Top Failure

John Rodgers

  • R.A. Butler: An English Life by Patrick Cosgrave
    Quartet, 167 pp, £6.95, April 1981, ISBN 0 7043 2258 7

Patrick Cosgrave presents us in this short book with a remarkable analysis of why Mr Butler was never chosen to be prime minister. When I think of Rab Butler, I recall Addison’s words: ‘’Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more, Sempronius, we’ll deserve it.’ He undoubtedly had one of the best brains in post-war government – but he was never popular. As Ian Macleod said, ‘Rab loves being a politician among academics and an academic among politicians: that is why neither breed of man likes him all that much.’ With the exception of Winston Churchill, no man in recent years has held more offices and for so long a period of time. On at least four occasions he acted as Deputy Prime Minister. For most men this would have been an amazingly successful political career – yet for him it was not.

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