Thursday, 2 January 2014

Margaret Thatcher greatest postwar Prime Minister

Iron lady Margaret Thatcher has been voted the most successful post-war British Prime Minister by lawmakers in a survey of MPs. Thatcher (average score of 7.4) emerged as the most successful premier, narrowly beating the former Labour prime minister Clement Attlee (7.3).
Another former Labour prime minister, Tony Blair (6.8), came third ahead of the Conservative Winston Churchill (6.5). Gordon Brown (3.3) came last.

Apart from the satisfaction of seeing Thatcher top and Brown last, not really much to report. Except that 3rd place {Blair}  and 4th place {Churchill} both seem to be placed too high.
Blair's achievements will forever be overshadowed by his wars. And Churchill's peacetime premiership was notable mainly for trying to keep an Empire and Churchill's very seriousness illness.

The 2010 poll of 'leading academics' had Attlee first and Thatcher second. Its pretty much universally agreed that those two top any poll of greatest post-war prime ministers. They both changed the nation and future generations.
 Which is why Blair being anywhere near the top is a surprise. He's third in the 2010 poll also. What was his legacy? Peace in Northern Ireland he likes to say. Which was a major achievement. That alone must make him top 5 of the 12 post war PMs {not including Cameron}.
  But in 13 years what else did Labour achieve? What were the big, nation defining, policies? 

Minimum wage set so low it was barely above the standard wage?
Open borders?
The Dome ?
The M4 buss lane?
Hunting with dogs?
Tuition fees?

Powerful stuff for a Parish Council maybe. Not much of a record for a government.

1. Winston Churchill
2. Clement Attlee
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. Harold Macmillan
5. Harold Wilson
6. Tony Blair
7. Edward Heath
8. John Major
9. James Callaghan
10. Alec Douglas-Home
11. Anthony Eden

12. Gordon Brown

Which shows many of the 27,000 voters didn't read POST WAR in the title. And shows Brown's terrible unpopularity 2 years out from an election that exists still in today's poll. Historically he couldn't have been worse than Eden.

More likely Tony Blair is so high in the new poll for partisan reasons but also because the other runners, with the exception of Harold Macmillan, are no better and often much worse.
 They do make Blair more appealing.

 Heath. Wilson. Major. Douglas-Home.Callaghan. Eden. Brown.
We have not been overly blessed with great leaders have we?


dearieme said...

"Except that 3rd place {Blair} and 4th place {Churchill} both seem to be placed too high."

I'd put Blair at the bottom, with Eden. Then again, I'd put that pair of poltroons Heath and Wilson below Major, Callaghan and Alec Home.

Broon is the most interesting one, in the sense of being a fit subject for a Shakespearian tragedy. An able young man, soured by losing the post he was entitled to - entitled, I tell you - as Leader of his party; and denied it by a man who was in so many ways his inferior - the intellectually slight, heroically ignorant, grinning jackanapes, Blair. As the acid eats into Brown's soul, his merits begin to dissolve … anyway, as I say, worthy of Will.

dearieme said...

I agree with Mrs Thatcher top and Major Attlee a good second, miles ahead of the pack.

JamesS said...

I always felt that Brown wasn't a bad PM. The mistakes he made as Chancellor will live with us a long time, but he made some right decisions when he was in the top job. Lloyds shareholders would disagree, but he did a fine bit of negotiating the HBOS debacle.

Nick Drew said...

all those poll results are fairly explicable (indeed, you explained them !)

Eden and Macmillan are extraordinary stories, and Major's 1992 victory is pretty amazing

to me, Wilson is the mysterious one: the biggest waste of talent? still to be fully evaluated ?

BTW, I am sorry to say this but I'm not at all sure peace in N.Ireland is a given: if the Irish 'recovery' is an illusion there are some nasty tendencies still simmering away

Ryan said...

I would put Atlee probably top since he achieved so much radical change in so little time. A lot went wrong, but largely because he entrusted key issues to people like Bevan who then got them wrong.

Thatcher is a close second. Also achieved radical change but got some things wrong on her own account.

Churchill, just because he never really put a foot wrong post-war, even if his premiership was dull, then Macmillan for the same reason.

Then frankly the rest don't really deserve to be in the same list. They were all pretty bad!

I have always felt that Major was hard done by. Strangely he had much the same challenges as Blair but handled all of them better, despite having a tiny majority chipped away at by the MSM. However, I can't forgive him for signing Maastricht. It was a terrible mistake and there was no need for him to do it. He could have said: "Sorry not signing this. Prove to us you can pull of this US of Europe concept and maybe we'll submit later".

Sunny Jim Callaghan was a nice guy but he let bat-shit crazy Healey run the economy and the economy was the big story at the time. Healey really was barmy. I remember him on the TV and you would think "That guy is completely mad".

Blair was really abysmal. Personally corrupt to a level that has tarnished British politics so severely that government and democracy has lost much of its moral authority. That's before you get into the detail of policy.

Brown was the author of his own misfortune and thoroughly deserves to be at the bottom. I agree it makes a good Shakespearean tragedy, but I see it in terms of a man consumed by his own raw ambition buying votes with taxpayers money to keep Labour in power long enough so that he could have his chance at being PM and then having his plans all come undone as soon as he came to office by the damage he did to the economy. His hands were so tied by the economic mess he created he could do nothing to improve his legacy.

andrew said...

Blair scores well because he won elections.

Once you start thinking about his achievements, it all starts to go wrong.

I would not go as far as personally corrupt, I doubt he will ever be caught in a straight lie.

But he clearly did not tell the truth.
When decisions were made that meant this nations hands are covered in the blood of 10s of thousands of innocent Iraqis, a couple of hundred of our own, and cost many billions for a cause that is not in our direct national interest, we deserved to be treated like adults and told the truth, not manipulated.
Who knows, as a nation we might have agreed with him, but he did not trust us then and now we will never know.

DJK said...

Blair is the politician's politician --- that's why he was so high in the poll. His achievement in the eyes of the lawmakers was winning three big majorities.

As for the NI peace talks, we learn today that they were going on under Thatcher, at the time of the Brighton Bomb. Remember too that John Major said it would turn his stomach to talk to the IRA, only to have to admit shortly after that that was what his government was doing. Blair just happened to be there when the war petered out and the talking could really start.

Demetrius said...

I posted once in praise of Douglas-Home whose time was too short to judge, took over a shambles and got close to winning in 1964 coming from way behind. Forget the vicious BBC and left wing media treatment he was a tough and sharp cookie. He would not have made the blunders that Wilson did. With luck and more time he could have been comparable to his ancestor the 2nd Earl Grey.

Ossian said...

Thatcher or Merkel?

In a world where consensus is required, Thatcher falls well short. Tribal, short-sighted and not particularly able. Her major war was not the Falklands ( a mismatch if ever there was) but the war she waged against a section of her own country.

Was she necessary and a woman of the times? Yes and I say that as someone who lived in the coal mining areas at the time.

It is rather unsettling to have your every car journey logged and frequent stops "to help the police". Not something you ever saw in the southern blue heartlands.

She appears to be in the mould of the feared Governess that a few will have experienced.

World statesman? Nah

Bill Quango MP said...

dearieme: Blair below Eden? Suez better than Iraq? Well...maybe. But Suez was even more duplicitous than Iraq. And was a total, humiliating failure. Instead of a partial humiliating failure.

JamesS - Brown was only saved from being overthrown by his own party by the global crash that he bore some measure of responsibility for.
he was a dismal Prime Minister. Laughable! All reverence for the office went out the window within 6 months and he was a national joke. Like John Major before him he lost the media and suffered endless ridicule.

ND- For N.Ireland he did as have the persistence to keep banging heads until 'something' was agreed. Major does deserve credit too, but for populist Tony, NI did require time and effort and commitment. Not traits he was well known for having.
Wilson - yes agree. Still a bit of an enigma.
Brilliant politician, mediocre leader. A man beset by problems beyond his control or a man who created problems beyond his ability to control?

Bill Quango MP said...

Ryan - Could be, Attlee. His ministry doing much in austerity. As did Thatcher's.

Agree about Blair. Inadvertently his New labor further damaged the public's trust, that was already eroded. Lie upon lie and spun as the truth. And they came to believe their own lies.
Which is how today we came to have the best health service, education and transport systems and the lowest crime in the entire world.

We did post a while back about how the Blair government could not convince its own citizens to take a free medical MMR jab to protect their children from disease.
it was the total lack of trust in the words of the elected that caused that debacle. Not all Blair's fault. but his spinning ministry did untold harm.

Andrew. i think the cash for questions was very damaging. Labour sold public honours, that they had promised to abolish, for cash to fund their own party.

Today its unproven and mostly forgotten. Quite how the Tories let them get off with that is a mystery...unless...they too...are know..

Bill Quango MP said...

DJk. yes, Blair was like Boris with the Olympics. it all came good on his watch.
But Blair did do more than that. he really did take a lot of time with NI.

Demetrius - i'm afraid my knowledge of ADH is little better than a wiki page. He was not popular in the country. and as you say a very brief tenure. 1 year.

Ossian - we are not going to agree on much here. The mismatch in the Falklands was the overwhelming superiority in number of the Argentine airforce and their larger number of troops and weapons on the ground.
The Falklands was almost a miracle of warfare. Britain should have lost. Any naval warfare expert would tell you.
And as for a world leader, she was THE world leader after Regan.
Marmite leader to be sure, but global beyond a doubt.

Today with the archieves there has been miner's telling stories of how they know there were soldiers dressed as police on the picket lines.

I would ask .. why? WhY would the government do that? What would be the gain for them? Especially if it was discovered then the negative CONSEQUENCES COULD BE DISASTROUS..
So on a balance what would the government have gained except some extra numbers of personnel that it didn't need?
Does sound like a myth to me. Especially as any story is anecdotal.

Any thoughts? I think the story is on the BBC pages.

Nick Drew said...

@ Miners strike

Kev will probably tell us about troops disguised as coppers which is an oft-repeated assertion

in a rather different context, during the Protestant workers strike of 1974, troops from all over the Army were mobilised, and not just to reinforce the garrison: they were needed for running things and keeping power stations going etc

and I can tell you it didn't go at all well ! - soldiers can't run power stations, as the generals knew perfectly well, but the politicians gave the orders and there you go

dearieme said...

"Blair below Eden?" Yes; Eden had to decide what to do about Nasser's stealing the canal. It might have been wisest to do nothing whatsoever; it was certainly folly to do what he did; but a decision was necessary. Whereas Blair just liked wars - the war on Iraq involved no necessary decision, unless it was that Saudis committed 9/11. and one Arab is much like another, so lets attack Iraq. That, according to one count, was just one of Blair's five wars of choice. Even the lamentable Brown didn't choose to fight one needless war, never mind five.

K said...

Troops dressed as coppers makes zero sense. Coppers dressed as civilians is more likely, whether it be for false flag or snatch squads.

All I can see on the BBC site is reference to troops moving coal.

If you've ever actually been in the vicinity of a major incident you'll know that gossip travels quick and lots of false rumours spread. Especially since you're cut off from the news/radio and everyone else is feeding you their own stories while worried relatives text you worst case scenarios. This is also how a lot of conspiracy theories start.

"Eye witness", "on the scene", reports are often more misleading than the filtered media narrative.

DJK said...

G. Brown is an interesting character and deserves a better press than he gets. Misguided, yes; unlucky, certainly. But a man with great intelligence and personal integrity. His speech on Mandela shows what we've lost. Give me Brown over Cameron any day.

Ryan said...

I have two former Royal Marines in my family who are policemen. So in that sense they are "soldiers dressed as policemen" .... because they are real policemen!

How could you possibly know if they were real soldiers unless they took out a rifle and started shooting? And why does it matter (unless they started shooting).

It seems to fit in with the miner's narrative that they were in some kind of civil war, workers vs. employers. Pillocks.

@Dearieme: I think that whilst I have some sympathy with Eden because I think he made the right decision to go after Nasser, you can't forgive the fact that he backed down when pressured by the Americans. The Americans presented it as some kind of colonialism (they just didn't want Britain meddling on what they saw as their playground). Eden should have taken the canal, deposed Nasser and then negotiated with the Americans about what should happen next. Instead he didn't have the courage of his convictions and left the UK humliated and without influence. Thatcher was under pressure from the Americans over the Falklands because they wanted yet another Facist military government propped up, but Thatcher didn't make the same mistake. Made her premiership. Didn't do any harm to Argentina either.

Electro-Kevin said...

Nick - I was not in the force during the miners' strike but was on riot squads a little later. The chaps I was working with had been heavily involved in the miners' dispute and had seen no evidence of military involvement.

Where I think confusion may have arisen is from the large number of ex soldiers the police have always had in their ranks. I don't doubt that there were many who'd served in Northern Ireland and who brought army kit with them and were keen to show off their prowess with regard to public order skills - I have often heard from unionists in my railway career tales of army fatigues being seen beneath police uniform.

Some coppers did wear army fatigues in their own time - generally the odd ball loners. Police riot kit was still relatively basic in those days. I wonder if some ex army types had worn it for its fire retardence or just for warmth. I doubt it. It's most likely that the miners had spotted the bird twitchers and weekend survivalist freaks that the police did tend to attract into their ranks.

I don't doubt that these sightings had a more innocent explanation. Army surplus gear was widely available and it still available today.

On nights I often used to patrol in 'civvies' - covered over with my great coat, helmet, waterproof trousers and boots. Had anyone snuck a peak at my undergarments there would have been rumours that the police had been infiltrated by New Romantics (which, of course, it had been at the time !)

I would counter to anyone that stated there were soldiers disguised as coppers in the miners' dispute that we really didn't need them for their expertise - 20% of our workforce had served in Northern Ireland anyway and we had all the experience we needed already.

Electro-Kevin said...

PS - Tony Blair ranks so highly because:

a) People are easily fooled


b) A sizeable number of people have been taught to be ashamed of our country

Bill Quango MP said...

Thanks Kevin. Very good explanation.
The NUM spokesperson and ex miner callers to the radio wre saying that they knew of miners who had seen relatives, maybe a nephew, who was known to be in the army, serving on the picket lines.

None of the stories were corroborated by anyone and seem to be retellings of tales as K suggests above.
Just pub talk.

Spookily I wore my new romantic clothes to work in fashion but had camouflage style military pants!

Electro-Kevin said...

Real soldiers don't wear military pants. They go commando.

Budgie said...

Just a point about the Provisional IRA. They were a gang of Marxist thugs. When the iron curtain fell PIRA lost its political reason for existence (as against its tribal reasons). And I suspect that some in PIRA realised it - hence the negotiations.

I also suspect they couldn't credit how much a pushover was the UK government. Not for the first time, or the last.

Nick Drew said...

Budgie - agreed, up to a point. But they were also tapping into a really nasty Irish tradition of murderous day-to-day feuding (variously dressed up as political or religious, but often of course a very thin disguise for criminality and general anarchy), which seems to be picking up again after a bit of a lull, both north and south of the border

I wonder whether this is related to the return of financial woes, given that the outbreak of 'peace' fortuitously coincided with the Celtic Tiger period of general exuberance & feel-good

both governments, and their agencies, have a strong incentive to pretend everything is just fine and the recent increased levels of violence are not at all political or sectarian, oh dear me no

but Mr Haass found it heavy going, didn't he ?

Jer said...

I find it a bit hard to credit DJK's point.

"Misguided, yes;"

I would suggest that the deliberate subversion of the ideals of the welfare state to create a zombie legion of paid for Labour voters, knowing that this would encourage behaviours unhelpful to the country and economy was malevolent. Unless you think this was accidental.

"unlucky, certainly."

Well, yes, although most of what he reaped he had sown.

"But a man with great intelligence"

He has a degree in the history of the Scottish labour party. We can assume he has some intelligence, so did Jimmy Carter by all accounts. Tamerlane was an excellent chess player too, as well as mass murderer.

"and personal integrity."

Er - we'll have to agree to differ.

"His speech on Mandela shows what we've lost."

The speech where he mentioned himself more often that Mandela?

"Give me Brown over Cameron any day."

Not much of a choice, alas.