Ex-Prime Ministers, Part One

To really understand where we are today, looking at history is essential. In doing so, we can learn from the mistakes of the past, map patterns to help us make predictions, and expand our knowledge of politics so as to really understand each side. In our latest blog, we’ve put 20th and 21st century Prime Ministers simply:

(Please note: some former PMs served more than once – this list is based on the date which they first took office.)

 Lord Salisbury (Robert Gascoyne-Cecil):

“English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid collisions.”

Compared to the flamboyance of Disraeli and Gladstone, Lord Salisbury was a reserved, distant figure, yet he ranks among Britain’s longest-serving prime ministers. Born into an aristocratic family, Lord Salisbury was a descendent of Lord Burghley, a minister of Queen Elizabeth I. A frail child and prone to depression, he developed a love of books and botany. Lord Salisbury was a Conservative politician, known as a sharp political commentator. He served as Prime Minister on three separate occasions, between 1886 and 1902. Lord Salisbury entered the Commons aged 23, in 1853. Salisbury was responsible for the 1889 Naval Defence Act, which committed Britain to ensuring its navy was at least the size of the two next largest navies combined. Salisbury was the last Peer to serve as Prime Minister. He resigned over Cabinet splits due to the 1899-1902 Boer War.


Arthur Balfour:

“I am more or less happy when being praised, not very comfortable when being abused, but I have moments of uneasiness when being explained.”

Arthur James Balfour succeeded his uncle, Lord Salisbury, who had been his political mentor and champion. However, his initial interests were not political. He enjoyed music and poetry, and was first known as a renowned philosopher, publishing ‘A Defence of Philosophic Doubt’, ‘The Foundations of Belief’ and ‘Theism and Humanism.’ A Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905, though many of his most famous acts came in the years after his Premiership – notably the 1916 ‘Balfour Declaration” which committed Britain to the creation of a Jewish-state in Palestine. Major acts included the Unemployed Workmen Act 1905, which established Distress Committees to give out single grants to businesses or local authorities in order to allow them to hire more workers to decrease the number of unemployed. Balfour was also responsible for the Education Act 1902, which abolished school boards and handed over their duties to local borough or county council, as Local Education Authorities. He resigned in 1905 due to defeats in the Commons and in by-elections.

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