Sixties hubris: a man who wrote himself into Britain's future

Kim Sengupta
Friday 20 June 1997 23:02

The Young Meteors were meant to be the best and the brightest of their generation, rising effortlessly to claim their places as Britain's leaders.

Yesterday at the High Court, Jonathan Aitken who wrote about this elite and saw himself as one of them, crashed to earth as many meteors do in the end.

Mr Aitken's The Young Meteors was published in July l967. It was seen as iconoclastic, catching the mood of the time and describing a new aristocracy who were talented and successful, but also deeply interested in hedonism.

The oldest was born in l930, the youngest in l945. Mr Aitken began with the words of the designer Mary Quant, then 33: "Middle age has been abolished by the new fashion". He ended by praising their energy, vitality, ambition and cheekiness.

He also accused them of misdirecting those qualities for "superficial fields of instant success" and of being "ambitious to be somebody, rather than something".

The group ranged from pop to politics. Among those who made it were Nigel Lawson, David Steel, then 29 ,Roy Hattersley and Peter Walker, both 35, Tony Newton, 30, Norman Lamont, 25, and Nigel Lawson, then editing the Spectator at 35.

From the world of arts there were Michael Winner and Susannah York, a 28-year-old Melvyn Bragg, Tom Courtenay and Vanessa Redgrave.

Most of them chosen by Mr Aitken went on to achieve high office and critical and commercial success.

Some were to fail. Robert Fraser, owner of art galleries, was sent to jail for drug trafficking. He died of Aids. Another one to go to prison was Gerald Ronson after his conviction at the Guinness trial.

John Stephen, " Mr Carnaby St", had 25 boutiques in London, 24 in the US, and 21 in Europe. But he lost control of his companies in the l970s.

Barbara Hulanicki went bust in l978 and Tom Hustler, Old Etonian darling of the debs and the top society photographer of the future, according to Mr Aitken, became a wedding photographer in Reading.

There were also the people Mr Aitken failed to spot. They include Margaret Thatcher.

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