Longevity records of modern Scottish Prime Ministers are not great.
Since the days of Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the early 20th century, there have only been two Scottish Prime Ministers from Scottish constituencies (discounting Tony Blair, who was born and schooled in Edinburgh but represented Sedgefield; and similarly Ramsay Macdonald who was born in Lossiemouth but represented Aberavon and then Seaham as PM) until Gordon Brown came on the scene.
And the two Scottish Prime Ministers in question, Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas Home, weren’t even born in Scotland!
Andrew Bonar Law was born in New Brunswick in Canada and left at the age of 12. His family were Scottish and he moved to Glasgow and remained there, regarding himself as Scottish. He started and ended his political career at Westminster representing Glasgow constituencies.
Bonar Law was in fact a compromise candidate as Conservative leader. When the two frontrunners Austen Chamberlain and Walter Long divided the party they both agreed to withdraw from the leadership for the party’s interests. After a bout of ill health he resigned as Conservative leader and Chamberlain took over.
But the coalition government of David Lloyd George was in trouble. Both Chamberlain and Lloyd George resigned and Bonar Law became Prime Minister by default in Autumn 1922. He later won a General Election but his continuing ill health – he had throat cancer and eventually could not speak in Parliament – forced him to resign in May 1923. He died that year in October.
As you can see from that summary Bonar Law only managed to get the top job from the failure of the coalition government, and the Conservative leader Chamberlain resigning.
Alec Douglas-Home was born in Mayfair, London but was heir to the Scottish Earldom of Home which he inherited in 1951. He took up various roles of Goverenment in the House of Lords.
When Harold Macmillan resigned due to prostrate trouble in October 1963, the Queen had to choose the next Prime Minister as there was no party apparatus in the Conservative Party at the time to annoint a successor. She chose Alec Douglas-Home.
Believing that he could not reasonably function as Prime Minister in the Lords, he renounced his peerage using the 1963 Peerage Act that Tony Benn had used and later fought and won a by-election in Kinross and West Perthshire. (The 1963 Peerage Act also allowed all Scottish peers entry to the Lords; previously only sixteen were elected. English peers had no such restrictions.)
Unfortunately for him the Conservative Government was already damaged by the Profumo Affair and he lost the subsequent General Election in October 1964.
Again Douglas-Home can also be seen as fortunate to get the top job.
So there are only two Scottish Prime Ministers based in Scotland after Bannerman and before Brown.
Both fortunate to land the role of Prime Minister.
Both Prime Minister for a very short time.
Brown himself as not been elected, taking over from Tony Blair when he resigned. Brown has been Prime Minister now for over a year, but his time in office has not been easy.
He has been accused to having a ‘Scottish Mafia’ by the English press.
And since devolution the West Lothian Question is often quoted against Gordon Brown being Prime Minister. He can exert laws on Health and Education on England that don’t apply in his own constituency. Thats not too popular in England.
As you can see Scottish Prime Ministers holding Scottish constituencies look like there are fated to short premierships. The current speculation of Gordon Brown’s leadership and his position in the polls seem to suggest that Brown’s reign will also be short.
Could it be that England does not want Scottish Prime Ministers?
And if the Conservatives enact the proposal of English votes for English matters, will there ever be a Scottish Prime Minister of the UK again?
In which case what incentive is there for Scots to seek representation at Westminster? Their MPs will be second class citizens by default. In such a scenario the end of the Union between Scotland and England will be a certainty.
Gordon Brown may be the last Scottish Prime Minister of the UK from a Scottish constituency.
But he can cheer up in the knowledge that his reign has already outlasted that of Andrew Bonar Law and Alec Douglas-Home.
And if he manages to last till the summer of 2010 he’ll even beat that 2 yrs 5 months record of Campbell-Bannerman’s premiership.
Home-based Scots have such short and infrequent reigns as Prime Minister in modern day politics that its already clear that this Union is not a true partnership.
Brown may have another predictable short Scottish reign as Prime Minister.
The longevity of the Union looks even shorter.