The Spectator

A not so talented precedent

A not so talented precedent
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Our new Prime Minister does like a bit of history so, in the course of unveiling his new administration today, he may wish to reconsider his soundbite "government of all the talents". This refers to the "ministry of all the talents" appointed by Lord Grenville (1759-1834) after the death of Pitt the Younger. George III instructed Grenville in January 1806 to form a Government "without exclusion" - a Hanoverian version of "inclusiveness" and "listening and learning" - and the new PM obliged, appointing Charles James Fox (hitherto hated by the King) as Foreign Minister and Lord Sidmouth as Lord Privy Seal. Grenville set about Treasury reform, an overhaul of Scottish civil justice and pulled off the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. To this extent, like Gordon, he led "a new government with new priorities". However, the whole enterprise fell to pieces over the issue of Catholic emancipation and ended on 25 March 1807 after less thanĀ  14 months. The "ministry of all the talents" provided British politics with one of its catchiest soundbites - the ancestor of the "Big Tent" - but also one of its shortest-lived administrations. If I was Gordon, I would find a new precedent.