Sunday 22 September 2019

Few Prime Ministers leave office sane

I said in this blog that David Cameron was an exception to the rule that no Prime Minister leaves office sane. I am no longer sure. Alison Pearson reviewing his overlong memoirs for the Sunday Telegraph draws from them the conclusion that he no longer is. 

That would explain his annoying the Queen so much by breaching her confidences a second time. 

More probably he is sane, sane enough to be capable of standing trial, but in very poor mental health. 

He more or less admitted to being depressed, poor man, when asked in an interview by the man from the Times. His poignant answer was 'I'm not on medication'. 

He has presumably been like this since the referendum result (and he is not the only one, think Lord Adonis and A.C. Grayling). He says he thinks about it a lot every day. 

It was a mistake that he left the Commons, which would have kept him occupied.

He is not thinking straight and this should be taken into account when he talks about Michael Gove and Boris, whom he considers betrayed him (they didn't) or when he says that a referendum on EU membership would have happened sooner or later (it wouldn't). 

His politics are very different from mine, he is not really a Tory at all, but he is a very nice person, decent and intelligent, unlike his successor.

Theresa May's mental oddness became apparent more and more, especially after the 2017 election, and by the end she seemed to have gone over the edge. All that kept her going was her urge to retain the job at all costs. 

It is evident from memoirs written by his colleagues that Gordon Brown was never sane to begin with. Mr Blair cannot be  forgiven by historians or anyone else for not getting rid of him, in order to prevent him getting the top job. 

Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath never got over the trauma of losing the party leadership which left both emotionally unbalanced, but both had lost their grip on reality while still Prime Minister. 

Harold Wilson and Harold Macmillan showed few obvious signs of madness but both were alcoholics. The former went senile (it might be that he recognised early signs and this is why he retired at 60). So did Churchill while Prime Minister. Eden ("half beautiful woman, half mad baronet") certainly became crazy in office, something exacerbated by his drug use. 

C.R. Attlee remained a model of sanity in the worst sense of the word. Lord Home, who was never tested in his short premiership, was sane in the best sense and happily fly fished, shot and went to church on Sunday. 


  1. Of course you leave out Blair and Major, you can call them many things but insane isn't one of them.

    1. I forgot them. Someone - was it Austin Mitchell? - said Mr Blair had gone mad by the end. Was he mad when he insisted on helping Bush invade Iraq, even though Bush had told him he wouldn't mind if he stayed out and protected his political base? Had Major gone mad it would have been very understandable but I don't think he did.

  2. Nearly all prime ministers (British or otherwise) are prima donnas with a chip on their shoulder, and losing office tends to unhinge them. Home was a rare exception and was modest enough to serve under Heath, who must surely have appalled him. Roy Major, being the son of a circus performer and garden-gnome-maker from Brixton, has a bigger chip on his shoulder than most. He undoubtedly went mad while in office, and was often seen frothing at the mouth over his love of the EEC, the ERM, and the EU (of which he was one of the founding fathers). I am hoping that when we finally leave the EU the men in white coats will take him away to an asylum. He might find some peace of mind there by going back to making garden gnomes, highly therapeutic. Boris is a prima donna but does not suffer from that chip on the shoulder. In any event, his fall from office is quite a few years away.

    1. I imagine Sir John rereading R.F.Delderfield. Perhaps I should try him - he sort of appealed when I was 13. I hope you are right about Boris. TM had a huge chip and apparently Gove has one. I am not sure TM was a prima donna exactly - more modest with a lot to be modest about, but power hungry vain and narcissistic. Perhaps narcissistic means she is a prima donna.

  3. My theory is that no sane normal decent person ever goes into politics in the first place. That's one of the many weaknesses of democracy. If you want to run for public office then you are by definition unfit for such office.

    The more ambitious the politician the less likely they are to be sane normal or decent.

    Could anyone seriously argue that Churchill was ever normal? Or Boris Johnson? Or Trump? Or Hillary Clinton? Or JFK? Eden was a basket case even before the war. I admire Nixon but I'm not sure he was ever psychologically normal.

    In Australia Bob Hawke was an unstable lecherous drunk before becoming prime minister. Malcolm Turnbull was always a preening narcissist. Tony Abbott was a nice guy but never all that stable (I remember him from my university days).

    1. In my humble opinion, there are rather few sane normal decent people anywhere outside rural England, but there are still a few almost everywhere. What you say about politicians being by definition unfit for office is a conclusion based on an extreme premise just snatched out of the air.