Britain closely followed the late John F. Kennedy’s bid for the U.S. presidency after he allegedly remarked in private that the British had made a mess of foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, confidential papers released today show.
The documents, released under a 30-year secrecy rule, contain a memorandum from then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s private secretary, Philip de Zulueta, in which he reports a private conversation involving Kennedy.
He said in the memorandum that Montague Browne, private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill, reported on a party he attended the previous year in the south of France that Kennedy, then a senator, attended.
According to the memorandum, neither man knew who the other was.
“Consequently, he (Kennedy) was fairly unguarded in his conversation and remarked at one point that ‘the British have made such a mess of things in the world and especially in the Middle East that the best thing they can do is to keep out of it in the future.’ ”
The memorandum added: “Mr. Montague Browne said that this remark was made in a light vein and was probably not meant very seriously, but it may be an indication of Mr. Kennedy’s real sentiments.”
Kennedy’s father, Joseph, a former ambassador to London, was regarded as anti-British and believed a Nazi victory was imminent in 1939.
But the memorandum does not show evidence of deep anxiety in London at the prospect of a Kennedy presidency. Macmillan was later to establish a close working relationship with Kennedy.
British law allows the opening of government papers after 30 years, but government departments can, partly on grounds of security and sensitivity, withhold certain documents beyond that period. Some papers in the U.S. political section for this period have been withheld.