In February 1969, the New Statesman was the nearly subject of an embarrassing incident in Anglo-American relations. Expecting a Democratic victory for Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in the US presidential election of November 1968, Harold Wilson had appointed the former Labour MP and New Statesman editor John Freeman as the new British ambassador in Washington, DC. During his editorship from 1961 to 1965, Freeman and his paper had been brutally critical of Nixon, once describing him as a man of “no principle whatsoever except a willingness to sacrifice everything in the cause of Dick Nixon”.

As the newly elected president headed to London for a summit with Wilson – to discuss the future of Nato, the cold war and Vietnam – the prime minister’s choice of ambassador now looked as though it might backfire. Freeman’s previous condemnation of Nixon was well known to the president’s battle-hardened entourage, particularly his chief of staff, H R Haldeman, and the White House counsel, John Ehrlichman. Known collectively as the “Berlin Wall”, because of their German-sounding names and the fortress they built around the Oval Office, these two uncompromising loyalists had been with Nixon for more than a decade. They wore the scars of a succession of brutal campaigns in which critics and enemies had often been steamrolled by the Nixon machine. They would play leading roles in the Watergate saga. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog