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William Gladstone LeadershipWilliam Gladstone Leadership


William Gladstone (1809-1898)


British Liberal prime minister (pictured right), elected four times and widely regarded (e.g. by Winston Churchill), as one of the greatest.

Didn’t get on with Queen Victoria (pictured right below), or his main political rival, Benjamin Disraeli.

 William Gladstone Leadership

Why was he a great leader?

1. Principles

He strongly believed in giving power and freedom to everyone at home and abroad.

He attacked the power and privileges of the rich and gave the vote to 7½ million men (women didn’t vote then) saying “I will back the masses against the classes”.

He cut income tax (to 2p in the pound in 1865!) and the role of government, which he believed wasted taxpayers’ money.

His Home Rule Bill, giving a parliament to Ireland, may have prevented the country’s violent partition into Northern Ireland and an independent Eire. But the House of Lords rejected his farsighted idea.

 william gladstone leadership

2. Brilliant parliamentarian

He used his quick intelligence, vitality, attention to detail, charisma and wonderful vocabulary to become one of the most effective politicians in British Parliamentary history.

He had brilliant debates  with his big political rival, Benjamin Disraeli (pictured right)


3. Looked to the future

He believed that progress depends on giving power to the people and making the most of their ability through education and advancement based on merit, not social class.

 He also foresaw the importance of taking an active role in Europe.

“One cannot fight against the future”, he said.


4. Lifelong learning

Despite often being boring in conversation, he was always a good listener, if he thought someone could tell him something he didn’t know.

He also loved reading books (particularly on theology), and by 1895 had 23,000 of them!


william gladstone leadership

5. Purpose and religion

Apart from his concern for ordinary people’s welfare, he devoted much of his spare time to helping London prostitutes and finding them other work.

His wife, Catherine (pictured right together), and eight children, were extremely important to him, but his first priority was always obeying God’s will.



6. Relaxation and exercise

He relaxed by reading, taking long walks, and (until he was 81!) tree felling.


 Key quotes on government and politics

It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right.

Nothing that can be morally wrong can be politically right.

National injustice is the surest road to national downfall.

We look forward to the time when the power to love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.

England’s foreign policy should always be inspired by the love of freedom.


Key quote on happiness

Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.


Key quote on society

Selfishness is the greatest curse of the human race.


Key quote on law and justice

Justice delayed is justice denied.

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