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History and Tour

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Alex Douglas Home Born: 2 July 1903 in Mayfair, London

First entered Parliament: 27 October 1931

Age he became PM: 60 years, 109 days

Maiden Speech: 15 February 1932 in support of the Second Reading of the Imports Bill, a measure designed to protect British industries by imposing duties on a range of imported goods

Total time as PM: 362 days

Died: 9 October 1995 at Berwickshire, Scotland

Facts and figures

Education: Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford

Family: Douglas-Home was the eldest son and first of seven children. He was married to Elizabeth Hester Alington and had one son and three daughters

Interests: Shooting, fishing and flower arranging

Biography

First peer to become PM

Educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, Alec Douglas-Home was the first peer to become PM since Salisbury in 1895.

He began his parliamentary career in 1931 when elected as Conservative MP for Lanark. On his arrival in the House of Commons he was a supporter of MacDonald’s National Government.

In 1935 he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain, accompanying him to Munich to meet Hitler. However, a spinal operation laid him low for most of the war, during which he spent two years in a plaster cast.

Neville Chamberlain Home served briefly in Churchill’s caretaker post-war government, but lost his seat in the subsequent Labour landslide.

In 1950 he won his seat back but left the Commons again the following year when he succeeded his father to become the 14th Earl of Home.

With the Conservatives returned to power, Home was made Minister of State in the Scottish Office until 1955, when he joined the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. He was later made Lord President of the Council.

In 1960 Macmillan made him Foreign Secretary a controversial choice given that Home was unelected.

Able and respected

This move prompted a vote of censure, which was not carried. Home proved himself an able and respected Foreign Secretary.

Macmillan supported him as his successor in 1963, and in winning the leadership he renounced his peerage in order to rejoin the House of Commons by winning a by-election in Kinross. However, Home did not have time to make his mark before being obliged to call a General Election, which the Conservatives lost narrowly.

Harold Wilson gained much political mileage by attacking Home’s aristocratic background. Home spent only one year as Leader of the Opposition. His greater successes come later, when he returned to the post of Foreign Secretary under Edward Heath.

Even his fiercest opponents found it hard to dislike Home personally.

Quote unquote

“There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible”

Did you know?

In 1974 he returned to the House of Lords as a life peer, and attended regularly for twenty years. He died in October 1995, aged 92.

Wife

Elizabeth Alington was a tireless hostess of invaluable assistance and support to Home while he was PM. She was once engaged to famous cricket commentator Brian Johnston.

It is alleged that on one occasion she had to remind her husband of the country he was visiting on a foreign visit.

Her husband never recovered from her death in 1990. It was said that ‘he had the sparkle but…was lost without her’. Baroness Thatcher paid tribute saying that ‘goodness and kindness radiated from Elizabeth to all the people she came into contact with’. The couple had one son and three daughters.

The previous Prime Minister

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History and Tour