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Who was the best British Prime Minister of the 20th Century?

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Anarcho-Socialist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:18 PM
Original message
Who was the best British Prime Minister of the 20th Century?
Asquith? Lloyd George? Baldwin? Clem Atlee? Churchill? Wilson? Someone else?

I thought we would have a jolly discussion since we've lost two more ex-Prime Ministers this year.

What do U.K. DUers think? Also, any non-British DUers with interest in British politics are welcome to participate.

Who was the best PM and why?
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UrbScotty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
1. Besides Margaret?
Edited on Wed Jul-20-05 01:28 PM by ih8thegop
She is one of the best women alive, you know.

:sarcasm:

Actually, as an American, I'd say Attlee. Just succeeding (and being succeeded by) Churchill has got to be daunting. He's Britain's Harry Truman.
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BurgherHoldtheLies Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
2. Churchill {IMHO}
I just finished the book, 'Franklin and Winston' by Jon Meacham which offered some great insights into their personal relationship. Churchill wasn't perfect but I believe he was the right leader for dangerous times. Compare Churchill's inspirational and intelligent speeches with what we get here in the US under our current leader :puke:
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UrbScotty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:30 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. Heck, compare THATCHER to America's current 'leader.'
Thatcher wins hands down.
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. If I were forced to make that choice--
--I'd probably stick my head in the oven...
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WearyOne Donating Member (490 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:27 PM
Response to Original message
3. Clement Atlee who introduced the great Welfare State, National
Health System, nationalized banks and all the great things every country should have which the war-mongering hate-filled right-wingers like Bush & Co hate and want to tear down.
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BillZBubb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
4. David Lloyd George
Early advocate of women's rights and handled a very tough situation in World War I. Did a decent job of advancing liberal causes. Kept Great Britain an international power in spite of the incredible war debts.

Churchill, gets high marks for WWII, but not so high marks for anything else.

That's my story anyway.
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:41 PM
Response to Original message
6. Attlee, hands down.
Edited on Wed Jul-20-05 02:43 PM by cheeseit
Establishment to the core and way too timid, but still easily the most progressive PM this country's ever had- he forged a genuinely social democratic consensus, the NHS (primarily Nye Bevan's achievement, but central to Attlee's programme) and the narrowing inequality seen in the years between his and Thatcher's administrations testify nicely to the success of his government.

To be honest though, I think most of our 20th century PMs have been lousy. Churchill was a great war leader- although in all the hoopla it gets forgotten that it was usually Attlee or Ernest Bevin's job to speak to the British people and keep their morale up during the war, and his peacetime premiership was totally unspectacular.

Lloyd George was a superb Chancellor of the Exchequer, but a hopelessly corrupt and self-serving Prime Minister; though I concede he pursued the war effectively and his electoral reform act was an achievement, he didn't deliver much for those returning from the trenches, especially compared to what Attlee did 30 years later.

Asquith's government instituted alot of important reforms, but Lloyd George was the real star of that administration and Asquith floundered horribly once war broke out. Baldwin just sat on his hands while Britain descended into crisis- although at least he didn't stab his own people in the back to do so like MacDonald, I suppose.

Thatcher was the worst Prime Minister of the century, without question. Thanks to her we live in a society where Tony Blair passes for left of centre. Not to mention a society riddled with inequality, social division and an overriding sense of selfish individualism. Having said that, I think the compalcency and lack of imagination of people like Wilson and Callaghan paved the way for her, by sucking the dynamism out of a social model which was fundamentally sound, but obviously had to move with the times.
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Thinking about it some more....
Edited on Wed Jul-20-05 02:57 PM by cheeseit
I still think Attlee's by far the best, but I think MacMillan might be a strong contender for second place. I just thought I'd add that because it nicely sums up the relative legacies of Attlee and Thatcher- thanks to Clem, we could have a Conservative PM like MacMillan. Because of Thatcher, we get stuck with a pathetic excuse for a Labour PM like Blair.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:50 AM
Response to Reply #7
23. Good point...
Thatcher moved the whole political spectrum way to the right!!!
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demobrit Donating Member (279 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 03:47 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Attlee by a mile
Rebuilding this country after the War , just awsome , Welfare State
Universal health care for all , who can match that
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mr blur Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #6
12. I'd go for Attlee too, for all the obvious reasons mentioned.
Does anyone share my feeling that Neil Kinnock is one of the best PMs we never got to have, if you see what I mean?
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:02 AM
Response to Reply #12
15. Can't say I'd go that far re: Kinnock
But he certainly did more than anyone to make Labour electorally viable after the two extremes of the party did their best to destroy during the early 80s, without abandoning the party's fundamental values. And he woudl have made a far better PM than the two people he opposed, of course. I do think John Smith would have been a terrific PM. That's what really pisses more off when people say Blair made Labour electable. I'm absolutely certain that if he'd lived Smith would have won the '97 election. Blair didn't make Labour electable again, Kinnock and Smith did- Blair got us into a situation where the Party's now losing serious amounts of votes from the left.
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RFKHumphreyObama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-27-05 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #15
26. Good point
Edited on Wed Jul-27-05 01:22 PM by socialdemocrat1981
The Tories were practically disintergrating in 1997 -the endless stream of defections from the government, scandals involving MPs and divisions over Europe had basically fractured the party and ensured it was unelectable. Most of the reforms that Blair is credited for were already in the process of being implemented by Kinnock and subsequently Smith. Even if the Murdoch rags had endorsed Major in 1997, the party was in such a poor shape that I think it would have been a tough challenge for him to win another term.

A point to make here -Major was leading a minority government at the time of the 1997 election (his parliamentary majority had been eroded) and his party would have had to gain seats AND minimize losses to win the election. In the state that the Tories were in, I just don't see it happening

TB played his part in leading Labour to victory but IMO he's overrated and given much more credit than he deserves. I personally think Smith would probably have made a much better PM and probably would have been much more balanced in his embrance of "New Labour" than Tony has been.
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Anarcho-Socialist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:11 AM
Response to Reply #12
16. I'd pick Roy Jenkins
Had he won the leadership in 1976 I'm sure he would have trounced Thatcher.

Jenkins was responsible for a lot of the liberal legislation of the late 60s (legalised abortion, decriminalisation of homosexuality etc)
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:23 AM
Response to Reply #16
18. But he also played a big part in tearing Labour apart in the 80s
I agree he deserves credit for guiding through some important socially liberal legislation as home secretary, but imo he was totally seduced by the elite circles his position gave him access too, and became so puffed up and arrogant that at that point in Labour's history he could never have united the party behind him. Actually I think his leadership would have been very similar to Blair's, except with far less willingness on the part of back-benchers to grin and bear it. Although if he had become PM he would have had less time to write, so every cloud has a silver lining. ;)
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non sociopath skin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 03:31 PM
Response to Original message
9. I'm not very good at "best ofs" at the best of times and this one is ...
.. pretty impossible. To begin with, it's a question of situations. How can you compare Churchill as an inspired wartime leader with Attlee who can be said to have won the peace, at least socially. And how do you compare a charismatic shyster like Lloyd George with a well-meaning aristo like Supermac?

And don't we criticise Blair and Thatcher for their "presidential" styles, seeing one-man/woman shows as A Bad Thing. So though Attlee and, worse, the wretched Ramsay MacDonald themselves had all the charisma of a half house-brick, should we give them credit for the powerhouses on their teams?

Going to have to sit this one out, I fear.

The Skin
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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:25 AM
Response to Reply #9
19. "The powerhouses on their teams?"
So though Attlee and, worse, the wretched Ramsay MacDonald themselves had all the charisma of a half house-brick, should we give them credit for the powerhouses on their teams?

You men the likes of Nye Bevan by that don't you? Yes we can certainly give plenty of Atlee's minsters credit! :-)
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non sociopath skin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 06:20 PM
Response to Reply #19
25. I do indeed.
The Skin
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Briar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 05:00 PM
Response to Original message
11. Atlee for me, too. n/t
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demobrit Donating Member (279 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 01:19 AM
Response to Original message
13. So who is the all time great British P.M?
My choice would be Gladstone .
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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:22 AM
Response to Reply #13
17. Of all time?
I'd have to mention Earl Grey to that one, as he introduced the great reform bill of 1832.

Gladstone v Disraeli would be an interesting discussion in itself. You would have the Liberal Gladstone, the devoutly Christian believer in small government who introduced the third reform bill and campaigned for Home Rule in Ireland. On the other hand you have Disraeli, who was probably the best leader the Tories have ever had. He introduced the second reform bill, was big on imperialism and Queen Victoria's favorite PM.
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cheeseit Donating Member (152 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:56 AM
Response to Reply #13
21. Gladstone's got to be a strong contender.
Pitt the Elder's got to be up there somehwere, too- somehow I think he might pick up a fair bit of support from other areas of DU. ;)
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demobrit Donating Member (279 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 03:00 PM
Response to Reply #21
24. Gladstone the great reformist
William Ewart Gladstone, the fourth son of Sir John Gladstone, was born in Liverpool on 29th December.
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRgladstone.htm
William Ewart Gladstone was one of the great reformist P.M`s of the 19th century , one of his most noteworthy reforms was to introduce secret ballots in elections
He gets my vote by a whisper with Clem Attlee a close second
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Kipling Donating Member (929 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-27-05 05:57 PM
Response to Reply #13
28. Yep, Gladstone.
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Spider Jerusalem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 01:46 AM
Response to Original message
14. I'd say it's between Churchill and Attlee..
Edited on Thu Jul-21-05 01:47 AM by Spider Jerusalem
Churchill was a brilliant and inspired leader in a time of grave crisis, and I give him marks for his early support of a national health service, too (something most tend to forget about him); but his reactionary imperialism probably led to the Suez crisis (which had its roots in his second premiership), and it's hard to find much admiration for his abilities in peacetime.

Attlee gets credit for implementing the NHS, overseeing a smooth transition to independence in India and Burma, rebuilding and restructuring industry post-war.

Both very effective, and given the different challenges each faced as PM difficult to say one was "better" than the other.
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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 07:39 AM
Response to Original message
20. Another Atlee man here!
Nye Bevan and the NHS swing that one for me.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-21-05 11:48 AM
Response to Original message
22. Churchill for a specific purpose; Attlee best overall
Churchill was not an overwhelmingly good politician in general, but he was good for a specific purpose - and since that purpose happened to be defeating Hitler and the Nazis, it's a pretty important one!!

Attlee was the one who really turned this country around in a good direction; and introduced crucial social services. I think he was a great PM!

As for the worst, there is a lot of competition, but I think I would say Thatcher. The bad PMs between the wars maintained and defended a very bad 'status quo'; she actively moved things in a bad direction from a comparatively good point.



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WoodrowFan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-27-05 02:21 PM
Response to Original message
27. Stanley Baldwin
just kidding.
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Pert_UK Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 05:44 AM
Response to Original message
29. What....no Blair or Thatcher?
:evilgrin:

Although to be fair, Blair showed all the promise of being a great PM......Such a shame he turned out to be such a smarmy, hypocritical, Tory-wannabee tosser....

P.
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non sociopath skin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 10:16 AM
Response to Reply #29
30. Never liked him. Didn't vote for him as Labour Leader.
If it walks like a Tory and it quacks like a Tory ...

The Skin
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 10:33 AM
Response to Reply #30
31. Ted Heath was right about Blair...
Edited on Thu Jul-28-05 10:34 AM by LeftishBrit
According to Blair, Heath met him sometime in the 1980s and asked him what party he belonged to. When Blair said he was Labour, Heath said, "You don't look or sound like it!"
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ianrs Donating Member (121 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-28-05 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
32. has to be clem
n/t
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julianer Donating Member (964 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-29-05 10:24 AM
Response to Original message
33. Another Attlee fan here
He had a landslide and didn't waste it. He caused a shift in the political balance of power that the combined efforts of Thatcher and Blair haven't been able to eradicate completely.

Blair is such a disappointment because the country is ready for pretty radical change (re-nationalisation for example) and he is leading the Labour party off in the opposite direction.

Damned ideologue - something Attlee never was.
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