The Fifth Man

John Rentoul

Asquith 222x300 The Fifth ManThe last sentence of Jonathan Powell’s The New Machiavelli (yes, I have finished it) is:

Whatever his faults, Tony Blair will certainly be counted as one of the four or perhaps five great British prime ministers of the last hundred years.

Allan Mallinson in The Spectator asks if this line is “satire”, but there is a much more interesting question: who is the fifth prime minister? The others are, presumably, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher: but who gets Powell’s “perhaps” slot? Probably not Attlee, patron saint of old Labour.


Portrait of H H Asquith by Andre Cluysenaar (1919)

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  • Brian Hughes

    Heath? For taking us into Europe (he typed provocatively)…

  • AlanGiles

    I’d nominate Harold Wilson, for keeping this country OUT of wars, even though America issued an invitation, and creating The Open University.

    Peace and learning. A far better monument than Rentoul’s favourite PM will ever be remembered for

  • pfbulmer

    The only way Tony Blair could have been in the same dimension as these Prime Ministers would be if their shoes had stepped into something that a dog might have left in the street !

  • porkfright

    I thought it was “Parlophone”.

  • AlanGiles

    Parlophone was an EMI imprint. If Rentoul had recorded for them I am sure he would have been on “His Masters Voice” :-)

  • property lady

    “…but who gets Powell’s “perhaps” slot?…”
    I like how Tony Blair falls behind the prime minister allocated the “perhaps slot”, I’m sure that makes him feel good.

  • Ciaran Rehill

    At a high ranking Amnesty International meeting yesterday it was posited that Blair is about to be endited for war crimes. Worth a sequel John?

  • StarDasher

    “keeping this country OUT of wars” It also kept Harold Wilson out of power in 1970.

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