Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman — ‘A Good, Honest Scotchman’
In December 1898, Lord Tweedmouth, a former Liberal Chief Whip, travelled to Scotland to meet Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman at his residence at Belmont Castle. His mission: to offer him the leadership of the Liberal Party. Tweedmouth was confident that C.B., as he was universally known, would decline the offer, which was made as a courtesy to a popular and highly regarded but indolent colleague, already 62, who was believed to be without any ambition beyond becoming Speaker of the House of Commons. Once this formality was out of the way, Tweedmouth and the party’s top brass, on whose behalf the offer was made, could get down to the serious business of choosing the man who was to lead their party into the next century. There appeared to be four possibilities. Former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery and former Chancellor of the Exchequer William Harcourt, both of whom had petulantly resigned the leadership in the preceding three years, complaining of lack of support by their colleagues. Could one, or the other, be tempted back? Former Home Secretary Herbert Asquith had ruled himself out, on the grounds that he could not afford to relinquish his prodigious earnings at the bar. Could his arm be twisted? And there was John Morley, the former deputy leader, who had somewhat hastily bracketed his own resignation with that of Harcourt, and now showed signs of regretting it. Any of these would cut a more impressive figure than the amiable but dull C.B., it was thought, and there was general consternation when Tweedmouth reported back that he had accepted the offer.
KeywordsPrime Minister Family Firm Liberal Party Cabinet Minister General Consternation
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