Simon Heffer

An Unlucky Man

Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon, 1897-1977

By

Chatto & Windus 703pp £25 order from our bookshop

EARLY ON IN this magnificent biography, Richard Thorpe reveals that Anthony Eden was rated last out of nineteen in a poll on British twentieth-century prime ministers. In a field populated by Neville Chamberlain, A J Balfour, John Major and Ted Heath that is no mean achievement. By any objective standards, Eden’s conspicuous act of failure – Suez – cannot rate above some of the disasters presided over by his four fellow Tories. To have been responsible for Munich; to have failed to unite the Party and save it from catastrophic defeat as Balfour did (and Major, ninety years later); to have brought us the three-day week and 27 per cent inflation, as Heath did – all these were far more damaging than Suez. So, too, was the economic mismanagement of the Wilson Government, which led to the IMF’s being called in to run the British economy six months after Wilson resigned; or the blundering of Callaghan, which led to the Winter of Discontent. And do Ramsay Eden: glamour MacDonald or Bonar Law really merit more praise than Eden?

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • One woman 'travelled round the south of India with a retinue of 750 people, fourteen elephants, two racing camels f… ,
    • Stuck for a gift idea for Father's Day? Subscribe to Literary Review and get a FREE copy of 'An Impeccable Spy' –… ,
    • 'Gone. All gone. The ease, the pleasure, the effortless eloquence' From May 1995, Margaret Forster's withering rev… ,
    • RT : SO excited to tell you about this event! 😆 The amazing digital colourist, will be joining w… ,
    • 'Peters was unashamed and evidently unshamable, an impostor who wholly inhabited his fabrications and who indignant… ,
    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,