Reginald Maudling

(1917—1979) politician

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(b. London, 7 Mar. 1917; d. London, 14 Feb. 1979) British; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1962 –4, Home Secretary 1970 –2 Educated at Merchant Taylors' School and Merton College, Oxford, Maudling practised at the bar before entering politics. After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the House of Commons in 1945, he was elected in 1950 as MP for Barnet. Recognized as being among the more able of the new intake, he was appointed a junior minister in 1952 and began a rapid rise up the ministerial ladder, becoming Minister of Supply in 1955, Paymaster-General in 1957, president of the Board of Trade in 1959, and Colonial Secretary in 1961. In July 1962, following the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, he was appointed to succeed Selwyn Lloyd as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a post he retained under Macmillan's successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. When Douglas-Home gave up the party leadership in 1965, Maudling was nominated to succeed him and was widely expected by press commentators to win the contest against Edward Heath. He got 133 votes to Heath's 150. He was appointed by Heath as deputy leader of the party and on the return of the party to government in 1970 became Home Secretary. His tenure of the post was short-lived. He resigned in July 1972, because he believed that he could not occupy the post while a police investigation was under way into the affairs of the architect John Poulson, with whom he had had a business relationship. He was brought back to the front bench when Margaret Thatcher was elected party leader in 1975. She appointed him shadow Foreign Secretary. They disagreed about foreign as well as economic policy and a year later she sacked him. Margaret Thatcher recorded in her memoirs (The Path to Power) that ‘he was increasingly unwilling to disguise his differences with me, and he was laid back. But when I told him he had to go, he summoned up enough energy to be quite rude. Still, out he went’. The following year he was criticized by a Commons Select Committee for ‘conduct inconsistent with the standards which the House is entitled to expect’ because of his dealings with Poulson. A motion to expel him from the House was defeated by 331 votes to 11 on 26 July 1977. Less than two years later, he died, shortly before his 62nd birthday.

Widely recognized as intellectually able, he was also noted for being lazy, for having recourse too often to liquid refreshment, and for not being discriminating enough in his business dealings. Having once been the great future hope of the Conservative Party, his last years were years of notable decline, a man with a glorious future behind him.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.

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