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Wrong leader, right result

For most of the 20th century the Tory party has chosen the wrong leader, but has nevertheless won elections. Labour, until recently, has done the reverse

By Ian Gilmour   December 1997

Edward Pearce has had the excellent idea of writing biographies of three outstanding postwar politicians who failed to become prime minister-RA Butler, Denis Healey and Iain Macleod. Nearly 20 years ago Richard Thorpe had a similar idea; his The Uncrowned Prime Ministers contains studies of Austen Chamberlain, Curzon and Butler. Pearce does it differently, but equally well.

He has always been a vivid writer, sometimes, perhaps, too colourful-but here he has his virtuosity under full control. His judgements, too, are sharp, causing heavy casualties among those politicians he dislikes. He sensibly does not produce a general thesis on why some…

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