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The Prime Minister is the name now associated with the more historic position of First Lord of the Treasury. The position came into existence in the 17th Century when the monarch's treasury was first trusted to a commission, as opposed to an individual. The First Lord is a throwback to an even more ancient role, that of the Lord High Treasurer, a post that was established by Henry I in 1126.
It became the predominant role in government when Sir Robert Walpole held the post. Since then it has usually, but not always, been associated with the post of the Prime Minister of the government. 51 men and one woman have held the post of 'Prime Minister' since Walpole served as First Lord of the Treasury from 1721 - 1742. The term Prime Minister didn't become the official name for the position until Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905. So although not all the people listed below were known as Prime Minister they were the top minister in charge of the Government of their day.
The position has changed hands on 74 occasions. William Gladstone is the only person to have had four separate terms1 as Prime Minister. Edward Stanley the 14th Earl of Derby, Robert Cecil the Third Marquis of Salisbury and Stanley Baldwin each had three distinct periods as Prime Minister. Fourteen have had two tenures in the post. Many have also retained the position following a successful election victory.
What are the links that bind these people? Are there any common traits by accident of birth, sociology or upbringing that might prepare an individual for that role? Assuming you are conversant with foreign policy, a whiz at national level macroeconomics, know the answer to the West Lothian and Northern Ireland questions - what quirks of fate will best prepare you statistically in your quest for the keys to number ten2?
The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
So who are the 51 people to have held the post? Here is the full list in chronological order for when they first held the post.
|Name||Birth Name||Party||Dates of term/s|
|Sir Robert Walpole||N/A||Whig||1721 - 1742|
|Earl of Wilmington||Spencer Compton||Whig||1742 - 3|
|Henry Pelham||N/A||Whig||1743 - 54|
|Duke of Newcastle||Thomas Pelham-Holles||Whig||1754 - 6
1757 - 62
|Duke of Devonshire||William Cavendish||Whig||1756 - 7|
|Earl of Bute||John Stuart||Tory||1762 - 3|
|George Grenville||N/A||Whig||1763 - 5|
|Marquess of Rockingham||Charles Wentworth||Whig||1765 - 6
|Earl of Chatham||William Pitt the Elder||Whig||1766 - 8|
|Duke of Grafton||Augustus Henry Fitzroy||Whig||1767 - 70|
|Lord North||Frederick North||Tory||1770 - 82|
|Earl Shelburne||William Petty FitzMaurice||Whig||1782 - 3|
|Duke of Portland||William Bentinck||Tory||1783
1807 - 9
|William Pitt||N/A||Tory||1783 - 1801
1804 - 6
|Henry Addington||N/A||Tory||1801 - 4|
|Lord Grenville||William Wyndham Grenville||Whig||1806 - 07|
|Spencer Perceval||N/A||Tory||1809 - 12|
|Earl of Liverpool||Robert Banks Jenkinson||Tory||1812 - 27|
|Viscount Goderich||Frederick Robinson||Tory||1827 - 8|
|Duke of Wellington||Arthur Wellesley||Tory||1828 - 30|
|Earl Grey||Charles Grey||Whig||1830 - 34|
|Viscount Melbourne||William Lamb||Whig||1834
1835 - 41
|Sir Robert Peel||N/A||Tory||1834 - 5
1841 - 6
|Earl Russell||John Russell||Whig||1846 - 51
1865 - 6
|Earl of Derby||Edward Stanley||Conservative||1852
1858 - 9
1866 - 8
|Earl of Aberdeen||George Hamilton Gordon||Tory||1852 - 5|
|Viscount Palmerston||Henry Temple||Liberal||1855 - 8
1859 - 65
1874 - 80
|William Gladstone||N/A||Liberal||1868 - 74
1880 - 85
1892 - 94
|Marquess of Salisbury||Robert Gascoygne-Cecil||Conservative||1885 - 6
1886 - 92
1895 - 1902
|Earl of Rosebery||Archibald Philip-Primrose Rosebery||Liberal||1894 - 5|
|Arthur Balfour||N/A||Conservative||1902 - 5|
|Sir Henry Bannerman-Campbell||N/A||Liberal||1905 - 08|
|Herbert Asquith||N/A||Liberal||1908 - 16|
|David Lloyd George||N/A||Liberal||1916 - 22|
|Andrew Bonar Law||N/A||Conservative||1922 - 3|
1924 - 29
1935 - 37
|Ramsey MacDonald||James Ramsey MacDonald||Labour||1924
1929 - 35
|Neville Chamberlain||N/A||Conservative||1937 - 40|
|Sir Winston Churchill||N/A||Conservative||1940 - 45
1951 - 55
|Clement Attlee||N/A||Labour||1945 - 51|
|Sir Anthony Eden||N/A||Conservative||1955 - 57|
|Harold Macmillan||N/A||Conservative||1957 - 63|
|Sir Alec Douglas-Home||N/A||Conservative||1964|
|Harold Wilson||N/A||Labour||1964 - 1970
1974 - 76
|Edward Heath||N/A||Conservative||1970 - 74|
|James Callaghan||N/A||Labour||1976 - 79|
|Margaret Thatcher||Margaret Roberts||Conservative||1979 - 90|
|John Major||N/A||Conservative||1990 - 97|
|Tony Blair||Anthony Charles Lynton Blair||Labour||1997 - 2007|
|Gordon Brown||James Gordon Brown||Labour||2007 - present|
The Important Prerequisites
Anyone wishing to become President of the USA has to meet a series of criteria regarding nationality, age and so on. The Prime Minister is invited by the monarch3 to become Prime Minister and form a Government. This occurs after each General Election and also whenever a Prime Minister dies in office or resigns their position without calling a General Election.
The criteria that must be met by those wishing to be considered for the post of Prime Minister are substantially more limited. It's an obvious bonus to be a prominent politician known by the monarch of the day; however, recently the monarch has mostly but not always invited the leader of the largest party in parliament to form the government4. Now that these are all elected by some form of democratic process the monarch can no longer really go against the wishes of so many subjects and call someone who is not leader of the party.
Also as you most likely will be a member of the House of Commons, you must be over 21, a British, Commonwealth or Irish citizen resident in the UK at the time of your nomination and the day of the poll.
Citizens of other European Union countries cannot become candidates for a parliamentary election. There are disqualifications from being a candidate and therefore an MP:
Peers who are members of the House of Lords
Bishops and archbishops who are entitled so sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual
Civil servants and other paid office holders of the Crown including judges, members of the armed forces or police
Members of the legislature of another country outside of the Commonwealth
Government-nominated directors of commercial companies
Prisoners convicted and sentenced to a prison term of more than one year, or people found guilty of election offences, or a corrupt or illegal practice, by an election court
In common law, 'idiots' cannot become Members of Parliament and 'lunatics' are disqualified in non-lucid moments
What follows are some other helpful things you can seek to do to help you gain the office of Prime Minister. Information on becoming a party leader are not included. First of all, methods would be too numerous to list and would vary from party to party. Secondly, since the author is involved in politics and is not yet a leader of a political party it may give away his gameplan. Suffice to say, in the words of Jim Hacker, fictional Minister of Administrative Affairs who later became a fictional Prime Minister, 'I have no ambition to serve in that way.'
Lord or Commoner?
Of the 51 Prime Ministers, 32 have been commoners and not held a title when they first took over the premiership. Of the other 19, nine were Earls 5, five have been Dukes, three Viscounts, and two Marquises.
No Lord has been Prime Minister since the end of the Marquis of Salisbury, Robert Cecil's third term in 1902. The Prime Minister since that time has been generally the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. However, Alec Douglas-Home had been a Member of Parliament from 1931 - 45 and 1951 - 53. He had inherited a title as 14th Earl of Home which he renounced so that he could serve as Prime Minister in the Commons in succession to Harold Macmillan from 1963 - 64.
Therefore at present you need to sit in the Commons. Since hereditary peers have now been abolished from taking an automatic seat in the House of Lords by quirk of birth we no longer need to differentiate between the two classes.
Two of the parties have already benefited from the change in the status of hereditary peers. Liberal Democrat John Thurso, Third Viscount Thurso, was the first hereditary peer to be elected in 2001. Conservative Michael Ancram, who became the 13th Marquis of Lothian in 2004 became the first hereditary peer who could continue to sit in the Commons without disclaiming his title.
We are still waiting for the first Lord to become Prime Minister from the Commons but no doubt that day will come. Therefore you stand the best chance of becoming Prime Minister, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, by getting elected to the House of Commons.
Three parties or groupings have held power in the United Kingdom since 1721. They are the Whigs, later the Liberals now the Liberal Democrats, the Tories, now Conservatives and finally Labour. Before parties were officially formed occasionally independent Lords were asked to form parliaments. So far 22 Prime Ministers have been of Tory or Conservative persuasion from William Pitt the Younger (1783 - 1801) to John Major (1991 - 97). Seventeen have been Whigs or Liberal starting with Robert Walpole (1721 - 42) until David Lloyd George (1916 - 22). Five have been Labour since Ramsey McDonald (1924) to Tony Blair (1997 - present). Seven had no affiliation, the last being George Hamilton Gordon, Fourth Earl of Aberdeen (1852 - 55), although as has been the case with many others, his ideology meant that he was placed into one of the rival camps.
The two big parties, the Conservatives and Labour, have traditionally held more than 70% of the vote in General Elections since the 1920s. The biggest share of the vote they achieved was 97% in 1951. However in 1983 they only gathered 71.8% due to the strength then of the new alliance between the Social Democratic and Liberal Parties. So most people would assume that future Prime Ministers would have to be aligned to one of the big two parties. However, at the 2004 European Elections the big two gained less that 50% of the vote with other parties including the Liberal Democrats gathering the rest. Maybe there is a chance that multi-party politics is on the horizon and bi-partisan politics may be consigned to history.
At the 2005 election Labour had 37% of the vote, Conservative 33% and the Liberal Democrats 22%, with others taking 8%. Therefore the 'big two' only took 70% with an increase in the votes for other parties. The Liberal Democrat Leader said that three party politics was now established in the nation. However, many commentators will not accept this until the Liberal Democrats return to a position of a party in power nationally.
Therefore your best chance of becoming Prime Minister is probably still to be in one of the two largest parties though within a generation it may be possible to become Prime Minister from any of the three main parties.
Place of Birth
Not surprisingly, the largest number of Prime Ministers have been born in England with 39 in total. Scotland can claim five, Ireland two and Canada one. There are also four whose exact location of birth is not fully known.
Wales's most famous Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was actually born in Manchester. Therefore the Welsh are still waiting for someone born in the land of their fathers to become their Prime Minister.
Currently, the leaders of all but one of the major parties were born outside England. Gordon Brown (Labour Prime Minister) and Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat) were born in Glasgow, Scotland; Alex Salmond (Scottish Nationalist Party) in Linlithgow, Scotland and Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru) in Betws-y-Coed, Wales. Only David Cameron was born in England.
London - Duke of Newcastle, Earl of Bute, George Grenville, Earl of Chatham, Lord North, Henry Addington, Spencer Perceval, Earl of Liverpool, George Canning, Viscount Goderich, Viscount Melbourne, Viscount Palmerston, Earl Russell, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Rosebery, Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home
Home Counties - Henry Pelham, William Pitt, Lord Grenville, Marquis of Salisbury, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, John Major
West Country - Stanley Baldwin
East Anglia - Robert Walpole, Margaret Thatcher
Midlands - Earl of Wilmington, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill
North East - Earl Grey, Herbert Henry Asquith, Anthony Eden, Harold Wilson
North West - Robert Peel, Earl of Derby, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George
Ireland - Earl of Shelburne, Duke of Wellington
Scotland - Earl of Aberdeen, James Balfour, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Ramsey MacDonald, Tony Blair
Canada - Andrew Bonar Law
Unknown - Duke of Devonshire, Marquis of Rockingham, Duke of Grafton, Duke of Portland
Put another way the length of tenure by country of Birth since Walpole in April 1721 up to 31 December, 2003 is:
|Country of Birth||Years||Days||% of Total|
Historically, your best chance of becoming Prime Minister was to be English and born in London. However, as the most powerful families had a house in the capital for when the father of the house was working, this would account for the skew. At the moment there appears to be no disadvantage on being born anywhere. Although if you are looking to become a Conservative Prime Minister it may be best to avoid being Scottish. Michael Howard has said that a Scottish Lawyer would not be the solution for restoring his party to a position of dominance.
As has already been mentioned all but one of the UK's Prime Ministers have been men. The one exception is Margaret Thatcher (1979 - 1990) who was the longest serving PM since the Earl of Liverpool (1812 - 27). As all the major party leaders are also male, one of the main things that would have increased your chances of becoming Prime Minister would have been to have snapped up a Y chromosome while in your mother's womb; sorry ladies.
Out of all the possible names in the English language only 26 have made it into the highest office of the land. Of the top five, three are also amongst the top recurring names of Kings. There have been four Williams, eight Henrys and six Georges on the throne. Though Edwards may have reigned eight times since the Norman Conquest (as well as a few times in the Saxon era), there has only been one Prime Minister to share that name and he is often remembered as Ted Heath (1970 - 74).
The most popular name for Scottish monarchs (with a total of seven) is James 7. However, only two Prime Ministers, Callaghan and MacDonald, have been Christened James, and the latter was known by his second given name Ramsey.
William - eight Devonshire, Chatham8, Shelburne, Pitt, Lord Grenville, Portland, Melbourne, Gladstone
Henry - five Pelham, Addington, Palmerston, Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith
Robert - four Walpole, Liverpool, Peel, Salisbury
George - three George. Grenville, Canning, Aberdeen
John - three Bute, Russell, Major
Anthony - two Eden, Blair
Archibald - two Derby, Rosebery
Arthur - two Wellington, Balfour
Charles - two Rockingham, Grey
Frederick - two North, Goderich
James - two MacDonald, Callaghan
Harold - two Macmillan, Wilson
Spencer - two Wilmington, Perceval
Alec/Alexander - Douglas-Home
Andrew - Bonar Law
Augustus - Grafton
Benjamin - Disraeli
Clement - Attlee
David - Lloyd George
Edward - Heath
Margaret - Thatcher
Neville - Chamberlain
Stanley - Baldwin
Thomas - Newcastle
Winston - Churchill
Therefore, having a regal name is good. Although if you are called Ethelbert we suspect the country may just be as unready for you as your famous namesake.
Order amongst Siblings
b = brother/s
s = sister/s
ch = children
el = elder
yn = younger
This Researcher makes no apologies for ranking their position as a son as, with only one exception, a Prime Minister has been someone's son.
Eldest Son - 12 Devonshire (1 el s, 5 yn ch); Bute (1 el s, 6 yn ch); North (5 others); Shelburne (5 others); Addington (2 yn b, 3 el s); Portland (2 el s, 3 yn ch); Peel (10 others, 2 el s); Aberdeen (6 yn ch); Derby (of 7 ch); Disraeli (5 other ch, 1 el s); Balfour (7 other ch inc. 2 el s); Douglas-Home (6 others)
Elder Son - 6 Canning (1yn b 1 el s); Rosebery (1 b, 2 el s); Lloyd George (1 b, 2 el s); Churchill (1 b); Heath (1 b); Blair (1 el s, 1 yn b)
Second Son9 - 12 Newcastle (1 el 1 yn b, 6 el 1 yn s); George. Grenville (6 others); Chatham (2 el s, 3 yn ch); Grafton (1 yn b); Pitt (2 el s, 1 yn ch); Perceval (1 el b, 3 el s, 4 yn ch); Goderich (1 yn b); Grey (7 yn ch); Melbourne (4 yn ch); Palmerston (4 others, 1 el b); Campbell-Bannerman (1 b, 2 el s); Asquith (4 others)
Other Middle Sons - 10 Walpole (2 el b, 2 el s, 12 yn ch); Pelham (3rd, 6 el s, 2 yn ch); Rockingham (5th son, 3 el s, 2 yn ch); Lord Grenville (3rd 3 el sis, 3 yn ch); Wellington (5th 1 el sis, 3 yn ch); Gladstone (4 of 5, 1 el sis); Salisbury (3rd 2 el and 1 yn b, 2 el s); Chamberlain (3 of 6 ch); Attlee (4 of 5, 3 el s); Eden (3 of 4, 1 el s)
Youngest Son - 5 Wilmington (2 el b, 2 el s); Russell (2 el b, 4 yn half b); Bonar Law (of 5 ch and 2 yn half s); Macmillan (2 b); Major (2 b, 1 el s)
Younger Daughter - 1 Thatcher (1 s)
Only Son Youngest - 2 Wilson (1 s); Callaghan (1 s)
Only Child - 3 Liverpool (of father's first marriage, 2 yn ch); Baldwin; MacDonald
In total, eighteen of the Prime Ministers were the first-born son. Of these, ten had at least one elder sister. Only three were their parents' only child; however, Lord Liverpool's family circle did expand following his father's remarriage. Eleven Prime Ministers started out as the youngest or only sibling in the family, however three of these had younger half-siblings. There is little statistical advantage in having one position over another. Though being the eldest might give an individual a slight edge due to historic nature of PMs sitting in the hereditary House of Lords.
Some interesting historical notes: both William Pitt the Elder (Chatham) and the Younger were second sons - maybe they were both genetically striving to achieve more recognition. The same applies to another father and son team, the Grenvilles. George was a second son, but it was his third son William who achieved the highest office. Winston Churchill may not have been the successful Prime Minister he was if his uncle hadn't, by quirk of fate, produced an heir. As the elder son of an aristocratic 'spare' he may have found himself confined to the Lords in a period when the Commons alone produced the Prime Ministers.
Education (1) School
Before the start of the 20th Century, educational background was vitally important part of becoming a Member of Parliament. Before MPs were given a wage they were expected to support themselves and their family through what work they could do outside of the Palaces of Westminster. These careers tended to be in law, finance, medicine and so on and all required a university education or a family stipend from the family firm or estates. Therefore, the common, poorly-educated men did not really become fully integrated in Parliament until the 20th Century.
Eton 18 - Walpole, Bute, George. Grenville, Chatham, North, Lord Grenville, Canning, Wellington, Grey, Melbourne, Derby, Gladstone, Salisbury, Rosebery, Balfour, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home
Harrow 7 - Perceval, Goderich, Peel, Aberdeen, Palmerston, Baldwin, Churchill
Westminster 6- Pelham, Newcastle, Rockingham, Grafton, Portland, Russell
Glasgow High School 2- Campbell-Bannerman, Bonar Law (b)
And 1 each for the following
Charterhouse - Liverpool
Chatham House Grammar - Heath
Drainie Church of Scotland School - MacDonald
Fettes, Edinburgh - Blair
Gilbertfield, Hamilton, Scotland - Bonar Law (a)
Grantham Girls' School - Thatcher
Haileybury - Attlee
Highham Hall School, Walthamstow - Disraeli
Huddersfield College - Asquith (a)
Llanystumdwy Village School - Lloyd George
Moravian School, Leeds - Asquith (b)
Pembroke Hall, Cambridge - Pitt
Portsmouth Northern Secondary - Callaghan
Royds Hall Secondary, Huddersfield - Wilson (a)
Rugby - Chamberlain
Rutlish Grammar School, Wimbledon - Major
St. Paul's School, Westminster - Wilmington
Winchester - Addington
Wirral Grammar, Bebington - Wilson (b)
Unknown/home - Devonshire10, Shelburne
Education (2) University
Oxford - 25George Grenville, Shelburne, Lord Grenville, Portland, Liverpool, Canning, Peel, Derby, Gladstone, Salisbury, Rosebery, Eden, Douglas-Home (Christchurch); Asquith, Macmillan, Heath (Balliol); Wilmington, Chatham (a), North (Trinity); Pelham (Hart Hall now Hertford); Addington (Brasenose); Attlee (University); Wilson (Jesus); Thatcher (Somerville); Blair (St John's)
Cambridge - 12Perceval, Grey, Melbourne, Balfour, Campbell-Bannerman, Baldwin (Trinity); Goderich, Aberdeen, Palmerston (b) (St John's); Walpole (King's); Newcastle (Clare Hall); Grafton (Peterhouse);
Edinburgh - 2Palmerston (a), Russell
- All the following 1 alumnus each.
Birmingham - Chamberlain11
Leiden, Netherlands - Bute
London - MacDonald (Birkbeck)12
Sandhurst Military Academy - Churchill
Royal Academy of Equitation, Angiers, France - Wellington
Utrecht - Chatham (b)
University of Life - 8Devonshire, Rockingham; Pitt, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Callaghan, Major
Age First Entered Parliament
24 of our Premiers entered parliament for the first time before the age of 25, and a further twelve before they turned 30. Almost half of all our Prime Ministers entered parliament in their twenties. However, age need not be a barrier: Chamberlain was the eldest debutant at 49 and if only for the dispute with Hitler he may have been better remembered.
The current Prime Minister was first elected to parliament just shy of his 31st birthday, so he does not fit the majority of under-30s mentioned above. Of the current leaders of the other main parties in Westminster only Charles Kennedy fits this overwhelming trend. He was 23 and the youngest MP when he was first elected for the Social Democratic Party (now a Liberal Democrat) in 1983. With an equal length of service, Michael Howard was 41 when he first became a Conservative MP also in 1983. Alex Salmond of the Scottish Nationalists was 32 in 1987, his Welsh Counterpart Elfyn Lloyd of Plaid Cymru was 40 in 1992.
21 exactly the age of Maturity13: Liverpool, Russell
21 Devonshire, Rockingham, Grafton, North, Pitt, Peel, Rosebery
22 Pelham, Lord Grenville, Portland, Grey, Aberdeen, Palmerston, Disraeli, Gladstone
23 Newcastle, Shelburne, Canning, Derby, Salisbury
24 Bute, Chatham, Goderich
25 - 29
25 Walpole, Wilmington, Balfour, Churchill
26 Addington, Melbourne, Eden
27 Lloyd George
28 George Grenville, Douglas-Home, Thatcher
30 - 39
30 Macmillan, Blair
33 Perceval, Asquith, Callaghan
36 Wellington, Major
40 - 49
42 Bonar Law
While undoubtedly you will spend many years sitting on the backbenches, answering constituency correspondence and serving in the Cabinet and or Shadow Cabinet, you will have had to spend some time doing something before you first get elected. So which careers are best suited for Prime Minister creation?
Law - 12: Wilmington, Bute, George Grenville, Addington, Perceval, Canning, Melbourne, Asquith, Lloyd George, Attlee, Thatcher, Blair
Landowner14 - 7: Walpole, Newcastle, Devonshire, Portland, Walpole, Rosebery, Douglas-Home
Politics 15 - 6: Pelham, Chatham, Grafton, North, Pitt, Salisbury
Military - 5: Rockingham, Shelburne, Wellington, Churchill, Heath16
Banking - 2: Bonar Law, Major
Journalism - 2: MacDonald, Churchill
Manufacturing - 2: Baldwin, Chamberlain
Publishing - 2: Lord Grenville17, Macmillan
Civil Servant - 1: Wilson
Trade Unionist - 1: Callaghan
Writer - 1: Disraeli
Unknown – 3: Balfour, Campbell-Bannerman, Eden
Left- or Right-Handedness
Historically, left-handedness has been viewed with suspicion - indeed, the word 'sinister' comes from the Latin stem for 'left-handed.' Therefore many parents and teachers tried to re-educate their naturally left-handed children. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are only two left-handed Prime Ministers on record: Churchill and Callaghan.
As stated above since 1902 all the Prime Ministers of the UK have been commoners elected to represent their constituency in the House of Commons. As such each represents a certain part of the country. A Member of Parliament need not be a resident of the area he represents.
Also, as recently as the early 20th Century, if an MP took a cabinet position and therefore was promoted to accepting pay from the parliament he had to seek approval from his constituents again in a by-election. These were largely unopposed but led to some episodes in Winston Churchill's colourful career in the House of Commons. Also, before elections started being held on one day, general elections were held over a period of weeks. This helped William Gladstone on the occasions that he found himself ousted by the voters but able to contest a later contest in the same general election. As these two men are now seen as two of the UK's greatest Prime Ministers it just shows how a fickle public can ruin your political ambition.
One surprising fact is that though many of our Prime Ministers were born in London very few actually represented the capital when they first took office. Indeed apart from Attlee and Thatcher, only Bonar Law and Churchill have represented London seats at any time in their career.
Some of our Prime Ministers have actually moved around the country after losing seats, or in order to seek safer seats. They are therefore listed under the region that they represented when first elected Prime Minister. The seat they held when elected Prime Minister is italicised and other regions are indicated in bold. A * at the end of last Parliamentary seat indicates newly ennobled to House of Lords almost immediately after leaving the commons, a + indicates inheritance of the family seat.
London2 - Attlee (Limehouse 1922 - 1955*); Thatcher (Finchley 1959 - 1992*)
Home Counties6- George Grenville (Buckingham 1741 - 1770); Palmerston (Horsham 1805 - 1806, Newtown (Isle of Wright) 1806 - 1811, Cambridge University 1811 - 1831 East Anglia, Bletchley 1831, South Hampshire 1832-1835, Tiverton 1835 - 1865); Disraeli (Maidstone 1837 - 1841, Shrewsbury 1841 - 1847 West Country, Buckinghamshire 1847 - 1876*); Churchill (Oldham NW 1900 - 1906, Manchester North WestNW 1906 - 08, DundeeScotland 1908 - 22, Epping 1924 - 1945, Woodford 1945 -1964); Macmillan (Stockton-on-Tees NE 1924 - 1945, Bromley 1945 - 196418); Heath (Bexley, then Old Bexley and Sidcup 1950 - 2001)
West Country2 - Addington (Devizes West Country 1784 - 1805*); Baldwin (Bewdley 1908 - 1937*)
East Anglia1 - Walpole (Castle Rising 1701 - 1702, King's Lynn 1702 - 1712, 1713 - 1742)
Midlands6 - North (Banbury 1754 - 1790+); Perceval (Northampton 1796 - 1812); Peel (Cashel Ireland 1809 - 1812, Chippenham 1812 - 1817 West Country, Oxford University 1817 - 1830, Tamworth 1830 - 1850); Chamberlain (Birmingham Ladywood 1918 - 1940); Eden (Warwick and Leamington 1923 - 195719); Major (Huntingdon 1979 - 2001)
North East2 - Chatham (Old Sarum West Country 1735 - 1754, Aldborough 1754 - 1766*); Blair (Sedgefield 1983 - present)
North West5 - Pitt (Appleby 1781 - 1806); Canning (Newtown Home Counties 1793 - 1809, Liverpool 1812 - 1827); Gladstone (Newark 1832 - 1845 Midlands, Oxford University 1847 - 1865 Midlands, South Lancashire 1865 - 1979, Midlothian Scotland 1879 - 1895); Wilson (Ormskirk 1945-1983*); Balfour (Hertford 1874 - 1885 HC, East Manchester 1885 - 1906, 1906 - 1922*)
Ireland1 - Russell (Tavistock 1812 - 1820, Huntingtonshire Midlands 1820 - 1826, Bandon 1826 - 1861*)
Scotland4 - Campbell-Bannerman (Stirling Burghs 1868 - 1908); Asquith (East Fife 1886 - 1918, Paisley 1920 - 1925*); Bonar Law (Glasgow Blackfriars 1900 - 1906, Dulwich London 1906 - 1923); Douglas-Home (Lanark 1931 - 1951+; Kinross 1963 - 1974*)
Wales3 - David Lloyd George (Caernarvon 1890 - 1944*); MacDonald (Leicester Midlands 1906 - 1918, Aberavon 1922 - 1935, Scottish Universities 1935 - 37); MidlandsCallaghan (Cardiff South, then called Cardiff South West 1945 - 1987*)
Unknown1 - Pelham (1717 - 1754)
In Lords when first became PM - Wilmington (1698 - 1710, 1713 - 1728*); Newcastle (Inherited seat soon after 21st birthday); Devonshire (Unkown seat 1741 - 51+); Bute (elected as Scottish Peer to House of Lords from 1736 - 1741, 1761 - 1780); Rockingham (assumed family seat on his coming of age); Grafton; Shelburne (Chipping Wycombe Home Counties 1760 - 1761+); Lord Grenville (Buckinhamshire Home Counties 1782 - 1790*); Portland (Woeby 1861 - 62+); Liverpool (Appleby NW 1791 - 1808+); Goderich (Carlow Ireland 1806 - 1807, Ripon NE 1807 - 1827*); Wellington (Rye (Sussex) 1806 - 1814*); Grey (Northumberland NE 1786 - 1807+); Melbourne (Leominster West Country 1805 - 1828+); Derby (Stockbridge Home Counties 1822 - 1830, Preston NW 1830, Windsor Home Counties 1831 -1844*); Aberdeen (inherited Scottish Title at age of 17); Rosebery (inherited Scottish Title at 21); Salisbury (Stamford NE 1853 - 1868+)
So of our 32 commoners to assume the highest post in Government:
|Region Represented||Number||% of Total|
Previous Cabinet Posts
Most but, not every, Prime Minister has had some previous experience of being in Government. Indeed the current Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was not even elected the last time his party was in power - there had been 18 years of rule by the Conservative Party by 1997. Some roles are not currently cabinet posts and some only appear in time of war; see for example Churchill's cabinet history from 1914 - 18.
However, most of the Prime Ministers have at one point held one of the big three positions: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home or Foreign Secretary. These are the major positions of power outside the Prime Minister who is also the First Lord of the Treasury. However, as can been seen below (with the letters indicating which post this was for the future PM in their career) there are other routes to the top job.
Chancellor - North (a); Pitt; Perceval (b); Goderich (c); Disraeli; Gladstone (b); Lloyd George (b); Bonar Law (b); Baldwin (b); Chamberlain (c); Churchill (d); Eden (a); Macmillan (d); Callaghan (a); Major (c)
Foreign Secretary - Chatham (b); Lord Grenville (d); Liverpool (b); Canning (a, c); Grey (b); Aberdeen (b); Palmerston (b); Salisbury; Rosebery; Balfour (a); Eden (Commonwealth/Dominions b), (d); Macmillan (c); Douglas-Home (b); Callaghan (c); Major (a)
Home Secretary - Shelburne (c); Lord Grenville (c); Portland; Liverpool (c); Melbourne (b); Peel (b); Russell (c); Churchill (b); Callaghan (b)
Leader of the House (Commons unless stated) - George. Grenville (a); North (b); Liverpool, Lords (a); Russell (b); Major (b)
Trade - Shelburne (a); Canning (b); Goderich (b); Gladstone (a); Lloyd George (a); Baldwin (a); Churchill (a); Wilson; Heath (d)
Defence - Macmillan (b)
War - Walpole (b); Pelham (a); Liverpool (d); Goderich (d); Aberdeen (c); Palmerston (a); Campbell-Bannerman; Eden (c)
Munitions - Lloyd George (c); Churchill (c)
First Lord of the Admiralty - Walpole (a); George. Grenville (c); Goderich (a); Grey (a); Churchill (c)
Commonwealth/Dominions (Initially Colonies) - Shelburne (b); Goderich (d); Derby, Colonies; Bonar Law (a); Attlee (b), Douglas-Home (a)
Attorney General - Perceval (a)
Education - Thatcher
Health - Chamberlain (b)
Housing - Macmillan (a)
Ireland - Lord Grenville (a); Wellington20; Melbourne (a); Peel (a)
Labour - Heath (b)
Secretary of State for the Northern Department - Bute; George. Grenville (b); Grafton
Scottish Secretary - Balfour (b)
Chief Whip - Heath (a)
Lord Privy Seal - Attlee (a), Heath (c)
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - Aberdeen (a)
Paymaster General - Wilmington (b); Chatham (a)
Postmaster General - Russell (a); Chamberlain (a)
Speaker of the House of Commons21 - Wilmington (a); Addington; Lord Grenville (b)
None - Newcastle; Rockingham; MacDonald22; Blair
Unknown - Devonshire
Although the odds are about 50/50 of becoming PM while either a Lord or Commoner, these days you are more likely not to have a title but be a grafting politician. You will have to start young, there is a 73% chance that you have entered parliament before you were 30, almost 50% before you were 25. It may not matter in few years' time which of the main three parties you belong to, as they may all have a chance (in the right political climate) of being the largest party.
However, you will have overwhelmingly more chance of success if you are English-born; only 16% haven't been and the PM has been English for 89% of the time23
You stand the best chance of being Prime Minister if you represent a seat in the Home Counties or the Midlands. However, don't be disheartened if you can only get elected in the North West or Scotland, as these regions are only just behind. Best to avoid London for while it is extremely handy to the Palaces of Westminster only two Prime Ministers have actually represented constituents in the city itself while Premier.
Although 35% of past Prime Ministers have been educated at Eton in the more egalitarian 20th Century none have been since 1964. So your choice of school isn't so important as long as you work hard because 71% of Prime Ministers have been to either Oxford or Cambridge for their degree; although two recent successors in the mid-term of a parliament, Callaghan and Major did not attend any university at all.
You will generally have had to have served in Cabinet; the higher the position the better. One of the big three offices, Chancellor, Home or Foreign Secretary, is almost a pre-requisite. Only four are known to have managed to become PM without Cabinet experience. One was the first Labour leader, another was the first from their party for 18 years. So unless you fancy many years in opposition, you need to get into government and into Cabinet.
You will undoubtedly stand a better chance if you are male, sorry ladies.
Your name had best be something traditional and regal like William, Henry or Robert. It also doesn't matter whether you are the eldest or youngest child in your family, or somewhere in between.
However, in today's party political structure you need to be popular firstly within your own party so you will become leader, but also with the electorate and then the world is your oyster my son, or daughter.