This is the first biography of Stanley Baldwin for more than 10 years, although there had been four in the preceding decade. This is strange, for Baldwin has recently begun to swim back into fashion. In part this is a function of growing nostalgia for his period of power, the 1920s and 1930s. Still more, however, it is because Mrs Thatcher's brand of Conservative leadership has made him an object of contrasting interest in a way that Harold Macmillan's or Edward Heath's never did.
When a new exponent of an alternative style temporarily achieves notice, it is now frequently suggested that he might be a new Baldwin. This reappraisal is therefore appropriately timed. It is written by a skilled political biographer, from a non-Conservative, although not personally unsympathetic, standpoint.
Baldwin was born in 1867, the son of a rich Worcestershire ironmaster, and educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He then worked in the family business for 20 years. Although the most self-conscious countryman amongst British Prime Ministers of the past 100 years or more, he was not a country squire and never owned more than a few acres of land. He did not enter the House of Commons until he was 40, and was not even a junior minister until the threshold of 50. Less than six years later, in 1923, he became prime minister and dominated British politics for the next 15 years - the only man of this century to hold the highest office three times.
Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, Roy Jenkins (1920- 2003) served in several major posts in Harold Wilson's first government and as home secretary from 1965-1967. In 1987, Jenkins was elected to succeed Harold Macmillan as chancellor of the University of Oxford, following the latter's death, a position he held until his death. Jenkins grew to political maturity during the twilight of a great age of British parliamentary democracy. As much as Churchill, though in quite a different way, Jenkins has been from the cradle a creature of the system that nurtured Palmerston and Disraeli, Gladstone, Asquith, and Lloyd George.
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