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Worst British Prime Minister?

For discussion and debate about anything. (Not a roleplay related forum; out-of-character commentary only.)

Who was the United Kingdom's worst Prime Minister?

Anthony Eden
5
9%
Alec Douglas-Home
0
No votes
Neville Chamberlain
23
40%
John Major
1
2%
Ramsey McDonald
3
5%
Lord North
3
5%
The Duke of Portland
1
2%
The Duke of Wellington [as PM, not general]
1
2%
The Earl of Rosebery
2
4%
Other (please explain)
18
32%
 
Total votes : 57

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The Archregimancy
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Worst British Prime Minister?

Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:42 am

Even though the recent 'best British Prime Minister' thread didn't go on for that many pages (clearly here in the UK we're not as obsessed at ranking our heads of government as our American cousins), I thought it might be worth trying a 'worst Prime Minister' thread.

I've intentionally left Blair and Brown off the poll, not as a comment on their policies, but only because I find including a sitting leader and his immediate predecessor tends to warp these things. I've also excluded Thatcher; while she's a deeply polarising figure, and one I personally have serious misgivings about, there can be little doubt that she was a consequential figure who achieved success in implementing her ideological vision. On that basis she has some claim to success, though I imagine that some will be able to argue that she was simultaneously one of the most successful and one of the worst Prime Ministers of the 20th century. But I felt there were far better candidates for being the 'worst' Prime Minister.

The bias towards the 20th century is also more or less intentional; for better or for worse, they tend to be the Prime Ministers we know best. The role has also evolved over the centuries to the extent that Henry Pelham, say, isn't really comparable to John Major.

So, erudite cosmopolitans of NSG - and the rest of you - who was the United Kingdom's worst Prime Minister, and why?
Last edited by The Archregimancy on Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Burchadinger
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Postby Burchadinger » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:45 am

Stanley Baldwin. So much for all of his terms
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West Failure
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Postby West Failure » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:48 am

Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain were both pretty bad. I suspect earlier ones might be worse but my knowledge gets a little sketchy...
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Daemonicai
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Postby Daemonicai » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:50 am

Gordon Brown, obviously.
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The imperian empire
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Postby The imperian empire » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:52 am

As much as I really do not like him (Hell he shouldn't even be in power, election please? I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.) Appeasement was worse in my opinion. So Chamberlain gets my vote.

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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:05 am

West Failure wrote:Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain were both pretty bad. I suspect earlier ones might be worse but my knowledge gets a little sketchy...


I have some sympathy for poor Chamberlain. Yes, he was terribly wrong about appeasement, but how many who had lived through the terrible carnage of the First World War would have wanted him to do differently? Churchill, while right, was considered an irresponsible warmonger almost to the moment the Second World War broke out. Churchill's eulogy of Chamberlain in the House of Commons is telling:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart—the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.


Churchill seems to have held Chamberlain in the highest regard, and in those terrible dark days of May 1940, when the War Cabinet seemed to be close to agreeing to Lord Halifax's view that peace feelers should be sent to Berlin, it was Chamberlain's unstinting backing of Churchill that allowed the latter to carry the day against those that wanted to capitulate [having just checked his wiki entry after writing the rest of the post, I have to disagree with wikipedia here; my interpretation of the most recent scholarship is that Chamberlain backed Churchill far more strongly on this point than wikipedia suggests].

Britain also simply wasn't ready for war in 1937 or 1938; we had neither the military nor the infrastructure, so while Chamberlain may have delayed the outbreak of war for the wrong reasons, it did have at least one positive impact in giving us more time to prepare our military for the war.

And Chamberlain's domestic policies were surprising radical for a Conservative Prime Minister of the early 20th century, perhaps because of his role as Birmingham's mayor during WWI. Those domestic policies tend to be obscured by his foreign policies.

So yes, Chamberlain made one undeniably massive mistake, which had near-catastrophic results. But there are, to my mind, many mitigating circumstances, and if we didn't have the benefit of hindsight, how many of us, placed in his shoes, would have done differently?

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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:09 am

The imperian empire wrote:I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.


What, like Churchill from 1940 to 1945, Chamberlain from 1937 to 1940, Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1964, or James Callaghan from 1976 to 1979?

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Postby Krypton-Zod » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:13 am

Daemonicai wrote:Gordon Brown, obviously.


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Tagmatium
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Postby Tagmatium » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:16 am

Chamberlain gets my support. I think the man is much maligned by modern popular history. He didn't want a war, so tried to stop it. Chamberlain also did a fair bit to set us on a war footing before war broke out. Churchill is highly regarded these days, but the man was a pretty big shit-bag.
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West Failure
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Postby West Failure » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:25 am

The Archregimancy wrote:
West Failure wrote:Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain were both pretty bad. I suspect earlier ones might be worse but my knowledge gets a little sketchy...


I have some sympathy for poor Chamberlain. Yes, he was terribly wrong about appeasement, but how many who had lived through the terrible carnage of the First World War would have wanted him to do differently?


I suppose hindsight is a wonderful thing - it is difficult for me at this point in history to look back and imagine seeing Hitler as anything other than what I know he became. However, surely there must have been clues obvious to anyone that Hitler was a wrong'un?
Last edited by West Failure on Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Folder Land wrote:But why do religious conservatives have more power in the States but not so much power in the UK that still has a state church?

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Bears Armed
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Postby Bears Armed » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:35 am

If I remember my history lessons correctly then Spencer Perceval didn't exactly cover himself in glory during his short (and, for the only time in British history, cut short by assassination...) tenure of the job.
As for Chamberlain, and Britain not having been ready for war in 1937 or '38, as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Baldwin he'd played a significant part in the policies that caused that unpreparedness.
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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:43 am

West Failure wrote:
The Archregimancy wrote:
I have some sympathy for poor Chamberlain. Yes, he was terribly wrong about appeasement, but how many who had lived through the terrible carnage of the First World War would have wanted him to do differently?


I suppose hindsight is a wonderful thing - it is difficult for me at this point in history to look back and imagine seeing Hitler as anything other than what I know he became. However, surely there must have been clues obvious to anyone that Hitler was a wrong'un?


Yes, there were, but they were clues that many, many people other than Chamberlain either ignored or thought could be managed. It's not often I find myself agreeing with Vladimir Putin, but as he pointed out in Poland recently when condemning the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union was hardly the only power that signed some sort of non-aggression pact with the Nazis - though I think we can assume that Stalin's motivation didn't necessarily coincide with that of Chamberlain and Daladier.

It is worth noting that Daladier's reaction to the Munich agreement wasn't necessarily that of Chamberlain. Daladier was less convinced that the Sudentenland would be the final demand from Hitler:

Today it is the turn of Czechoslovakia. Tomorrow it will be the turn of Poland and Romania. When Germany has obtained the oil and wheat it needs, she will turn on the West. Certainly we must multiply our efforts to avoid war. But that will not be obtained unless Great Britain and France stick together, intervening in Prague for new concessions but declaring at the same time that they will safeguard the independence of Czechoslovakia. If, on the contrary, the Western Powers capitulate again they will only precipitate the war they wish to avoid.


On returning to Paris and being greeted by cheering crowds, instead of the hostile crowds he had expected, Daladier's response was "Ah, les cons."


But again, if you had seen the carnage of the First World War, and wanted to do as much as possible to avoid a repeat; if you knew that Britain's military wasn't ready for confrontation with Germany yet.... How much would you have done differently? So yes, Chamberlain was wrong, but he was wrong in an understandable way; he was wrong in a way that was broadly shared; he was wrong out of the best of possible intentions. He was wrong all the same, and badly wrong at that, but he wasn't wrong int he 'let's illegally invade Iraq in defiance of almost all international opinion and impose our own ideological worldview' sense of being wrong.

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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:52 am

Bears Armed wrote:If I remember my history lessons correctly then Spencer Perceval didn't exactly cover himself in glory during his short (and, for the only time in British history, cut short by assassination...) tenure of the job.


Oh, I don't know... I think Perceval did a competent job of steering a minority administration through a turbulent period (which included George III's descent into madness and the Napoleonic Wars), despite being opposed by most of the senior political figures of the day. Certainly he did a more than capable job of - in hindsight correctly - keeping the Peninsular War going against some heavyweight opposition during the latter campaign's most difficult period for the British and Portuguese.

I think his main offences were A) getting assassinated and B) being a bit worthy and dull. Neither are terrible stains on his premiership, though the first certainly was a unique point of failure.

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The imperian empire
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Postby The imperian empire » Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:59 am

The Archregimancy wrote:
The imperian empire wrote:I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.


What, like Churchill from 1940 to 1945, Chamberlain from 1937 to 1940, Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1964, or James Callaghan from 1976 to 1979?


Well, when there is a war on some things can't be helped and Churchill wasn't exactly unpopular either, but yes, generally I do not like idea at all of someone being in power who is not put there by popular vote.
Last edited by The imperian empire on Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Pure Metal » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:12 am

Margaret Thatcher.
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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:12 am

The imperian empire wrote:
The Archregimancy wrote:
The imperian empire wrote:I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.


What, like Churchill from 1940 to 1945, Chamberlain from 1937 to 1940, Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1964, or James Callaghan from 1976 to 1979?


Well, when there is a war on some things can't be helped and Churchill wasn't exactly unpopular either, but yes, generally I do not like idea at all of someone being in power who is not put there by popular vote.


If Churchill was so popular, why did he lose the 1945 election by such a massive margin?

Do you generally agree with democracies suspending the electoral process during wartime?

And would you therefore argue that our American cousins should have suspended Abraham Lincoln's second election and Roosevelt's fourth election?

And I take it you disagree with the Westminster political theory that we vote for parties, not Prime Ministers, and that the mandate to govern belongs to the party, not its leader?
Last edited by The Archregimancy on Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unchecked Expansion
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Postby Unchecked Expansion » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:14 am

The imperian empire wrote:(Hell he shouldn't even be in power, election please? I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.)

We vote on the party, not the man. Labour Party are in, their leader resigned, they are allowed to appoint a new leader. Thats how it works here.

For my vote? Thatcher. Made a real mess of the miner situation

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Tagmatium
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Postby Tagmatium » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:14 am

The Archregimancy wrote:If Churchill was so popular, why did he lose the 1945 election by such a massive margin?

We've won the war, now win the peace?
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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:16 am

Tagmatium wrote:
The Archregimancy wrote:If Churchill was so popular, why did he lose the 1945 election by such a massive margin?

We've won the war, now win the peace?


Shhhhh; it's a rhetorical question posed to the confused.

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Cabra West
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Postby Cabra West » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:19 am

Pure Metal wrote:Margaret Thatcher.


From where I'm standing, I would have to agree. I think her actions are the ones with the most negative impact to this day.
What her era might be regarded like in, say 100 years, is difficult to say, but I somehow doubt history will be kind, to be honest.
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Tagmatium
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Postby Tagmatium » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:28 am

The Archregimancy wrote:
Tagmatium wrote:
The Archregimancy wrote:If Churchill was so popular, why did he lose the 1945 election by such a massive margin?

We've won the war, now win the peace?


Shhhhh; it's a rhetorical question posed to the confused.

I know, but it's still a damned nice campaigning slogan.
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Postby McPsychoville » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:29 am

Honestly, I can't comment on anybody but Major, Blair and Brown and, even taking into account the fact I was young when Labour came into power, the Blair/Brown two-headed monster has fucked this country over like never before. Kowtowing to America at every turn and the idiocy that the 1998 Human Rights Act is simply appalling work on their part.
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Polythinia
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Postby Polythinia » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:31 am

Daemonicai wrote:Gordon Brown, obviously.

I agree. The Anglo-Saxon economic model has clearly failed.

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The imperian empire
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Postby The imperian empire » Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:55 am

The Archregimancy wrote:
The imperian empire wrote:
The Archregimancy wrote:
The imperian empire wrote:I find it disgusting that a man who wasn't voted in remains in power.


What, like Churchill from 1940 to 1945, Chamberlain from 1937 to 1940, Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1964, or James Callaghan from 1976 to 1979?


Well, when there is a war on some things can't be helped and Churchill wasn't exactly unpopular either, but yes, generally I do not like idea at all of someone being in power who is not put there by popular vote.


If Churchill was so popular, why did he lose the 1945 election by such a massive margin?

Do you generally agree with democracies suspending the electoral process during wartime?

And would you therefore argue that our American cousins should have suspended Abraham Lincoln's second election and Roosevelt's fourth election?

And I take it you disagree with the Westminster political theory that we vote for parties, not Prime Ministers, and that the mandate to govern belongs to the party, not its leader?


Churchill was a fantastic war time leader in terms of fighting the war. However he neglected the home front and I believe this is why he lost the election when it looked like the war was won. As far as I am aware he headed a coalition government during the war, so no sole party was in charge. Seems pretty democratic to me.

Whilst I believe that democracy in this country should be maintained as long as the situation allows, I also accept that sometimes that this may need to alter.

Admittedly I do not know much about American politics apart from Racial/Civil rights. So I try not to have an opinion, I thought presidents can only stand for 2 terms and Roosevelt (who served an extended term because of the war) was replaced by Truman because he died. If your statement was the case, then I'd say that the situation in America was very different from ours and in that case they didn't need to suspend democracy.

As much as I dislike the fact Labour are still in power, they did win the election and the party should be there, I don't think Gordon Brown should have been allowed to have been unopposed, even though Gordon Brown was the only candidate their still should have been a yay or nay vote.

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The Archregimancy
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Postby The Archregimancy » Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:31 am

The imperian empire wrote:Churchill was a fantastic war time leader in terms of fighting the war. However he neglected the home front and I believe this is why he lost the election when it looked like the war was won. As far as I am aware he headed a coalition government during the war, so no sole party was in charge. Seems pretty democratic to me.

Whilst I believe that democracy in this country should be maintained as long as the situation allows, I also accept that sometimes that this may need to alter.

Admittedly I do not know much about American politics apart from Racial/Civil rights. So I try not to have an opinion, I thought presidents can only stand for 2 terms and Roosevelt (who served an extended term because of the war) was replaced by Truman because he died. If your statement was the case, then I'd say that the situation in America was very different from ours and in that case they didn't need to suspend democracy.

As much as I dislike the fact Labour are still in power, they did win the election and the party should be there, I don't think Gordon Brown should have been allowed to have been unopposed, even though Gordon Brown was the only candidate their still should have been a yay or nay vote.



Roosevelt's term wasn't extended because of the war. The two term limit on American presidents was only passed during Truman's presidency, and only became effective with Eisenhower. Prior to Eisenhower, US presidents could serve indefinitely provided they could win elections; the two term limit up to that point was a convention based on the precedent set by Washington, not a constitutional requirement.

In terms of Churchill, in what sense is a cross-party coalition involving all three major parties 'democratic' when one of those parties holds an overwhelming majority in the Commons? In the last pre-war election, the Conservatives had won 387 seats, Labour 154, and Liberals (including National Liberals) 54.
Surely including the Labour and Liberal rumps ran counter to the democratically expressed will of the people?

Are you aware that the 'home front' was run by Labour Party leader Clement Attlee from 1943 to 1945, in his capacity as Lord President of the Council? If Churchill's government so badly neglected the home front, as you argue, why should the person who was responsible for that home front immediately prior to the 1945 election benefit so much from that election?

Do you consider all Conservative Prime Ministers up to and including Alec Douglas-Home to be illegitimate because they were chosen without an election process?

And do you hold that Gerald Ford's presidency was illegitimate as he was never elected vice-president or president?

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