After Number 10: Former Prime Ministers in British Politics by K. Theakston

By K. Theakston

Having misplaced an election, been thrown out via their celebration, or retired on grounds of ill-health, what do former British best ministers do? within the first publication to examine the lives, political roles and effect of former best ministers, Theakston analyzes all of the former major ministers from Walpole within the 18th century to Blair this present day.

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There can be little doubt about his happy marriage to his wife Hester (made a peeress in her own right in 1761), whose devoted care helped him through his illnesses and who was also a political aide. In the early 1770s he seems to have enjoyed playing the ‘old doting daddy’ to his five children (then teenagers), all educated at home, his favourite, William (who became PM himself five years after his father’s death), being carefully coached as an orator and debater. ’ The family finances were, however, usually in a hopeless state, Chatham having extravagant tastes, liking to spend freely on building works, gardens and farming, living constantly beyond his means and piling up debts.

Being unpopular and detested by other politicians, and unable to win and keep Walpole to Shelburne 39 their confidence, were key factors keeping him in the wilderness after 1783. King George III actively disliked him and his radical ideas too, and formed a major obstacle to any comeback. Faults of character, manner and behaviour had given Shelburne a reputation in the political world for intrigue, inconsistency, arrogance, insincerity, deceit, treachery and even corruption. 55 But it was not just personal unpopularity that brought about Shelburne’s fall and isolation.

In 1793 he protested against war with France. He kept pressing for parliamentary reform. 61 In 1801 a recurrence of the illness of King George III raised the possibility of a Regency, putting the Prince of Wales into power and opening the way for a new ministry. Lansdowne agreed to serve alongside Fox as a secretary of state under Lord Moira. But within a month the King recovered his health and sanity, and the chance of a comeback slipped away. Lansdowne lived to see his youngest son (Lord Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, later the Third Marquess) take the first steps in a distinguished political career, becoming an MP in 1802; he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, aged 26, in 1806 and had a long Cabinet career in Whig politics, serving under seven different PMs in all and refusing the premiership himself.

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