‘I was a more man’

Keith Kyle on Keith Joseph

  • Keith Joseph: A Single Mind by Morrison Halcrow
    Macmillan, 205 pp, £14.95, September 1989, ISBN 0 333 49016 9

One of the ways politics has changed over the last three decades is illustrated by the fact that in 1956 there were only two Jews in the Conservative Parliamentary Party, both of them baronets – and one of them had been elected in a by-election in February of that year. He was Sir Keith Joseph, son of a Lord Mayor of London and director of the family construction firm of Bovis. It was the year of Suez and in a very gentle way he was a rebel. He did not think that Nasser should be destroyed because he might be replaced by someone worse, and he felt that any British action should be under the auspices of the United Nations. As a consequence of these views becoming known, he was taken out to lunch by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. ‘That,’ as his new biographer Morrison Halcrow puts it, ‘more or less ended his excursion into foreign affairs.’ He was, however, given one small but important duty, not mentioned in this book. He was sent round to the offices of the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review to try to persuade its editor, Jon Kimche, not to persist with the story, which he alone was publishing, of MI6’s ‘black radio’ stations which were blackguarding Nasser in Arabic as a closet pro-Zionist. But Sir Keith had less luck with the editor than the Earl of Selkirk had had with Sir Keith.

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