He represented the parliamentary constituency of Enfield, West, and served as a minister in the Conservative Governments of the 1950s being responsible at different times for transport and for decolonisation.
When Harold Macmillan acted to block the succession of Richard Austen Butler as his successor as party leader and prime minister, Macleod (along with Enoch Powell) refused to serve under Alec Douglas-Home.
Shortly before his death he had been appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Prime Minister Edward Heath. He left behind him an outline budget which most observers found surprisingly hard-line in its proposals for control of public spending and tax reform.
Many conservative politicians of generations following Macleod recalled him as an inspirational speaker, and John Major specifically cited his example on taking office. Many believe he would have made a good leader for the party had he lived.