The worst Prime Minister

In its editorial on 23 March, The Spectator declared that ‘Lord North is one of the few beneficiaries of the May premiership: he is now no longer the worst prime minister in our history.’ In a letter published in the next issue of the magazine on 30 March, Alistair Lexden showed that North was a much more impressive figure than is generally supposed.

 

Sir: Lord North deserves to be released by Mrs May from the ignominy of being ‘the worst prime minister in our history’. This hugely popular man dominated the Commons for 12 years, speaking regularly for two hours without notes. One discerning contemporary noted that: ‘ He attracted almost all the attention, being powerful, able, and fluent in debate. It was impossible to experience dullness in his company’. Like all the best Tories, he cut taxes and increased prosperity. The great paradox of the American War of Independence is that North did not want to fight it. He stayed in the premiership out of loyalty to his monarch, who knew the value of this remarkable and loveable man. One day an opponent complained, in the middle of a violent attack, that ‘the noble Lord is asleep’-- whereupon North, his eyes still shut, said: ‘I wish to God I were’.  He possessed all the qualities a prime minister needs, except luck and selfishness.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords