The best PM we never had

Based on comments from another thread.

My selections:

1. Michael Portillo (Con)

2. Barbara Castle (Lab)

3. John Smith (Lab)

David Laws - as in the guy who submitted tens of thousands of fraudulent expenses claims. No thank you.

That should have been tens of thousands of pounds of fraudulent expenses claims. Over £40k in fact. Should have been put in prison.

David Owen (although he was wrong about Brexit)

Charles Kennedy before the booze got out of control (and would still knock spots off Bozza anyway)


Problem with Hague, although he’s bright, is that he came from the eurosceptic, Thatcherite wing and did nothing to drag the party back towards the centre and IDS and Howard (and Cameron) were just as bad, it’s just that Cameron was better at polishing the turd of zombie Thatcherite ideology and persuading people he and the party were more compassionate.

The rot set in in opposition.

what Judy said.


Ken Clarke opposed the Iraq war in 2003. If he'd been picked ahead of IDS in the Con leadership election in 2001, the 2005 election might have been a lot tighter. 

powell is the idea of a gr7 intellect only in the minds of those who pompously self-identify as “alternative thinkers” and believe themselves far cleverer than they actually r, when in reality their responses r uncritical breitbart regurgitations and they r totally in thrall 2 an extremely narrow worldview

Enoch Powell is the correct answer. An intellectual titan. 

What is it about Oxford-educated classicist, Nietzsche fan (spurius is right; they’re mostly wrong’uns), imperialist racist Powell that appeals, asimov? 

Or was this a joke?

Michael Hesaltine

Paddy Ashdown

Also agree with Ken Clarke. Not a PM but would have been interesting to see David Milliband’s trajectory if he’d won the Labour leadership 

In what way is being an intellectual titan any kind of qualification for being PM?

Consider, in any event, that the only thing anyone remembers intellectual titan enoch powell saying, he was hopelessly and diametrically wrong about

Powell wasn’t a racist. Anyone who actually knows anything about him and his life this knows this. He was also right about pretty much everything.

Ken Clarke is a decent shout. Heseltine is a sneering and snooty aunt. 

Wasn't the title 'best prime minister we never had' originally given to RAB Butler (although I freely admit there may be prior examples of which I am unaware)?

Surprised only one mention for Miliband D.  I think he’d have had the biggest impact on where the country ended up now.

Amazing how many talented politicians there were in the main 3 parties in the 90s, most of whom had had proper careers before politics.

Now there is a total dearth of talent on all sides.

Why is that? Is it because everyone now has to come through the ‘SPAD > partisan think tank > parachuted into safe seat’ route to get near the cabinet or shadow cabinet now?

Sir Woke XR Remainer FBPE MBE14 Jan 22 08:22

In what way is being an intellectual titan any kind of qualification for being PM?

Consider, in any event, that the only thing anyone remembers intellectual titan enoch powell saying, he was hopelessly and diametrically wrong about


Including the bit where he said that by 2000 10% of the British population could be ethnic minorities and that they would be concentrated in the big cities?

He was no more racist than a large chunk of the country he grew up in (which was, by and large, pretty racist). And he was personally principled in terms of standing up for equality of treatment for non-white colleagues in India.

But he was racist. He believed it was very difficult or impossible for non-white people to be British. He believed that West Indians or Asians born in Britain were not British but remained West Indian or Asian. These are racist beliefs.

Surely the  best ones would be people who weren't politicians at all.  

I propose:

Desmond Lynam

Alex Ferguson

Nick Faldo

Emma Raducanu

Jimmy Page

Smashy out of Smashy and Nicey

terry , not sure the 'had proper careers before politics' was a common thing in the 80s and 90s. I think the career politician thing has been around forever

He was very bright and his analysis of the impact of immigration on his constituency and other parts of the West Midlands was in many ways not inaccurate.

But his faith in his own intellect and reasoning when applied to mass populations (rather than individual cases) took him down a very dark path. He likely wasn’t particularly racist when it came to people he knew and interacted with, but his entire value system and assumptions were racist.

Including the bit where he said that by 2000 10% of the British population could be ethnic minorities and that they would be concentrated in the big cities?

that’s just a bald demographic point

the bit where he is wrong is in the “so wot?”

And the 1964 Smethwick by-election (which was not Powell’s doing, in fairness, but was part of the same cultural struggles and was just down the road) was the nadir of British politics on immigration until Mr Farage got to work and really dragged this country into the gutter.

Heseltine would have been a good shout but for his role in the treacherous treatment of Lady Thatcher. 

what this country needs right now is an intellectual Rayndian right winger. Bring back standards. Stop appealing to the lowest common denominator 

what this country needs right now is an intellectual Rayndian right winger. Bring back standards. Stop appealing to the lowest common denominator 

Unironically this. The country is too far gone though sadly. 

The absolute last thing this country needs is an intellectual Randian rightwinger.

That’s Jacob Rees-Mogg territory.

Rand was a crank and a very shallow thinker.

Powell’s biggest disappointment was not being Viceroy of India. He was fluent in Punjabi and is on record as saying Indian culture was superior to European. 

Anyway, the answer is Joseph Chamberlain. 

I’m not a big fan of the line that Mogg is a barmaid’s idea of an intellectual gentleman (apart from anything else, most barmaids I have known are pretty shrewd judges of character and would spot Mogg for the intellectual and social fraud he is a mile off).

But Rand is definitely the modern Tory’s (misplaced) idea of a philosopher/intellectual.

Powell was an intellectual titan, and a very astute politician. Gr8 cabinet minister. He was far too controversial and outspoken to be PM though. 

Lol @ Tony Benn. Bloody hell. Just imagine. We'd all be speaking Russian by now and living in concrete tower blocks.  

Being fluent in Punjabi isn’t much help outside Punjab, to be honest.

Although I don’t disagree Powell would have loved the Viceroy gig. He was born to be an imperial potentate, not his fault that the Empire was in terminal decline…

jury’s really doubled down on going alt right hasn’t she, ever since being mocked mercilessly 4 immedi7ly regretting voting brexit

Dave Davis (instead of Dave Cameron)

Dave Miliband (instead of Ed Miliband)

Not necessarily the best PMs but would have preferred those outcomes in their respective leadership elections.

Tony Benn not a bad shout - a properly patrician PM with a sense of duty and noblesse oblige. 

Given he rejected the idea of aristocracy and all titles I am not sure he would say he had a sense of noblesse oblige - rather a sense of economic and social justice and equality 

John Smith - he was sensible and pragmatic, but actually had some principles and a moral compass, which was completely lacking in TB.  The world changed after 9/11, so it's unrealistic to think we might not have ended up in 2 wars, most British PM's would have supported the US, whatever their leanings, but things may have played out very differently.  He also might not have let GB get away with the whole "off balance sheet" magical thinking that has underpinned outsourcing, PFI, PPP and the other things that have hollowed out and badly damaged huge parts of the public sector and the public finances generally.

Portillo is also a good shout, but the problem is that when he might have become PM he was a political zealot with very little common sense and could have been a disaster.  He's become far more sensible and pragmatic as he's got older, but he'd never be elected by large chunks of the Tory vote.

Ken Clarke would have been a rubbish choice - he's always tended to answer the question he's asked and generally quite honestly, sometimes even saying what he genuinely thinks.  Poor character traits in a politician, let alone a PM.

as i pointed out above ken clarke opposed the iraq war. whether he would have done so as pm is I accept a different question. (and of course even he had won the con leadership, he would have fought the 2005 election as leader not the 2001 election)


john smith is hard to comment on because so much of his long career was in opposition and if I remember rightly labour's polling only started sky rocketing after he died

David Laws an interesting shout. Plausible.

John Smith a good call.

Heh @ Tony Benn. 

Portillo less clear. The Portillo that came back from the wilderness was certainly more electable/sound. Not sure his heart was in it by then tho. 

Great thread by Duxo although I doubt he will be pleased with my choices. 


Hurd (as a counter balance to Thatcher's vagaries and a better alternative to Major)


Yvette Cooper (she was a tall poppy shadowed by the New Labour shrub)



Duxo - By the time he got in, he was practically a dead man walking without much in his wake. The nation missed his leadership in his prime. 

Also if someone can wish for Blair's fourth term, it is only natural to wish for Palmerston in No 10 during his mid years in politics. 

I contemplated it but I dont think the Cantona approach is how they would expect you to deal with hecklers.

Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. Labour’s manifesto that year was hard to argue with, compared with the sh1tshow that was TM’s govt.

Nick Clegg and David Laws to be taken out and shot. I say that as a Lib Dem voter.

Charles Kennedy a decent shout. Or Paddy Ashdown.

Tony Benn is a fairly bad shout, actually. He gave every impression of being a man who didn’t take electoral politics or practical policymaking at all seriously.

Wilson, in his first premiership, was a pretty good PM. Like Lyndon Johnson in the US he got the hot seat at a time when it was particularly hot, economically, socially and in foz poz terms. Like Johnson, he passed a lot of social reform legislation; not on the scale of that in the US, but in the U.K. Attlee had already done quite a lot that needed to be done. In contrast with Johnson, Wilson’s best foreign policy call (and perhaps the best thing he did as PM, full stop) was keeping Britain out of Vietnam, a strategy the aussies unwisely declined to follow. (A key moment in the divergence between Britain and Australia, that, as the latter began to think and act more as an APAC nation.) You don’t get to choose what your big calls, and therefore your legacy, will be. Wilson got his biggest call right.

Rex when I suggested Jezza I was talking about Thorpe not that CLINT Corbyn.

You’d prefer an alleged criminal to a chap pursuing broadly democratic socialist policies and a soft brexit? Ok.

"Ruth Davidson"

Sorry, I should have made it clear. You can't vote for here-today-gone-tomorrow non-entities from local politics, whom no ordinary person has ever heard of, and who will be completely forgotten within about 50 years. 

Would Powell have wanted it?   He said 'All political careers end in failure'.

He was a tad dramatic. He also spoke about wishing he had been killed in the war.