The Top 10: Ministers Who Did the Job They Were Responsible For

This list started when Laura McInerney‏ asked: “Has there ever been a transport secretary who once worked in transport?” I said that John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions 1997-2001, had been a steward in the Merchant Navy. Mr Memory added that Harry Gosling, Labour’s first Transport Minister in 1924, had been a waterman. 

1. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Minister of War for three weeks in 1834, was Field Marshal (and winner of the battle of Waterloo). Nominated by Robert Boston. Most defence secretaries served in the armed forces until 1992, when Tom King was succeeded by Malcolm Rifkind, although Liam Fox, 2010-11, had been a civilian Army medical officer. 

2. Christopher Addison, first Minister of Health 1919-21, was a medical doctor and professor, and is the only cabinet minister after whom an anatomical term, Addison’s planes, is named. Thanks to Mr Memory. David Owen, Minister for Health 1974-76, was a hospital registrar (thanks to Ian Reeve). Brian Mawhinney, Minister for Health 1992-94, had been a lecturer at Royal Free School of Medicine (thanks to No Ordinary Cat). Nominations for Dr John Reid, Health Secretary 2003-05, were rejected: his doctorate was a PhD in the economic history of the west African slave trade. 

3. John Stonehouse, Minister of Aviation for two months in 1967 and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications 1969-70, had been in the Royal Air Force and, after he became an MP, was a spy for the Czechoslovak government, passing them secret aircraft plans. Fine double nomination from Robert Boston.

4. James Callaghan, Chancellor 1964-67, was an Inland Revenue tax inspector. Thanks to Jon Clarke. Norman Lamont, 1990-93, is one of only two chancellors who had an economics degree (no, PPE doesn’t count). The other was Hugh Dalton, 1945-47, who lectured in economics at the London School of Economics. Hugh Gaitskell, 1950-51, lectured in economics at UCL, although…

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