In any list of the-best-prime-ministers-we never-had, the name of Roy Jenkins is likely to be prominent. He was intelligent, moderate, courteous, thoughtful: he was exactly the sort of man whom any civil servant would wish to see installed in No.10. That, no doubt, is why he never got there.
John Campbell makes no bones about the fact that he is a fan of Jenkins. He was, writes Campbell, ‘the first public figure I was aware of and always the one I most admired’. Campbell is far too sensible a man and good a biographer, however, to allow his book to degenerate into a paean of praise. Jenkins’s frailties are unsparingly exposed, his occasional failures recorded, his more extravagant pretensions ridiculed. The fact that, at the end of this long and thoughtful book, one ends up admiring and liking Jenkins more rather than less is a tribute to Campbell’s skills as a biographer but even more to Jenkins’s own personality and achievements.