Friday, March 28, 2008

Brownie alert!

In Gordon Brown's speech to the Scottish Labour conference, he claimed the following:
"What makes me proudest of all is that I am the first prime minister to represent a Scottish constituency - the constituency I grew up in, the constituency where I went to school."
Now, Brown's difficulties with the actualite have been well-documented by the Coffee House blog, and here is another example. Because what apparently makes him proudest of all is, to put it charitably, balls. Shall we have a little look?
William Gladstone (1868–74, 1880–85, 1886 and 1892–94): a slightly tricky one, as he was MP for all sorts of places, including Greenwich, University of Oxford and Newark, but he was Prime Minister from 1880 onwards as MP for Midlothian.
VERDICT: Scottish, Scottish constituency.
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1905-1908): pretty clearcut actually. He was elected as MP for Stirling Burghs in 1868, and remained MP there until his death in 1908. He died in No.10 Downing Street, still the only PM to have done so.
VERDICT: Scottish, Scottish constituency.
Herbert Asquith (1908-1916): another straightforward one actually. Asquith was first elected as MP for East Fife in 1886, and it was as East Fife's MP that Asquith was Prime Minister. Even after the war, when he had to find a new seat, it was as MP for Paisley that he returned. Brown really has no excuse for not knowing this one - he's MP for Fife, the modern version of Asquith's old seat.
VERDICT: Scottish, Scottish constituency.
Andrew Bonar Law (1922-1923): Bonar Law was a Scots Canadian, and first entered Parliament in 1900 as MP for Glasgow Blackfriars. However, following the death of his wife in 1910, he temporarily left politics, and it was as MP for Bootle that he was Prime Minister.
VERDICT: pretty Scottish, English constituency.
Ramsay Macdonald (1924, 1931-35): Now, given that Macdonald was definitely Scottish, you might have thought he'd have stood in Scotland. But no, it was as MP for Aberavon in Wales that he was Prime Minister.
VERDICT: Scottish, but Welsh constituency.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1964): No real excuses here, as Lord Dunglass, as the Earl of Home and as Sir Alec Douglas-Home, this man was a typical Scottish aristocrat (educated at Eton, born in Mayfair, that sort of thing). He was first elected as MP for Lanark in 1931, and, when he renounced his earldom in 1963, it was the seat of Kinross & West Perthshire that he stood for.
VERDICT: Scottish, Scottish constituency.
So, when Gordon Brown said today that he was proud to be the first Prime Minister to represent a Scottish constituency, what he should have said was that he was proud to be the fifth Prime Minister to represent a Scottish constituency. The man's got a Phd in history as well...
UPDATE: Asquith is, of course a Yorkshireman, from Airedale I believe. Which I really ought to have known since I used to have an Airedale called Asquith...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

He obviously wasn't paying attention in his history lessons, regardless of where he grew up.

10:22 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

Well quite.

10:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that the Yorkshireman - West Riding - Asquith would appreciate being called a Scotsman. And nor would my wife, his great-granddaughter.

3:46 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

Recusant - you are, of course, quite right and it was a bit of a blunder. Gladstone might not be too happy either...

On the other hand, Brown did talk about 'representing a Scottish constituency' so he's wrong as well...

3:51 pm  

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