Monday, January 6, 2014

This might sound familiar

I have been re-reading Harold Nicolson's Diaries and Letters and have now reached the third volume, which starts in July 1945 when he lost his parliamentary seat and returned to literary activity as well as the odd lecture here and there.

This is what his son and editor of the three volumes, Nigel Nicolson wrote:
On 25th October [1945] Harold Nicolson flew to Greece to give two lectures in Athens, one on Byron, the other on British democracy. His visit coincided with a new crisis in Greek politics. Greece had had no government since the resignation of Admiral Voulgaris earlier that month, and the Regent, Archbishop Damaskinos, was searching for a new leader to stabilize the country politically and economically. 
 On October 31 Harold Nicolson went to see the Regent.
I find the Regent sitting enormous with his back to the window. We have coffee and cigarettes. After compliments of the highest order the Regent tells me that the Royalists and the Liberals are meeting this afternoon to agree on a joint programme. I ask who would be Prime Minister in such a fusion. He says it would probably be 'a neutral'.I say it would have to be a pretty strong neutral. The Regent says the parties would be so evenly balanced that great strength would not be required. I say the economic situation is far more urgent than the political situation. He makes a helpless gesture indicating 'What would you?'.
On returning to London Nicolson spoke to Hector McNeil, who was then Parliamentary Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. This is his entry of November 6:
I go to see Hector McNeil at the Foreign Office. He is being sent out to Athens to examine the situation and to 'assist Greece in her efforts for reconstruction'. I tell him that the economic situation comes before anything else, and that to my mind no existing Greek politician or group of politicians have the guts or the repute to apply to the situation the drastic remedies which it needs. The only thing to do is to choose the best Government, and then to assist it by appointing British advisers to the Ministries of Finance and Supply.
Some things have changed. Britain, clearly, is no longer in a position to help or advise the Greeks in their choice of government but the EU has tried to do it on our behalf. The Communist party is no longer as strong as it used to be and not as heavily armed. For the following year, 1946, civil war broke out in Greece in real earnest.

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