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13 November 1984: A dose of One Nation Toryism


House of Lords

At the age of 90, Harold Macmillan, who had stayed out of political life for 20 years and had declined to take up a seat in the Lords because the chamber was "not worth belonging to", changed his mind and made an extraordinary maiden speech as the Earl of Stockton.

Convention dictates that a first appearance in the Lords should not touch on overly controversial matters, but the former prime minister openly criticised his successors at the helm of the Conservative Party.

The Earl, who had fought in the trenches in World War I, believed strongly in One Nation Conservatism, a vision of national unity associated with the left wing of the Tory party.

He described his dismay at the seemingly interminable confrontation between the government and the miners, who he hails as "the best men in the world".

This was an emotional conclusion to a speech that had been analytical, anecdotal, and brilliantly entertaining - perhaps explaining the degree of forbearance accorded the Earl as he flouted convention in the upper House.

He went on to become something of a thorn in the side of the Thatcher government, later comparing its policy of privatising public services to "selling the family silver".

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