BBC Home
Explore the BBC
18 October  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1963: Aristocrat is new prime minister
A Scottish Earl has won one of the most bitterly-fought leadership contests in the history of the Conservative Party to become Britain's next Prime Minister.

As Lord Home arrived at 10 Downing Street, he told reporters, "It is a great honour to be asked to do this."

He now has three days in which to persuade two of his bitterest rivals in the leadership contest, the former deputy Prime Minister Rab Butler, and former Chancellor, Reginald Maudling, to join his cabinet, so that he can form a government.

He has many admirable qualities, but they do not seem to have counted as much as the fact that he did not want the job.
Jo Grimond, Liberal Party leader
The former Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, has been battling illness for some time, and announced his resignation at the Conservative Party conference less than a week ago.

Four candidates emerged to take over: Mr Butler, Mr Maudling, Lord Hailsham and Lord Home.

The leadership battle became increasingly bitter, and split the party into two camps - one supporting Mr Butler, and another behind Mr Maudling.

Lord Home, who was foreign secretary in the Macmillan Government, was initially regarded as an outsider, and was the only one of the four who expressed reluctance to take up the post.

He also has a low public profile outside the House of Commons, although he is well-liked and respected at Westminster.

But as the rivalry between the two camps became a bitter feud, Lord Home's name was increasingly mentioned as the compromise candidate.

Mr Macmillan's choice of a peer to succeed him as prime minister - the first to hold the office since 1895 - is highly controversial, and has been greeted with bewilderment by the supporters of Rab Butler, who was widely believed to have been the prime minister's favoured candidate.

The press and the opposition have also attacked Lord Home's aristocratic background and perceived lack of a public profile.

"No party can ever have portrayed such a total lack of confidence in each other as to have to resort to such a drama in order to find the lowest common denominator," commented the deputy leader of the opposition, George Brown.

The Liberal leader Jo Grimond said of Lord Home, "He has many admirable qualities, but they do not seem to have counted as much as the fact that he did not want the job.

"That surely is an insufficient reason for giving it to him."

 E-mail this story to a friend

Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Lord Home is a respected statesman, but little-known outside Westminster

New PM Lord Home to lose his peerage

In Context
Lord Home renounced his hereditary title soon afterwards, and became Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

He was prime minister for less than a year, making little impression before losing the General Election of 1964 to the Labour Party under Harold Wilson.

Mr Wilson - portraying himself as an "ordinary bloke" - relentlessly attacked Sir Alec's aristocratic background during the campaign.

After the controversy surrounding Harold Macmillan's choice of successor, the Conservative Party changed the way it selected a new leader.

When Sir Alec resigned as leader of the opposition in July 1965, his successor was chosen by a ballot of Conservative MPs for the first time. The shadow Chancellor, Edward Heath, won.

Sir Alec served as foreign secretary for Mr Heath in opposition and in government after 1970.

He left the Commons before the October 1974 general election, and was given a life peerage with the title, Baron Home of the Hirsel.

He remained a prominent figure in the House of Lords until his death in October 1995.

Stories From 18 Oct

Search ON THIS DAY by date
Go back one day Go forward one day  

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy