Arthur James Balfour — Bob’s your Uncle

  • Dick Leonard


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).


Prime Minister Free Trade Conservative Party Parliamentary Debate Political Career 
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Works consulted

  1. Churchill, Winston, Great Contemporaries, London, Thornton Butterworth, 1937.Google Scholar
  2. Douglas-Home, William, The Prime Minister: Stories and Anecdotes from Number 10, London, W.H. Allen, 1987.Google Scholar
  3. Mackay, Ruddock F., Balfour: Intellectual Statesman, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  4. Ridley, Jane, and Clayre Percy, The Letters of Arthur Balfour and Lady Elcho 1985–1917, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. Young, Kenneth, Arthur James Balfour, London, Bell, 1963.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dick Leonard 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dick Leonard

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