Monday, August 02, 2010

Brown Third Worst PM Since the War


The FT reports on a study by academics which places Gordon Brown the third worst Prime Minister since the war. Go figure.

I'd rate him worse than that. Quite what Alec Douglas Home has done to deserve the second worst rating is a bit of a mystery.

I would, of course, also put Margaret Thatcher above Clement Attlee. But then you knew that already. And Blair in third place? They're having a laugh!

UPDATE: We'll be covering this on my LBC phone-in programme between 9 and 10pm tonight, so feel free to listen and call in on 0845 60 60 973.

31 comments:

Havocman said...

I suspect most of those questioned were left leaning academics.

The Grim Reaper said...

Only the third worst?! That's really being generous to a fault.

As for Thatcher, over-rated. But still better than anyone who's been since.

Giovanni said...

From bottom to top:
12. Gordon Brown- squandered Britain's boom of the 90s, undermined his party and leader, blocked any structural reform of the British social and economic system.
11. Harold Wilson- failed to reform the British system in the 60s, lost control of the Trade Unions, leading to IMF bail-out.
10. James Callaghan- although he gets kudos for trying to reign in spending after '76, he lacked the political will to take on the Unions leading to the Winter of Discontent.
9. Alec DOuglas-Home- failed to remembered as anything other than a footnote between Macmillan and Wilson.
8. John Major- Black Wednesday and the inability to reinvigorate his party, leading it to the worst electoral defeat ever.
7. Anthony Eden- he actually had the nerve to call and win a general election but will always be remembered for Suez.
6. Edward Heath- failed to live up to the 1970 manifesto, failed to get a hold on the British economic system and was largely negligible as PM.
5. Tony Blair- squandered the largest majority a PM ever had in his first two terms, failed to implement the structural reforms Britain needed, failed to reign in and put down- politically- Gordon Brown. His foreign policy is still too charged politically to be yet discussed in historic terms.
4. Harold Macmillan- refused to reform British economy, he was fundamentally a Keynesian social-democrat but carried himself with style. Started Britain's decolonisation of the world.
3. Winston Churchill- in his post-war term more a reassuring safe pair of hands, his biggest achievement was probably ending rationing.
2. Margaret Thatcher- although undeniably one of the most influential politicians in post-war global history, her political reforms never matched her economic reforms. And she accepted a lot of the social framework (e.g NHS) set by...
1. Clem Atlee- created the modern British welfare state ,including institutions such as the NHS that Cameron has pledged to uphold. He changed Britain and although as a Tory I have objections to a number of his decisions, he shaped modern Britain more than any other PM, with the exception of MT.

Gallimaufry said...

Both Wilson and Callaghan were better PMs than Bliar.

Simon Lewis said...

The way Cameron is carrying on he'll be up there with the worst. As for Thatcher above Atlee? You are joking? For what Atlee did for the working classes, the NHS etc. hmm

Jrm said...

Just shows that academics are as seduced by PR as the rest of us. Dear old Harold M 4th? I loved him, but he was a useless PM. The only four worthy of mention in order from #1: Churchill, Atlee, Thatcher then Wislon (just!)

Paddy Briggs said...

1. Attlee
2. Wilson
3. Macmillan
4. Blair
5. Churchill
6. Thatcher
7. Brown
8. Callaghan
9. Heath
10. Major
11. Douglas-Home
12. Eden

Tim Footman said...

I presume electoral success had something to do with the rankings. Blair, like Thatcher, won three elections on the trot; also like Thatcher, he transformed not only his own party, but the opposition.

Osama the Nazarene said...

Just shows what idiots academics are and they want to increase University charges to students to increase their wages. All depends on the criteria selected.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Academics are stupid. They are also, these days, the product of a long term selection process of sorting intellectuals, who have actually read more than their chosen subject and discarding them, in favour of lumpen feminists, aetheists, existentialists and Guardianistas who can barely spell, let alone eludidate some kind of novel discourse.

cf Tony Blair at Number Three. Accordingly, please do not take this piece of "work" seriously.

Cx said...

It says "based only on time as PM" Does that just mean that they're equating "time spent in office" with "success"?

jwildbore said...

I think Douglas-Home got marked down for not being Prime Minister very long.

I broadly agree with your comments - but I reached the conclusion that a third place for Blair was pretty reasonable given the paucity of competition.

Here's my reasoning: http://bit.ly/b5GHj3

Ross said...

Douglas Home certainly does fare badly here. I think PMs often get judged on their electoral success rather than what they accomplished. Douglas Home along with Callaghan and Major suffer because of that whereas Tony Blair does far better than he deserves.
My list would be:

1- Thatcher, 2- Attlee, 3- Callaghan, 4- Macmillan, 5- Major, 6- Churchill*, 7- Blair, 8- Douglas Home, 9- Wilson, 10- Brown, 11-Eden, 12- Heath,

* Based soley on his peace time record.

Timothy Belmont said...

Frankly I'm not surprised. I don't blame the man for lying doggo and oblivious.

Thank goodness we're looking forward now, to better times.

Richard Abbot said...

Wilson higher than Heath.
Callaghan higher than Major.
Clem higher than Thatcher.
Me thinks they have polled 106 left leaning academics. But then again what other kind are there?

Don said...

Attlee bankrupted the finances and had to be bailed out by a loan from the USA, so failed on a very important issue.
My list is 1.Thatcher,
2.Churchill,
3.MacMillan
4.Attlee
5.Major
6.Wilson
7.Blair
8.Heath
9.Callaghan
10.Home
11Eden
12Brown

trevorsden said...

The point that needs making in your programme is that Blair should have sacked Brown in 2001. As it is he stood by and let brown ruin his premiership and the country.

Blair should be last for that with Brown just above him.
Blair principally got this one fundamental wrong, whereas Brown got just about everything he did wrong; but
Brown deserves praise because he has effectively destroyed the labour party (at least socialism) and brought about a realignment of the centre right.

Ted said...

An odd list certainly. Worth contrasting with Peter Hennessey's excellent book on the subject which tries better than this poll managed to be objective. He rated Heath highly for being - regardless of whether one agrees with the move - a game changer for the EEC membership.
But as with many of your correspondents, I agree that Alec Home has been unfairly rated as a result of being merely brief. Major however was so manifestly out of his depth that I think he is flattered by the results here. Churchill (in peacetime) is an odd one here and probably underrated - he provided the political stability we badly needed at the time. Blair, Wilson and Macmillan are all in the same category as men of immense political gifts who in the event failed to use them to really achieve the change that they were smart enough to see was necessary. Margaret and Clem, conversely, are the clear 1-2 (in whatever order) as despite having ostensibly lesser gifts, they did rise to the challenge. Clem seems to have gained too many plaudits for the cheques his government wrote to be paid by future generations. Maybe if Gordon had left earlier, before chicken came home to roost, his reputation would not have been in such tatters.

Ted said...

An odd list certainly. Worth contrasting with Peter Hennessey's excellent book on the subject which tries better than this poll managed to be objective. He rated Heath highly for being - regardless of whether one agrees with the move - a game changer for the EEC membership.
But as with many of your correspondents, I agree that Alec Home has been unfairly rated as a result of being merely brief. Major however was so manifestly out of his depth that I think he is flattered by the results here. Churchill (in peacetime) is an odd one here and probably underrated - he provided the political stability we badly needed at the time. Blair, Wilson and Macmillan are all in the same category as men of immense political gifts who in the event failed to use them to really achieve the change that they were smart enough to see was necessary. Margaret and Clem, conversely, are the clear 1-2 (in whatever order) as despite having ostensibly lesser gifts, they did rise to the challenge. Clem seems to have gained too many plaudits for the cheques his government wrote to be paid by future generations. Maybe if Gordon had left earlier, before chicken came home to roost, his reputation would not have been in such tatters.

longrun2 said...

Attlee gets credit for introducing Beveridge's proposed reforms but he put through some disastrously bad economic policies, turning well-run businesses by nationalising them and banning competition - and he introduced bread rationing, which was not necessary during the war! His housing record was disgraceful; he devalued the £ by over 40% due to the failure of his economic policies - the debt/GDP ratio was actually higher just ahead of the devaluation than it had been at the end of the war and it was only lower in 1951 because devaluation/inflation had reduced the value of the national debt (a stealth default); he took us into a war that he and Truman failed to win. As someone who lived through Attlee's and MacMillan's premierships I find their relative placings just plain ridiculous. Mac helped the poor so that as he pointed out in 1959 many old age pensioners were better off than they had been when they were working (almost universally misquoted by the press)
A poll of over 100 academics specialising in politics or history means that the result is bound to have a heavy left-wing bias.
What did Sir Alec do wrong, except lose an election that everyone expected him to lose? His actual performance was a lot better than Callaghan, Major or Heath let alone Brown - under Sir Alec the Conservatives continued their policy of making the poor richer in contrast to Blair and Brown who made the poor poorer while they made the rich richer. Maybe that does not matter to left-wing academics.

Opinicus said...

I think its time someone spoke up for Eden.
Eden bet what was left of the Empire on Suez and lost but he only just lost and if he had won the entire last half of the 20th century would have been entirely different. All that happened by losing was that the process of de-colonization was speeded up by a few years. If he had won, the march of the USA would have been delayed and millions of Africans would have been saved from the effects, political and economic, of decolonialization. If he had won he would have been 1 or 2 on the list. That kind of judgement and initiative is a definition of greatness, even if it didn't come off.
Macmillian, famously last in and first out at Suez, knifed Eden to take his crown and spent his PMship throwing away any point of winning WW2. He is very low down in my list, a jaded poseur.

DeeDee99 said...

1. Thatcher
2. Atlee
3. Macmillan
4. Churchill
5. Wilson
6. Major
7. Douglas-Home
8. Blair
9. Heath
10.Callagham
11. Eden
12. Brown


12.Eden
13.Brown
12. Eden

Terry said...

I never thought I'd see a worse PM than Grocer Heath. Gave away this country's fishing industry to fulfil his ambition of joining the EU. As a Cornishman I can assure this was not popular. Then along came Brown the worst ever.
Eden spent most of his time ill and Baillie Vass was only ever a stop gap who never wanted the job in the first place, let alone give up his birthright.
I've loved through them all and there are only 2 worth alight: Atlee and Thatcher.

Eoghan said...

Not an expert (I'll leave out Douglas-Home as I know nothing about him), but my personal subjective list would be:

1. Macmillan
2. Attlee
3. Callaghan
4. Churchill
5. Heath
6. Brown
7. Major
8. Wilson
9. Blair
10. Eden
11. Thatcher

MikeyP said...

Brown MUST be the WORST Prime Minister EVER!

Where was this study carried out? Islington?

And Atlee? He might have created the Welfare State, but a multi-headed monster it proved to be. By making it tax based from the start, it was bound to be inefficient.

Nigel said...

1- Attlee, 2- Macmillan, 3- Thatcher, 4- Churchill, 5- Major, 6- Callaghan, 7- Douglas Home, 8th equal- Wilson, Blair, 10th equal: Brown, Eden, Heath.

All are significantly flawed, and it is difficult fairly to compare their achievements given the massively different circumstances each inherited. from their predecessors.
I have given no credit for length of time in office, merely tried to balance the harm each did with their positive achievements.
Wilson ties Blair, for keeping us of Vietnam.
Had Thatcher retired at the end of her second term, she might have topped the list.

Ted Treen said...

Academics, almost by definition, live totally in the abstract world of theory & make-believe.
This could explain why so many - if not all - of them tend strongly towards socialism which in theory is unselfish, caring and altruistically ideal.

The trouble is that most of us have to live in the real world where our ideals have to be tempered with pragmatism based on reality.

Therefore any conclusion arrived at by "academics" might be a slightly diverting bit of ephemeral trivia but has virtually no importance or relevance to anyone else.

John East said...

We should be quite pleased. A bunch of out of touch, leftie, tenured, academics might have been expected to come up with something even more ridiculous.

Of course Brown was worst by a country mile having presided over the transition of one of the wealthiest nations on earth to a European also-ran. Even the leftie academics were forced to acknowledge this in their rankings. As for Clement Attlee coming first, he may have been effective in achieving what he intended to achieve, which in itself might put him at the other end of the ratings spectrum to the total failure Brown, but let's not forget that Attlee set us on the road to ruin via the nanny welfare state for which he rightly takes the credit. This act alone, if we judge PM's by the results of their policies rather than their ability to force policies through, should put him joint worst alongside the disaster Brown.

harry benn's pig said...

Surely in the McBride / Campbell school of spinwizardry, Brown achieved a place in the top ten whereas Thatcher was ninth from last.

Demetrius said...

I shall be posting myself in the morning on Sir Alec and in agreement with you in more detail.

John East said...

A poll in today's Mail got it right.
Brown worst 46%
blair worst 29%

(I therefore assume only 25% of Mail readers are stupid.)