The BBC's Daily Politics show is currently running a poll to find Britain's greatest peacetime Prime Minister. At least that makes for a relatively objective criterion for inclusion on the shortlist, in contrast with the recent Politics Show poll on political heroes which included the likes of Alex Salmond and Clare Short while leaving out genuine greats like Denis Healey.
Margaret Thatcher, who is being championed by her old Fleet Street cheerleader Kelvin Mackenzie, has predictably already built up a big lead, but that may have something to do with the fact that the Labour vote appears to be splitting fairly evenly between Clem Attlee, Tony Blair and Harold Wilson. Some tactical voting is clearly called for here!
For what is worth, this is how I would rank the ten Prime Ministers in the BBC's poll. Only the first two, I would contend, left the country overall in a better state than they found it. The rest have left it in varying degrees of messes ranging from industrial chaos to (in the case of the last two) disastrous military escapades.
Anyway, here goes.
1. Clement Attlee. The undisputed No 1 in my book for having fashioned, from the ruins of WW2, a country fit for heroes. The architect of much that was good about the Britain I grew up in.
2. Margaret Thatcher. Yes, she sorted out Britain's industrial anarchy and restored our national self-confidence, but she also left a bitter legacy in social division that continues to this day.
3. James Callaghan. The period of Lib-Lab government from 1977-78 was in my view the most sensible and humane of my lifetime. But Big Jim funked an election in '78 and paid a terrible price.
4. Edward Heath. Another PM brought down by the industrial problems he had failed to solve, he deserves credit for his towering achievement in bringing Britain in from the sidelines of Europe.
5. Harold Wilson. His achievements were primarily political, in making Labour for a time the natural party of government. But like many before and after, failed to arrest our long economic decline.
6. Sir Alec Douglas Home. Considering he had less than a year in the job, he didn't make a bad fist of it really. Took over a party rocked by the Profumo Affair and nearly won the 1964 election.
7. Harold Macmillan. A Blairite before Blair in political style, this consummate poseur told us we'd "never had it so good" while accelerating the post-war decline. Overrated in my view.
8. John Major. Nice chap totally out of his depth after being chosen to succeed Thatch. Promised a nation at ease with itself, but ended up as the hapless fall-guy for his feuding, sleazy party.
9. Tony Blair. Promised to restore trust in politics but ended up sullying it still further as well as embroiling Britain in possibly its most damaging military disaster for more than a century.
10. Anthony Eden. Was kept waiting too long for the top job by Churchill (excluded from the BBC shortlist) and went bonkers, causing him to view Colonel Nasser as a reincarnation of Hitler.