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Has the history of British prime ministers been a hstory of strong leadership? See below...


Welcome to InfoBritain, for historical visiting information in the UK. InfoBritain tells you what happened and where it happened. We have articles and visits relating to all historical periods from prehistoric Britain to recent times, and to the lives of major British authors, artists, musicians, scientists, politicians, military and royal figures. You can use our site search, or our various menus to find suggested visits relating to times or people. Alternatively go to the regions menu, find a place to visit in a particular area, and then link back to the history relating to it. We also have a full accommodation booking service for all parts of the mainland UK. We specialise in historic accommodation, but we also have comprehensive lists of hotels of all types and price ranges. See the regional menus on the right. Enjoy!

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A Personal Note (Archive)

April 29, 2017

The last few weeks have seen much emphasis on “strong leadership,” with Theresa May using this phrase twelve times in one recent speech.  In response to that, you could just say “Switzerland.”  Switzerland is one of the world’s most successful countries.  It also has a government designed to make sure that strong leadership concentrated on one person does not arise.  The President of the Swiss Confederation is the presiding member of the seven member Swiss Federal Council.  The person filling this role is elected for a one year term by the members of the Federal Assembly.  The President chairs meetings of the Federal Council and undertakes representational duties, but does not have any powers beyond that of the other members of the Federal Council.  It is very unlikely that you know the identity of the current person holding the role of president – who happens to be Doris Leutard – because the Swiss system does not seek to concentrate power in one person.  The entire Federal Council is a collective head of state.

Switzerland is economically a much more successful country than the UK, which goes to show that   strong, stable leadership, the mantra of Theresa May, is not a guarantor of national success.  In fact, you could say the opposite is true.  A truly successful country has strong institutions that protect against the vagaries of individuals.   Neither of the two main candidates in the approaching UK general election seem interested in creating strong institutions as opposed to creating strong personal positions for themselves.  When Ed Milliband asked his party to give him the power to appoint cabinet posts, then MP Jeremy Corbyn voted against the idea.  Now he is leader, Corbyn does not want to remain consistent with his earlier position and give that power back to his MPs, even though it would probably help the cohesion of his party of he did so. 

Strong leaders might be colourful, noisy, maybe even exciting if you’re into that sort of thing, but that doesn’t mean they are going to contribute to national success. Britain does have a history of leaders who are wisely aware of the limitations of their role – Robert Walpole, Lord North, Henry Addington, Lord Grenville, Spencer Percival, Lord Melbourne, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Clement Attlee, James Callaghan and John Major, all had that wisdom.  The fact that you might not have heard of many of them is proof of their success.  The current talk of strong leaders indicates that Britain is not in a good position.

Best wishes


The InfoBritain view of history (with thanks to The Simpsons)


Historical news for May

Fot the history of the American dream, see the British Museum exhibition



Anniversaries for May

1st May 1707 : The Act of Union passed by Parliament during the reign of Queen Anne merges the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form Great Britain.

2nd May 1985: The artist Andy Warhol makes an entry in his diary - an unashamaedly mundane account of the people he meets and what he buys in shops. In this entry he objects to Bianca Jagger's attempt to make more of his life than he does: "And Bianca was driving me crazy saying how she was researching my days in Pittsburgh for her book on Great Men, and she went on and on about how I broke the system, broke the system, and I felt like saying, 'Look Bianca I'm just here. I'm just a working person. How did I break the system?' God she's dumb."

5th May 1967: Britain's first satellite, Ariel 3, goes into orbit around the Earth, after lauching in California. Ariel 3 was used to study conditions in the upper atmosphere.

8th May 1971: Arsenal win the FA Cup final by beating Liverpool 2-1. All of the goals were scored in extra time, with Charlie George scoring the winner. I'm including this anniversary for some Arsenal friends of mine who might prefer to remember happier times!

11th May 868: A copy of the Diamond Sutra, a book concerning itself with wisdom and how to find it, is printed in China. The British Library says this book is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world.

14th May 1796: The doctor and medical researcher Edward Jenner inoculates a young boy named James Phipps with a mild disease called cow pox. This gave Phipps immunity to the deadly small pox. Jenner's experiment eventually eradicated a disease which caused 10% of all deaths in the eighteenth century.

27th May 1955: Following five years of political stalemate, the Conservatives under Anthony Eden win a clear victory in the general election. Following the disastrous Suez Crisis, Eden resigns less than two years later.

31st May 1916: The Battle of Jutland takes place in the North Sea, a huge naval encounter between the fleets of Britain and Germany. The outcome is indecisive.

A preview of my novel - about a girl who discovers that surprisingly she can't find her way to the sort of secret world found in story books. So she searches for an alternative.



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