Eight reasons for Gordon Brown to be worried

Ipsos MORI has recently published a couple of books about Britain after Blair’s ten years. One of them recounts what happened to long-serving Prime Ministers’ previous successors:

Before Tony Blair, only seven men and one woman have previously held office as British Prime Minister for ten years or more (Robert Walpole, Henry Pelham, Lord North, William Pitt the Younger, the Earl of Liverpool, William Gladstone, the Marquess of Salisbury and Margaret Thatcher); they include some of our history’s most distinguished leaders. The worry for Gordon Brown is that their successors have been less conspicuously successful.

John Major’s premiership is a recent memory, and Brown would certainly not want to take him as a role model. Of the other seven, after assuming power Canning was dead within the year and Wilmington after not much longer, whilst Rockingham and Grenville left office alive but in just as short order. Rosebery is best remembered, if at all, for being the winning owner in the Derby both times it was run while he was at Number Ten. Balfour is known not for any achievements in office but for the apparent nepotism that helped his early career, which supposedly gave rise to the phrase “Bob’s your uncle”. The Duke of Newcastle’s most conspicuous ability was in the efficient diverting of government money to help him win elections, acceptable by the standards of the day but no comfortable precedent for a modern Prime Minister.

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One Comment

  • It’s not just the case that long-serving Prime Ministers have historically been replaced in office by people who have been less successful: Harold Wilson was succeeded by Jim ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ Callaghan (OK, I know he didn’t say it in so many words); Harold Macmillan by Sir Alec Douglas Home; Churchill by Eden. Outside of wartime the historical precedents are not good for Brown, but there is no iron law at work here, and maybe none of the others have wanted the job as much as Brown and had his almost fanatical degree of political focus.

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