The most civilised, and perhaps the most intelligent, of twentieth-century Prime Ministers was Arthur Balfour. He was also, by common consent, one of the least effective. Cynics may conclude that there was a direct connection: that the rough-and-tumble of democratic politics is not designed for finer spirits. Yet Balfour successfully held high ministerial office, both before and after his premiership, and left his mark in several important areas of public policy. Indeed, it is a little known fact that Balfour’s career as a Cabinet minister was the longest in British history. He served under four very different Prime Ministers, a clear indication that his contribution was highly valued. Balfour’s record, compared in length of years with other long-serving statesmen, is listed by his most recent biographer as follows: Balfour 27, Churchill 26, Liverpool 25, Gladstone 24, Palmerston 23, the Younger Pitt 22 (Mackay 1985, p.354).
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