The top ten: Best prime ministers we never had

 

My admiration for Alan Johnson, whose childhood memoir 'This Boy' was published last month, prompted a debate about those people who would have made good prime ministers. If AJ had been a little more arrogant, a little madder, he could have become prime minister in January 2010 and would still be prime minister now: how different, and how much better, the austerity story would have been…

1. Alan Johnson

Orphan, postman, trade unionist: a one-nation biography and a modernising minister; as with some others on this list, lacked the last ounce of bloodlust.

2. Michael Heseltine

Would have been more exciting than John Major (and better even than "the Major we thought we were getting", to quote Ian Leslie), but would have split the Conservatives.

3. David Blunkett

Could have been the first blind prime minister. Nominated by Peter Diapre.

4. Kenneth Clarke

Unfortunate to come up not just against a Eurosceptic Tory Party, but against Tony Blair.

5. Hazel Blears

I know, I know, another Blairite (I could have listed John Reid and David Miliband, too). But she is good, and if she hadn't got into trouble with her expenses…

6. Joseph Chamberlain

Split both the Liberals and the Unionists: imagine if the force of that personality had been deployed in No 10.

7. Barbara Castle

Would have been better than the later Wilson, with the added advantage of pre-empting Thatcher's exceptionalism.

8. Evan Durbin

Died aged 42 in 1948, rescuing his daughter from the sea. As Sunder Katwala says, obscure but with brilliant potential.

9. Denis Healey

His time came when the Labour Party was off its head and his natural aggression only made matters worse.

10. Iain Macleod

Never mind the gambling, the money and the women, Macleod was a brilliant centrist who, had he lived, could have replaced Ted Heath in 1972.

Next week The Top 10 most overrated 1960s bands. Send your suggestions, or ideas for future Top 10s, to top10@independent.co.uk

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