Alec Douglas-Home (it's pronounced
"Hume") 1903-1995, is definitely the most obscure British Prime Minister of the post-war period, serving for almost exactly a year from 1963 to 1964.
An aristocrat by birth, he played first-class cricket in the 1920s after going to Eton and Oxford. He was elected as a Conservative MP in 1931 and served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain
. Losing his seat in the 1945 landslide, he came back in 1950, then inherited his father's seat in the House of Lords, becoming the 14th Earl of Home.
He served as Commonwealth Secretary and Leader of the Lords before a rather odd event in 1963.
suddenly stepped down when misdiagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. With no formal procedure for choosing a new Conservative leader, things were dealt with by an informal discussion. There were two front-runners, Rab Butler and Quintin Hogg. Many of the Tory grandees were not prepared to serve with one of them, Mac didn't like Butler and Douglas-Home emerged as a compromise candidate. Macmillan advised the Queen to send for him and the peer managed to form a government. This is the last time a peer was appointed as PM and the last time that the monarch had any say in appointing one.
Home decided he'd best be PM from the Commons, resigned his peerage (he had a knighthood too) and was parachuted in to a vacant seat in a by-election.
Home's administration was really just biding time until the next election a year later, which the Conservatives only narrowly lost (quite impressive considering they had been in power for thirteen years). Afterwards, he changed the method by which Tory leaders were chosen to an election of their MPs. His brief tenure was marked by a gaffe when he made reference to using matchsticks to help him count, which obviously lent ammunition to the opposition casting scorn on his budget figures.
He served as Foreign Secretary under Edward Heath
, then left the Commons at the October 1974 election. He was given a life peerage and became Baron Home of the Hirsel.
In 1964, he successfully foiled an attempt by a pair of students to kidnap him by offering them some beer
. He didn't report it to prevent his bodyguard from being sacked.
Home's popular image, when people remember him, was as a Scottish landowner. He really wasn't cut out for TV, unlike Wilson. That said, he was likeable.
- Private Eye unearthed an article from The Scotsman that had accidentally interposed the caption for a photo of Douglas-Hume with one of a castle called Baillie Vass. After that, the magazine insisted on referring to the PM by that name and created a joke conspiracy theory about it being his real name, which they kept up until after Douglas-Hume's death.
- They picked the joke back up again, as when his nephew Charles Douglas-Home became editor of The Times in the mid-1980s, they called him "Charles Vass". Sadly, the younger Douglas-Home died of cancer in 1985.
- Douglas-Home appears in Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, during the period in The Seventies when he was Foreign Secretary to Edward Heath. As Heath wins the 1974 election in this Alternate History work, Douglas-Home continues as Foreign Secretary a few years longer and plays a key role in issues such as the occupation of Syria.