When Anthony Eden took over from Winston Churchill as Prime Minister in April 1955, his approval ratings were through the roof. He even called a general election, which boosted the Conservative majority from 17 to 60, but within less than a year his popularity had collapsed. This was largely a result of his handling of the Suez Crisis, which erupted in 1956, which in many ways marked an end to Britain’s role as one of the major world powers.
Eden had always been more interested in foreign affairs than domestic ones. During his premiership the Cold War was its peak, and for Eden, Britain’s position on the world stage often took priority over domestic or economic affairs.
When news that Nasser had nationalised the Suez Canal reached Anthony Eden, he was hosting a dinner for King Feisal of Iraq and his Prime Minister, Nuri es-Said, who unequivocally advised Eden to "hit [Nasser] hard, hit him soon, and hit him by yourself" – an opinion held by the majority of Britons.
Eden became committed to a plan of intervention and held secret discussions with French officials over a military operation to recover use of the Canal. The talks resulted in the formation of a plan by which Israel would invade Egypt and thus allow British and French forces to seize the Canal as an act of intervention between warring nations.
However, the invasion was badly performed and Britain received condemnation from the United Nations, the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth, and the United States. The loss of confidence and American backing for the already weak British economy forced Eden into calling a cease-fire.
The crisis divided British public opinion, with some arguing that the intervention was necessary, and others believing it be a poorly-judged move.
Sir Anthony Eden was forced to resign the office of Prime Minister on 9 January 1957 after doctors warned him that his health would detoriate further if he remained in office. John Charmley wrote "Ill-health ... provide(d) a dignified reason for an action (i.e.. resignation) which would, in any event, have been necessary.”
Suez Crisis of 1956
Background to the Suez Crisis of 1956
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