By Panda Paws
Recently Danny from Missouri and I had an interesting wee chat about the number of American Presidents who had been assassinated. He mentioned that only one British Prime Minister had ever been killed in office. Which is not to say that a number of them haven’t wanted shooting! But the non-existent British constitution only allows us to “bare arms” though this is currently not advisable due to bad weather so assassination is much less likely!
The bloke’s name was Spencer Perceval who was killed in 1812 so not within living memory. Though Edward Drummond, a civil servant was killed during an assassination attempt on PM Robert Peel in 1843 by Daniel McNaughton, a Scot, who was suffering from paranoid delusions (unrecorded whether he thought Scotland was a valued and equal partner in the Union). He gave his name to the legal McNaughton clauses that define insanity in English law.
Anyway, all this prompted me to think of the PMs I have a living memory of though for some of them I was very young. And what a sorry bunch they have been, resulting in the article title. So here is a brief journey through the leaders of our nation.
- Ted Heath, Tory
He and Harold Wilson took buggins turn at the top job during the 1960s and early 1970s. During Heath’s tenure, we had the three day week, due to industrial action by mine workers and a Middle East oil crisis. He was also PM when Bloody Sunday happened and some of the most violent days in the Troubles. A gay man, most of his life he had been closeted given homosexuality was illegal until 1968 in England. He famously hated his successor as Tory party leader. Didn’t we all mate, didn’t we all.
- Harold Wilson, Labour
Regarded as soft Left, or what many current members of the party would call a raging communist!, he was PM twice – 1964 to 1970 then from 1974 to 1976. His was a mixed bag premiership. In 1967 sterling was devalued and he made his famous “pound in your pocket” speech. Which was a lie. He also secretly offered circa £500 million in today’s money to Libya’s Gaddafi for the latter to stop arming the IRA. He should be congratulated though for keeping UK out of the Vietnam War despite pressure from the US. He resigned abruptly in 1976 citing exhaustion though he was probably suffering from the onset of the dementia that was hushed up during his retirement.
- James Callaghan, Labour
He is only British politician to have held all 4 of the Great Offices of State (Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, PM). He was Chancellor during sterling devaluation and the Home Secretary who sent troops to Northern Ireland. For a lot of people, he is best known for being PM during the Winter of Discontent. A bad time which I now look upon fondly given the disaster capitalism that we currently have. Brexit will probably make it look like the happiest days of our life.
For me, he is best remembered for:
The 1979 devolution referendum I was too young to vote in and the infamous Cunningham amendment aka the “deid voted naw”. The referendum that was 52 yes and 48 no – those numbers may feel familiar in a UK context – so obviously devolution didn’t happen. Because yes really means no.
Keeping quiet about the McCrone report. It was commissioned during Heath’s time but reported during Wilson’s. (But Callaghan was part of the Cabinet keeping it to secret and ensured it remained secret when we were considering devolution).
The no-confidence vote. Look, an election would have needed to be called in at most 5 months after it actually happened. Denis Healey blamed Labour backbenchers for the vote loss, but SLAB blamed and continue to blame the SNP for it. Funnily enough, they never blame the folk that voted Tory; just the SNP for voting against the government. It would take decades for the SNP to rebuild and lose its minority party status.
- Margaret Thatcher, Tory
My loathing holds no bounds for this personage. Everything that is wrong with the UK economy today dates back to her obsession with Chicago school economics. Which is bollocks! The only thing trickling down is rich people peeing on you. Which may be marginally better than cats pooing on your petunias or not. (Munguin says he has to think about that- Ed.)
There was no Thatcherite economic miracle. She STOLE my country’s wealth to fund tax cuts for the richest and build infrastructure in London and SE England. In 1990 having sat on the still-top secret McCrone report, she told a Young Conservative conference
“We English, who are marvellous people, are really very generous to Scotland and very generous to Wales.”
Generous, fecking generous?
Ravenscraig, Dalzell, Linwood etc – the deindustrialisation of Scotland. Maybe the industries were at the tail end of viability but she did nothing to replace them and instead threw our money at the rich.
Compare and contrast with Norway – roughly same population and fewer non-oil-related natural resources – megabucks, one of the happiest nations on Earth. I imagine when she died they needed to create a new circle of hell just for her! Ironically the woman that privatised our national assets (“selling off the family silver” MacMillan called it) was given a state funeral paid for by the taxpayers. At which George Osborne cried. I cried during her premiership, like most of Scotland.
- John Major, Tory
By the 1990s even the Tories had had enough of the mad bag and she was deposed and replaced, not by Heseltine, the stalking horse, but by a man said to be so boring he ran away from the circus to become an accountant. Actually, it’s not really true but his father had been a music hall performer. His Spitting Image puppet famously had a crush on Virginia Bottomley. He was actually having an affair with Edwina Currie. I now pause to allow you to clear your mind with bleach at the thought of John and Edwina together… (Munguin had to leave the room at this point! Fortunately Tris is made of sterner stuff, and has blocked the two of them completely. NO DOIN’T MENTION THEM AGAIN… preferably EVER!)
He was PM when the UK dropped out of the ERM and his tenure became mired in sleaze and numerous sex scandals. Tory family values may not be your family values.
- Tony Blair, Tory
Yeah OK, technically Labour, but not really. Thatcher said New Labour was her greatest legacy! Well, I suppose compared to everything else she was responsible for, it might be the least toxic of the toxic. So things didn’t actually get any better – I blame that Prof Brian Cox. Stick to the Physics mate, not the keyboard!
PFI, Iraq, spin, Cash for Honours. Of course, some will credit him with devolution but he was actually against it and his hand was forced by the Council of Europe which had stated the UK was too centralised. So devolution happened on his watch as did stealing 6000 miles of Scottish coastline before its enactment aided and abetted by (not the) Father of the Nation, Donald Dewar, the first First Minister. Why did he steal 6000 miles? No, not to outdo the Proclaimers but did I mention the McCrone report ?– it’s still top secret in 1999 when parliament reconvened (or the Executive as Labour and LibDems liked to call it) and was indeed was only revealed in 2005 after a tip-off about its existence led to an FOI request.
- Gordon Brown, New Labour
Or as I like to call him “how now Brown vow, you’ll have had your federalism”. Others call him Nokia Brown due to his apparent penchant for throwing phones at people when frustrated. He was treated badly by the press, however. Yes, he was useless, but Tony was too and got away with murder literally – Iraq!
Funny though that the press that hated him suddenly started treating him like an elder statesman in 2014. The good ole BBC even interrupting programmes to beam his ‘No thanks‘ speech live, despite purdah. Still, this closest thing to federalism is great isn’t it? Nearly as good as the Sewell Convention.
- David Cameron, Tory
Just call me Dave, he said. I have several other names in mind. He famously said he wanted to be PM because he thought he’d be good at it.
Lazy (chillaxing anyone?) and entitled, he thought he was cleverer than everyone else and didn’t need to try. Newsflash – you weren’t and you did.
Brexit is his legacy. He’d gambled the nation’s future to settle an internal Tory party struggle and the challenge from UKIP. (I’m not sure that little ploy worked too well…well, look at Liam Fox and Anna Soubry-Ed) Buoyed after winning the Scottish independence referendum, which at one point he looked like losing – Daily Record to the rescue – he seemingly forgot or perhaps was too arrogant to see that the MSM wouldn’t be 100% behind him this time.
Jim Callaghan was the only PM to hold all four Great Offices of State and, thanks to Cameron and EVEL, no MP from a Scottish Constituency will ever be able to match this feat should we be daft enough to remain in the Disunited Kingdom. And don’t get me started on his austerity and social security measures!
- Theresa May, Tory
Please make it stop. Please. I can’t even. (Nor can I – Ed)
And they say Scotland doesn’t have the talent to run itself!