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J. P. Mackintosh

(1929—1978) political scientist and politician


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John Mackintosh (1929–78) combined the academic study of politics with its practice, being more successful in the former than the latter. He was educated at Melville College, Edinburgh, and at Edinburgh, Oxford, and Princeton universities. As an academic political scientist, he was a prolific author and wrote a number of significant works. The British Cabinet, first published in 1962, was seminal and contributed to debates on the position of the cabinet and prime minister in British politics. He held chairs in politics in Strathclyde University (1965–6) and Edinburgh University (1977–8), the latter while serving as an MP before he died. He was Labour MP for Berwick and East Lothian (1966–February 1944 and again from October 1974 until his death in 1978), but never made ministerial rank due to his independence or, as his critics suggest, recklessness. He was, as he told friends, the ‘Enoch Powell of the Left’. He was a staunch advocate of Scottish Home Rule and membership of the European Communities before these became fashionable inside the Labour Party (see Labourism) and was firmly on the right of the party. In the late 1970s, he rebelled against his party by opposing the nationalization of shipbuilding. He was often involved in intrigues and plots against Harold Wilson and was described by Ben Pimlott, Wilson's biographer, as one of the ‘Wilson-hating desperadoes’. There was little surprise that Wilson refused to consider him for ministerial office. Controversy continued to surround Mackintosh even after his untimely death in 1978. When the Social Democrats were established in the 1980s, it was claimed by members of that party that he would have joined had he lived while Labour loyalists dismissed the suggestion, arguing that he would have remained within the party despite its short-comings. Blair's New Labour would have been a party in which he would have found a home though he might have found the internal discipline difficult to stomach.

From The Oxford Companion to Scottish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.


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