Being quoted on Suez

On a more personal, certainly more trivial level, I was puzzled recently when a friend pointed out to me that D R Thorpe’s magisterial biography of Anthony Eden included a description of the Suez misadventure as "the intentional creation of a situation in which we would claim the right to intervene to stop what we had conspired to start", and attributed it to (of all people) me.  I had no complaint about being identified as the source of this (I thought) rather neat little epigram, but also no recollection whatever of having written or said it.  Correspondence with Mr Thorpe and advice from another distinguished author, Keith Kyle, revealed that Kyle had also quoted the epigram in his own book about Suez, and that he had got the quotation from a letter of mine in The Times of 1 August 1996, around the time of the 40th anniversary of Suez.  Armed with the date, I duly found the letter in my press cuttings bundle, and found that the extract quoted had been among the more moderate and restrained of my descriptions of that act of criminal folly and deceit.  I had been prompted to write to The Times in these admittedly intemperate terms by an article in that newspaper by the egregious Lord Rees-Mogg, written to mark the Suez anniversary, in which he explained that the whole thing had been due to a perfectly understandable political misjudgement by Eden, implying that it was one that anyone might easily have made at the time.  Since it seems that Rees-Mogg had been working for Eden at the time of Suez, this struck me as distinctly provocative — or what our politicians call, when offended by a piece of chutzpah on the part of their political adversaries, "a bit rich coming from the party opposite".   I hope my letter made a tiny contribution to the demolition of Mogg’s brazen attempt to re-write history.  At any rate, it’s good for morale to find oneself quoted like this in not one, but two serious works of political history.  (Incidentally, I should perhaps warn anyone trying to click on the hyperlink to my Times letter above that you’ll have to register with The Times and then pay to see the full text of the letter, a deplorable constraint on the use of the archives of what still purports to be our principal journal of record.)  And now to finish packing for tomorrow.

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