1960: 'wind of change' that created a storm

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ANYONE reading Harold Macmillan's 'Wind of Change' speech, must wonder what all the fuss was about, writes Richard Dowden. In the most urbane and discreet language, with many references to not interfering in South African affairs, Mr Macmillan said that the British system was based on personal merit, not on race. He made no judgement on the South African system. The word apartheid did not pass his lips.

Nor was he announcing any new policy for Africa. As he said, the wind of change was blowing throughout the continent. Britain was shedding territories and colonies. Sudan had been independent for four years, Ghana for three years, the date set for Nigerian freedom. It was clear Britain was not going to back the white settlers in Kenya against the African population.

Yet Mr Macmillan's South African hosts were outraged, intepreting the speech as a coded attack on apartheid and a prediction that one day South Africa would be a multiracial democracy. Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister, spluttered out his reply complaining that his job was hard enough without a visiting British prime minister making it any harder.