British politician, leader of the Conservative Party 1880–85. He was chancellor of the Exchequer 1874–80 and foreign secretary 1886–87. As party leader he pursued a policy of conciliation with moderate, centrist Whigs.
Political career Northcote was elected member of Parliament for Dudley 1855. As opposition Speaker, he gained the confidence of the party leader Benjamin Disraeli. During a short period of Conservative rule in the mid-1860s, Northcote became president of the Board of Trade 1866 and secretary for India 1867. Made chancellor when the party returned to power 1874, he raised income-tax thresholds to protect lower incomes and established an annual sinking fund to reduce the national debt. As opposition leader in the House of Commons from 1880, he fell victim to divisions in the party and was eventually supplanted by Lord Salisbury, who had been leader of the Tory peers.
Background Northcote was born in London, the eldest son of Henry Stafford Northcote, Tory MP for Haylesbury. Educated at Oxford, Northcote became a barrister and served 1842–45 as private secretary to William Gladstone, who was then a Tory and president of the Board of Trade. In 1851, Northcote succeeded his father as 8th Baronet.
Problems in office Northcote's ambition and considerable political talents brought him the leadership of the party at a time of deep crisis within Conservatism. His conciliatory tactics were continually undermined by young bloods like Lord Randolph Churchill, and this, together with the legacy of his earlier association with Gladstone, left Northcote increasingly isolated. Matters reached a crisis during the interminable wrangles over Irish home rule 1884–85, allowing Salisbury to assert his primacy over Northcote and replace him as party leader. The return of a Conservative government 1886 saw Northcote appointed foreign secretary, a few months before his death.
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