In defence of Douglas-Home

Ian Aitken ("Fated always to come second?", 11 June) considers Sir Alec Douglas-Home a "ludicrous" figure, picked as Tory leader in 1963 by a magic circle of party grandees headed by Lord Salisbury.

In fact, Douglas-Home was one of the most effective postwar foreign secretaries, before and after his spell as prime minister; and, as I demonstrate in my biography of him, his emergence as Tory leader was, contrary to popular myth, only after extensive polling of the party, in Westminster and the country. Home won a higher percentage (and overall) total of the popular vote in October 1964 than Tony Blair in either of his landslide victories. Lord Salisbury's role as kingmaker came in the 1957 leadership contest, not that of 1963.

D T Thorpe
Oxford

This article first appeared in the 18 June 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Meet the people who make Tony Blair sweat