by Gary J
Thu Dec 7th, 2006 at 05:07:59 AM EST
from the diaries. Jérôme
A comment on DKos that Tony Blair was the worst Prime Minister ever got me thinking.
It is a commonplace, at least at DKos that George W. Bush is the worst US President ever. Thinking about why leads me to conclude that there are two dimensions of worstness - bad policy (like Iraq) and incompetent execution of policy (again Iraq, but perhaps Hurricane Katrina is the better example).
Looking at bad British Prime Ministers I see some as weak figures, being led by a more determined person (the monarch, a theoretical subordinate member of the cabinet or George W. Bush) into bad policy and then feeling compelled to support it. Others were simply incompetent to hold the job of Prime Minister. Still others (Neville Chamberlain in particular) were strong willed and pursued their own policy, which proved to be mistaken.
The one British Prime Minister I would most compare with George W. Bush is not Tony Blair but Sir Anthony Eden.
Who do you think was the worst Prime Minister ever?
I have copied my post on DKos after the fold.
We do not usually talk about this, being less given to rate our Prime Ministers than Americans are to grade Presidents. I wondered which other PMs might be in the running.
Some of the eighteenth century Premiers were pretty ineffective, but the likes of the Earl of Wilmington and the Duke of Devonshire were working in a quite different institutional framework from that of the modern era.
The Earl of Bute (PM 1762-63) was a royal favourite, over-promoted to be Prime Minister. More a tool of tyranny than a tyrant.
Lord North (PM 1770-82). There are some parallels to Blair. As Prime Minister during the American revolution he let the King push him into a more aggressive policy than he would have adopted if he had had a free hand. He loyally implemented and took responsibility for what proved to be a disastrous policy. He could not change the policy or even persuade the King to let him resign.
Possibly the Earl of Liverpool (PM 1812-27), deserves to be on the list for presiding over the repression of the early years of his long Premiership. This was the age when Home Secretary Sidmouth was presiding over something not far short of a police state with spies, informers and coercive legislation the order of the day. It was also the age of the Peterloo Massacre, when yeomanry (militia cavalry) attacked a peaceful reform demonstration.
The Earl of Rosebery (PM 1894-95) led a notably dysfunctional Liberal government, after Gladstone retired. The last Prime Minister chosen by a monarch without consulting the leading figures of the party in power.
The only twentieth century Premier I would include is Sir Anthony Eden (PM 1955-57) for Suez. That was an imperialist adventure which Eden initiated in collusion with the French and the Israelis and promoted with deceit including lying to the House of Commons about why we were going to war.
My conclusion is that Eden was the worst Prime Minister ever because he initiated an evil policy, as well as being a weak, hysterical national leader. He did not just implement the evil policy originated by others. However Toiny Blair does run him close.