20/5/08 - Leadership blues (£)
The Times

Sir, Dr Marshall (letter, May 15) points out that long-serving prime ministers have almost invariably been followed by short-lived or troubled successors when the party remains in power. In fact, almost all have been both; the trouble being the cause of the short life.

Rosebery’s and Balfour’s Governments were both racked with internal divisions (indeed, the latter was totally split over tariff reform). Chamberlain and Eden both lost party confidence over the conduct of war. Callaghan had to face down the Left in his Cabinet and saw his small Commons majority disappear. Douglas-Home alone led a short-lived, harmonious Government (and only lost power by a whisker in 1964). Major led the one Government that was both troubled and, at nearly seven years, quite long-lived. For once the ruthless Conservative Party failed to deal with failure by making his tenure short.
Alistair Cooke
London SW1