealth migrants] BBC News Online. Retrieved 2008-02-25] He was criticised for ordering the deportation of Rudi Dutschke, later one of the founders of the German Green Party. Dutschke, who was in Britain to recuperate from an assassination attempt, was considered a student anarchist.


In 1972 Maudling's business activities were causing considerable disquiet and speculation in the press. In 1966, he had obtained a directorship in the company of John Poulson, an architect Maudling helped obtain lucrative contracts. Poulson routinely did business through bribery and in 1972 was made bankrupt. The bankruptcy hearings disclosed his bribe payments, and Maudling's connection became public knowledge. Maudling came to the decision that his responsibility for the Metropolitan Police, which was beginning fraud investigations into Poulson, made his position as Home secretary untenable. He resigned on 18 July, to general sympathy from the press. Shortly after receiving Maudling's resignation Edward Heath's government performed a 'U-turn' on economic policy and subsequently adopted an approach strikingly similar to Maudling's.

Heath advised Maudling not to drop out of the public eye and he continued to make many media appearances. On the Conservative Party's electoral defeat in 1974, Edward Heath was replaced as leader by Margaret Thatcher. She surprised many by appointing Maudling to the post of Shadow Foreign Secretary. However, Maudling failed to make an impact in his new role and clashed with Mrs Thatcher over economics. He was dismissed on 19 November 1976. Maudling then openly attacked the monetarist economic theory she had adopted.

Last Years and Death

Maudling's business interests were to return and haunt his final years. In 1969, he had been President of the Real Estate Fund of America, whose Chief Executive had been imprisoned for fraud; Maudling had also been an adviser to the Peachey Property Corporation, whose Chairman Sir Eric Miller had embezzled company money and later committed suicide. In addition Maudling was revealed to have lobbied for more aid to Malta after obtaining a commission for Poulson there which had led to heavy losses to the Maltese government. These further revelations led to a Parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of Maudling and two other MPs linked to Poulson. This inquiry published its report on 14 July 1977; the report concluded that Maudling had indulged in "conduct inconsistent with the standards which the House is entitled to expect from its members".

When the report was considered by the House of Commons, the Conservative Party organised its MPs to attend the debate to 'Save Reggie'. An amendment was put down to merely 'take note' of the report, instead of endorsing it, and carried by 230 votes (211 Conservatives, 17 Labour, 2 Liberals and 2 Ulster Unionists) to 207. No punishment was imposed. An attempt by back-bench Labour MPs to expel Maudling from the House was defeated by 331 votes to 11, and a move to suspend him for six months was lost by 324 to 97.

As Lewis Baston's 2004 biography recounts, Maudling (and his wife) became heavy drinkers once his political career — which once, realistically, could have ended in the office of Prime Minister — was effectively ended by the scandal. The drinking turned to alcoholism and Maudling's health rapidly deteriorated in the late 1970s.

In early 1979 he collapsed and there were fears his treatment would be hindered by the strikes in the 'Winter of Discontent'. He died on 14 February of cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure in the Royal Free Hospital at the age of 61. Maudling married the actress Beryl Laverick six days after the outbreak of World War II in 1939; they had three sons and a daughter.


*Lewis Baston (2004) "Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling". Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2924-3 Principal source, where no other is specified.
*Michael Gillard (1974) "A little pot of money. The story of Reginald Maudling and the Real Estate Fund of America". Private Eye productions / André Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-96444-4
*Michael Gillard (1980) "Nothing to declare: the political corruptions of John Poulson". John Calder. ISBN 0-7145-3625-3
*Reginald Maudling (1978) "Memoirs". Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-98446-5
*Robert Shepherd (2004) " [ Reginald Maudling] " in "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press.

External links

* [ BBC News 'On this Day', includes a 1971 filmed interview on the Immigration Bill]

NAME = Maudling, Reginald
SHORT DESCRIPTION = British politician
DATE OF BIRTH = 7 March 1917
PLACE OF BIRTH = North Finchley, London
DATE OF DEATH = 14 February 1979
PLACE OF DEATH = Hampstead, London

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