The Returning Officer


The 3rd Earl of Bute, prime minister from May 1762 to April 1763, was the first Tory to hold the office, the first Scot, and the only one to fall down a cliff while collecting wild flowers. He was a distinguished botanist, helping to found Kew Gardens and held in such high regard by Linnaeus that the latter named a plant after him.

Somerville Hastings, Labour MP for Reading (1923-24 and 1929-31) and Barking (1945-59), was one of the leading lights in the foundation of the NHS. Before the First World War, he wrote practical guides on keeping toadstools, wild flowers and alpine plants at home; during the conflict, as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he wrote another on first aid in the trenches.

Ronald Tree was the Tory MP for Harborough for 12 years until his defeat in 1945. After his second marriage collapsed, he spent a lot of time on his estate in Barbados, writing a history of the island in 1972. His daughter is the former model Penelope Tree.

This article first appeared in the 07 February 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The New Arab Revolt