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Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (UK)

The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is a senior politician in the British Labour Party. The post is currently held by Tom Watson, who was elected as deputy on 12 September 2015.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Portrait of Tom Watson in 2018.jpg
Tom Watson

since 12 September 2015
AppointerLabour Party
Inaugural holderJohn Robert Clynes


Unlike other political party leaders, the Labour leader does not have the power to appoint or dismiss his or her deputy. The post is instead elected using the party's electoral college system; it was elected by Labour MPs before 1981.

Recently, the office of Deputy Prime Minister has been revived and held by senior politicians in the governing party. The previous Labour deputy leader, John Prescott, held this post from 1997 to 2007. However, the deputy leader is essentially a party official and there is no constitutional link between the two roles. The former Labour British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced on his formal election as Labour leader that the newly elected deputy leader, Harriet Harman, would instead become Party Chair. Brown subsequently appointed her Leader of the House of Commons in his first cabinet.

In the event of a vacancy in the office of leader when the Labour Party is in opposition, the deputy leader automatically becomes temporary leader of the Party until a new leader is elected. If a vacancy in the leadership occurs while the Labour Party is in government, then the Cabinet, in consultation with the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, chooses a new leader, who serves until a new leader is elected.[1]

To date, the only Deputy Leaders who have gone on to be elected leader of the Labour Party are Clement Attlee and Michael Foot. Margaret Beckett briefly served as Labour leader following the unexpected death of John Smith in 1994. Harriet Harman was leader after Gordon Brown resigned in 2010 and after Ed Miliband resigned in 2015. Conversely, John Robert Clynes served as leader prior to becoming Deputy Leader.

List of Deputy Leaders of the Labour PartyEdit

Portrait Constituency Term began Term ended Concurrent Office(s) Leader(s)
1 John Robert Clynes
Manchester Platting
Lost seat 1931
22 November 1922 25 October 1932 Home Secretary MacDonald
2 William Graham
(jointly with Clynes)
  Edinburgh Central
Lost seat 1931
28 August 1931 8 January 1932
Died in office
President of the Board of Trade
3 Clement Attlee
  Limehouse 25 October 1932 8 October 1935
Elected Leader
None Lansbury
Vacant Attlee
4 Arthur Greenwood
Wakefield 26 November 1935 25 May 1945 Minister without portfolio
5 Herbert Morrison
  Lewisham East then
Lewisham South
25 May 1945 14 December 1955 Deputy Prime Minister
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Leader of the House of Commons
Himself (acting)
Vacant Gaitskell
6 Jim Griffiths
Llanelli 2 February 1956 4 May 1959 None
7 Aneurin Bevan
  Ebbw Vale 4 May 1959 6 July 1960
Died in office
8 George Brown
  Belper 15 July 1960 18 June 1970
Lost seat 1970
First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
Himself (acting)
9 Roy Jenkins
  Birmingham Stechford 8 July 1970 10 April 1972 Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
10 Edward Short
  Newcastle upon Tyne Central 25 April 1972 21 October 1976 Leader of the House of Commons
11 Michael Foot
  Ebbw Vale 21 October 1976 4 November 1980
Elected Leader
Leader of the House of Commons
12 Denis Healey
  Leeds East 4 November 1980 2 October 1983 Shadow Foreign Secretary Foot
13 Roy Hattersley
(born 1932)
  Birmingham Sparkbrook 2 October 1983 18 July 1992 Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Shadow Home Secretary
14 Margaret Beckett
(born 1943)
  Derby South 18 July 1992 21 July 1994 Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Smith
Herself (acting)
15 John Prescott
(born 1938)
  Hull East 21 July 1994 24 June 2007 Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
16 Harriet Harman
(born 1950)
  Camberwell and Peckham 24 June 2007 12 September 2015 Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Privy Seal
Minister for Women and Equalities
Labour Party Chair
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Shadow Deputy Prime Minister
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Leader of the Opposition
Herself (acting)
Herself (acting)
17 Tom Watson
(born 1967)
  West Bromwich East 12 September 2015 Incumbent Shadow minister for the Cabinet Office
Labour Party Chair
Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Living former deputy leadersEdit

There are four living former deputy leaders. The most recent deputy leader to die was Denis Healey (1980-1983) on 3 October 2015.

Leader Term of office Date of birth
The Lord Hattersley 1983–1992 (1932-12-28) 28 December 1932 (age 86)
Dame Margaret Beckett MP 1992–1994 (1943-01-15) 15 January 1943 (age 76)
The Lord Prescott 1994–2007 (1938-05-31) 31 May 1938 (age 81)
Harriet Harman MP 2007–2015 (1950-07-30) 30 July 1950 (age 69)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Labour Party Rule Book 2013, Chapter 4, clause II.2.E.i and iv.