Politicians On Postcards : Bob’s His Uncle
For want of something better to do, I thought I would start a short series entitled “Politicians On Postcards”. The length of the series will, no doubt, be determined by how many examples of this rather specialised genre I can find in my collection.
There can only be one place to start a series on “Politicians On Postcards” and that is with the British Prime Minister at the time of the great postcard boom of the early twentieth century, and that is Arthur J Balfour (1848-1930), who was Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905. Balfour was born into a well connected Scottish aristocratic family, and like so many from that background he progressed with little effort and less talent to become a Conservative Member of Parliament. He did not show any particular enthusiasm for political or public works, but soon found himself promoted to senior political office by his uncle, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, who just happened to be the Prime Minister of the day. When political pundits questioned the reason for the appointment of Balfour to the important post of Secretary of State for Ireland, the popular explanation was “Bob’s Your Uncle”, which was the origin of that particular phrase.
In 1902, Balfour went on to replace his Uncle as Prime Minister, but his Premiership was characterised by rifts within the Conservative and Unionist Party about free trade. In the elections of 1905, Balfour lost his job and his Parliamentary seat. The postcard portrait must date from the period when he was still climbing the political ladder, propelled by nepotism and the support of his Uncle Bob.