The Forgotten Statesman who Shaped Modern Britain. Review

The book is a tremendously good read – I have found it a page turner.

September 2020, The Pelican, Northumberland

Who links Imperial College London, London University itself, the universities of Dublin, Queen’s Belfast, Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Reading, Bristol, Edinburgh and St. Andrews; the Territorial Army, the British Expeditionary Force, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force; together with an exhaustive and necessary reformation of education in general and was a key promoter of the Workers’ Education Association? Who reshaped the Canadian Constitution and played a vital role in shaping the way government works in Britain? Who was able to outdo Winston Churchill at repartee? Who was friends with J.M. Barrie, Oscar Wilde and Albert Einstein? And that is not an exhaustive list; it could continue into fields of philosophy and acts of kindness, as well as literature and the arts and the promotion of human rights and equality, including women’s suffrage.

The answer is Richard Burdon Haldane, a Scot with a Newcastle mother, half a Newcastle man, as he used to say, someone who, as a lawyer, an MP and later a member of the House of Lords, was a person who played as big a part as anyone in the political life of this country from the late 19th century to the 1920s. We remember the prime ministers and some other names, but without him their governments would scarcely have functioned. Yet who knows of him nowadays, though his work still affects our lives?

A superb biography of Haldane has been written and just published by John Campbell. Some readers will know him. His parents, Wilson and Pearl Campbell came to Warkworth in 1965, and the family still own the house and are frequent visitors.

The book is a tremendously good read – I have found it a page turner. Just look at the index and see the list of people whom Haldane touched, but remember that he assisted many more, not rich, nor grandees, but the “ordinary” people who are the backbone of the country. Do get it. Buy it from Amazon or ask the library to stock it. You will learn history of great importance, and understand our present situation much better. Look, too, on, for more about the book, including reviews. Haldane has needed resurrecting.

Oh, the Churchill story (he was a cabinet colleague of Haldane). Meeting in the Lobby, Churchill patted Haldane’s large stomach. “What’s in there, Haldane”? He asked. Haldane replied “If it is a boy, I’ll call him John, if a girl, Mary. If it is wind, I’ll call it Winston”.