The Top Job – Delving into Prime Ministerial History

Members were treated on 20 January 2015 to a talk given by Janet Seaton and Barry Winetrobe.

At the outset we were reminded that our country has ‘enjoyed’ fifty-three PMs, of whom the longest serving was Walpole from 1721 to 1742.

For local interest, our attention was drawn to the Blue Plaque at 13 Canon Street, Taunton, which records D‘Israeli’s brief residence when he stood for the constituency in 1835. His prospects were considered poor and this was confirmed by a heavy defeat, despite reportedly wooing the voters with the claim that ‘there was no place like Taunton’.

Prime Ministers

Some PMs from history.

Janet and Barry went on to describe the role and function of a PM, reminding us that in the absence of a written constitution a definitive ‘job description’ doesn’t exist.          

A PM has a special and long established relationship with the reigning monarch, attending weekly audiences. The monarch may have reason to consider themselves the senior partner, since our present Queen has to date presided over twelve PMs. Citing however the example of the abdication of King Edward VIII, in a crisis it is the PM who holds sway. Baldwin made it clear that the King would have to go if he married ‘that woman’!

Extra marital affairs are no strangers to PMs and several examples of this were cited.

PMs can be undone by events, the whim of the electorate and even their own cabinet and party members. Most notably in recent history have been Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech which hastened the fall of Margaret Thatcher, Churchill’s remarkable loss of office at the end of WW2 and Chamberlain’s demise at the beginning of that war.

We were treated to numerous other interesting facts and figures. Our speakers held attention throughout and cleverly interspersed a couple of picture quizzes to provide a degree of audience participation.

Following a vote of thanks by Chris Cooper, the generous round of applause summed up an entertaining evening.

Brian Hunter