Proof that politics hasn’t changed

Name the British PM described below, shortly after he invaded an Arab country under false pretences...

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The Independent Online

A test for readers: name the British Prime Minister described here, shortly after he used a dishonest excuse to invade an Arab country:

“His public life was to a large extent a fraud … The insincerities of debate were ingrained in him … if he had a new distasteful policy to pursue, his first objective was to persuade himself into a belief that it was really congenial to him…”

Another try: this time a cabinet member who resigned in protest at the same invasion, writing of the same PM that he “seems to have the power of convincing himself that what to me seems a glaring wrong is evidently right, and though he regrets that a crowd of men should be killed, he regards it as almost … as if it was one of the incidents of a policy out of which he hopes for a better order of things. He even spoke of our being able to justify our conduct.”

Fraud? Insincerity? Unrepentant? A Prime Minister who justifies his actions in the eyes of God? Nope, you’ve got the wrong guy. These wonderful quotations (flushed out by the good Professor John Newsinger of Bath Spa), are about Gladstone after his 19th-century invasion of Egypt. The first was by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt – the socialist (and pro-Egyptian independence) poet. The second – the Robin Cook figure – was by John Bright, a radical in Gladstone’s cabinet, who also, alas, regarded “the Egyptian incident [sic] rather as a deplorable blunder than as a crime”.