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100 years ago: Call for equal opportunity

26 May 2023

May 25th, 1923.

THE retirement of Mr Bonar Law has raised a point of the greatest constitutional importance. Lord Curzon had, by common consent, the first claim to the highest office in the State. A career of great distinction has been enhanced during the past year by his brilliant conduct of the negotiations at Lausanne. Freed from the domination of a Prime Minister who insisted on being his own Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon has shown himself a statesman of high order. But it was also, by common consent, agreed that the new Prime Minister must be in the House of Commons, where Lord Curzon, in his younger days, once expressed a desire to remain. It is unthinkable that the Prime Minister should sit in a House in which the official Opposition is not represented. But the circumstances which have made the choice of a commoner inevitable are not merely temporary; it is not probable that in the near future a reunited and reinvigorated Liberalism will supersede Labour on the Opposition benches. It seems likely, then, that no peer will in future be considered eligible for the post of Prime Minister, unless some measure of accommodation can be devised to prevent the exclusion of a whole class. And if the highest office is closed against peers, there will be little inducement for the sons of peers to make politics their career. That would be a real loss to the country, which has been immeasurably indebted to men who by ability, education, independence and public spirit have been qualified to serve it well. The doctrine of equal opportunity seems to need a fresh assertion.

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