John Barnes, Historian


According to Brewer's Politics the term used by its Liberal opponents to describe Salisbury's second administration (1886-92) because of the number of family members included in it. In fact it is more likely that the attack was made on a later Salisbury administration. The principal target was probably his nephew, Arthur Balfour, who had first been included in the 1885 administration, served as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1886 to 1891, and then took over as leader of the party in the Commons. He was believed, quite wrongly, to have shaped Salisbury's last administration, formed after the General Election of 1900, and he remained the major target of charges of undue family influence until he stood down from the party leadership in 1911.

His brother, Gerald Balfour, had not become a member of the government until Salisbury's third administration when he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland. He subsequently served as President of the Board of Trade and President of the Local Government Board. Salisbury's son-in-law, Lord Selborne, held junior office and was promoted to cabinet rank as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1900. Perhaps the final straw for the critics was Salisbury's decision, when he stood down from the Foreign Office after the General Election of 1900, to appoint his eldest son, James, as Parliamentary Under Secretary to the incoming Foreign Secretary, Lord Lansdowne. In the House of Lords, Rosebery congratulated the Prime Minister "on being the head of a family with the most remarkable genius for administration that has ever been known" and in the Commons, the Conservative MP, Sir George Bartley, put down an amendment to the Address expressing regret at the appointment of so many members of the Prime Minister's family to office, as being calculated to diminish the responsibilities of ministers to Parliament and gravely to impair the efficiency of the public services.

Bartley described the new government as "the Hotel Cecil, Unlimited", the reference being to the 800 room establishment that had recently been opened on the site of the 1st Earl of Salisbury's town house and which was associated with its original financial backer, Jabez Balfour, who had been convicted for fraud.