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The Leader of the Labour Party is the most senior political figure within the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. Since 12 September 2015, the office has been held by Jeremy Corbyn; who has represented the constituency of Islington North since 1983.

Leader of the Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn closeup.jpg
Jeremy Corbyn

since 12 September 2015
Member ofNational Executive Committee
PrecursorChair of the PLP
Inaugural holderKeir Hardie
Formation17 January 1906
DeputyTom Watson

Harriet Harman was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and also Acting Leader since the resignation of Ed Miliband on 8 May 2015 following Labour's defeat at the 2015 general election. On 12 September 2015, she was replaced by Jeremy Corbyn, who won the Labour leadership election. Tom Watson is now the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and was elected on the same day. Corbyn's leadership was challenged in mid-2016, but he was re-elected in the subsequent leadership election.



The post of Leader of the Labour Party was officially created in 1922. Before this, between when Labour MPs were first elected in 1906 and the general election in 1922, when substantial gains were made, the post was known as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.[1] In 1970, the positions of Leader of the Labour Party and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party were separated.

In 1921, J. R. Clynes became the first Leader of the Labour Party to have been born in England; prior to this, all party leaders had been born in Scotland. In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority administration which lasted nine months. Clement Attlee would become the first Labour leader to lead a majority government in 1945. The first to be born in Wales was Neil Kinnock, who was elected in 1983. The most electorally successful Leaders of the Labour Party to date are: Tony Blair, who won three consecutive electoral victories in 1997, 2001 (both landslide victories), and 2005, and Harold Wilson, who won three general elections out of five contested, in 1964, 1966 and October 1974.


Unlike other British political party leaders, the Labour Leader does not have the power to dismiss or appoint their Deputy. Both the Leader and Deputy Leader are elected by an Alternative Vote system. From 1980 to 2014 an electoral college was used, with a third of the votes allocated to the Party's MPs and MEPs, a third to individual members of the Labour Party, and a third to individual members of all affiliated organisations, including socialist societies and trade unions. The 2015 leadership election used a "one member, one vote" system, in which the votes of party members and members of affiliated organisations are counted equally. MPs and MEPs votes are not counted separately, although a candidate needs to receive the support of 10%[2] of Labour MPs in order to appear on the ballot.


When the Labour Party is in Opposition, as it currently is, the Leader of the Labour Party usually acts as the Leader of the Opposition, and chairs the Shadow Cabinet. Concordantly, when the Party is in Government, the Leader would usually become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service, as well as appointing the Cabinet.

Leaders of the Labour Party (1906–present)Edit

Note: the right-hand column does not allocate height proportional to time in office, as the same height is used for each Leader of the Labour Party.

A list of leaders (including acting leaders) since 1906.[3]

Portrait Country of birth Constituency Took office Left office Prime Minister (term)
Keir Hardie
    Scotland Merthyr Tydfil 17 February 1906 22 January 1908 C.-Bannerman 1905–08
Arthur Henderson
(1st time)
    Scotland Barnard Castle 22 January 1908 14 February 1910
Asquith 1908–16
George Barnes
    Scotland Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown 14 February 1910 6 February 1911
Ramsay MacDonald
(1st time)
    Scotland Leicester 6 February 1911 5 August 1914
Arthur Henderson
(2nd time)
    Scotland Barnard Castle 5 August 1914 24 October 1917
Lloyd George 1916–22
William Adamson
    Scotland West Fife 24 October 1917 14 February 1921
J. R. Clynes
    England Manchester Platting 14 February 1921 21 November 1922
Law 1922–23
Ramsay MacDonald
(2nd time)
    Scotland Aberavon 21 November 1922
28 August 1931
Baldwin 1923–24
himself 1924
Baldwin 1924–29
himself 1929–31
Arthur Henderson
(3rd time)
    Scotland Burnley
28 August 1931
25 October 1932 MacDonald 1931–35
George Lansbury
    England Bow and Bromley 25 October 1932
8 October 1935
Baldwin 1935–37
Clement Attlee
    England Limehouse
Walthamstow West
8 October 1935
7 December 1955[4]
Chamberlain 1937–40
Churchill 1940–45
himself 1945–51
Churchill 1951–55
Eden 1955–57
Herbert Morrison[b]
    England Lewisham South 7 December 1955 14 December 1955
Hugh Gaitskell
    England Leeds South 14 December 1955
18 January 1963
(died in office)
Macmillan 1957–63
George Brown[b]
    England Belper 18 January 1963 14 February 1963
Harold Wilson
  England Huyton 14 February 1963
5 April 1976
Douglas-Home 1963–64
himself 1964–70
Heath 1970–74
himself 1974–76
James Callaghan
    England Cardiff South East 5 April 1976
10 November 1980 himself 1976–79
Thatcher 1979–90
Michael Foot
    England Ebbw Vale 10 November 1980
2 October 1983
Neil Kinnock
(b. 1942)
    Wales Islwyn 2 October 1983
18 July 1992
Major 1990–97
John Smith
  Scotland Monklands East 18 July 1992
12 May 1994
(died in office)
Margaret Beckett[b]
(b. 1943)
    England Derby South 12 May 1994 21 July 1994
Tony Blair
(b. 1953)
    Scotland Sedgefield 21 July 1994
24 June 2007
himself 1997–2007
Gordon Brown
(b. 1951)
    Scotland Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 24 June 2007
11 May 2010 himself 2007–10
Harriet Harman[b]
(b. 1950)
(acting: 1st time)
    England Camberwell and Peckham 11 May 2010 25 September 2010 Cameron 2010–16
Ed Miliband
(b. 1969)
    England Doncaster North 25 September 2010
8 May 2015
Harriet Harman[b]
(b. 1950)
(acting: 2nd time)
    England Camberwell and Peckham 8 May 2015 12 September 2015
Jeremy Corbyn
(b. 1949)
    England Islington North 12 September 2015
May 2016–


It is not uncommon for a retired Leader of the Labour Party to be granted a peerage upon their retirement, particularly if they served as Prime Minister; examples of this include Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson. However, Neil Kinnock was also elevated to the House of Lords, despite never being Prime Minister, and Michael Foot declined a similar offer.

Living former party leadersEdit

There are six living former party leaders: four elected and two acting. From oldest to youngest:

Leader Term of office Date of birth
The Lord Kinnock 1983–1992 (1942-03-28) 28 March 1942 (age 77)
Gordon Brown 2007–2010 (1951-02-20) 20 February 1951 (age 68)
Tony Blair 1994–2007 (1953-05-06) 6 May 1953 (age 66)
Ed Miliband MP 2010–2015 (1969-12-24) 24 December 1969 (age 49)
Acting Leader Term of office Date of birth
Dame Margaret Beckett MP 1994 (1943-01-15) 15 January 1943 (age 76)
Harriet Harman MP 2010 & 2015 (1950-07-30) 30 July 1950 (age 68)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Henderson was defeated in his Burnley seat in the 1931 election, and did not return to Parliament during his third term as leader. George Lansbury acted as the Labour parliamentary leader, until formally succeeding Henderson as party leader.
  2. ^ a b c d e Deputy Leaders who assumed the role of party leader temporarily because of the death or resignation of the incumbent, serving until the election of a new leader. Herbert Morrison acted as leader for the 7 days between Clement Attlee's resignation and Hugh Gaitskell's election as leader. George Brown and Margaret Beckett acted as leader following deaths of Gaitskell and John Smith, respectively. Harriet Harman acted as leader twice when Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband resigned.


  1. ^ Thorpe, Andrew. (2001) A History Of The British Labour Party, Palgrave, ISBN 0-333-92908-X
  2. ^ "Labour proposals 'all-but guarantee leftwing Corbyn successor'". Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  3. ^ "Leaders of the Labour Party". United Kingdom Election Results. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  4. ^ Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds (2010), Attlee: A Life in Politics, London: I B Tauris, p. 260

Further readingEdit

  • Clarke, Charles; James, Toby S. (2015). British Labour Leaders. London: Biteback.