List of prime ministers of the United Kingdom by length of tenure

This is a list of prime ministers of the United Kingdom by length of tenure. This is based on the difference between dates; if counted by the number of calendar days, the figures would be one day greater for each term served.

The term prime minister appeared in the early eighteenth century as an unofficial title for the leader of the government, usually the head of the Treasury.[1] Jonathan Swift, for example, wrote that in 1713 there had been "those who are now commonly called Prime Minister among us", referring to Sidney Godolphin and Robert Harley, Queen Anne's lord treasurers and chief ministers.[2] Robert Walpole is regarded as the first prime minister; he became First Lord of the Treasury of Great Britain in 1721. This list includes all prime ministers of the Kingdom of Great Britain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the modern-day United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Notable lengths

edit
20 years and 314 days: Robert Walpole (1721–1742)
Longest term and longest total tenure
12 years and 126 days: William Ewart Gladstone (1868–1874, 1880–1885, 1886, and 1892–1894)
Most non-consecutive terms
11 years and 208 days: Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990)[3]
Longest-serving prime minister in the 20th century
49 days: Liz Truss (2022)[4]
Shortest-serving British prime minister

Of the 56 past prime ministers, nine served more than 10 years while eight served less than a year.[5] Robert Walpole is the only person to have served as prime minister for more than two decades. Liz Truss is the shortest-serving prime minister, resigning after seven weeks.[4][6][7] The previous shortest time served was George Canning, who served for less than four months before dying in office.[8] Margaret Thatcher, in office for 11 years and 288 days between 1979 and 1990, is the longest serving prime minister in modern history,[3] and the longest-serving prime minister officially referred to as such.[9][10] William Gladstone is the only person to have served four separate terms.

List of office holders by tenure

edit

In this table, "Terms" is the number of separate periods served as prime minister.

Rank Prime Minister Tenure length Terms Party Start End Reason for exit Ref.
1 Sir Robert Walpole 20 years, 314 days 1 Whig 1721 1742 Resigned [5]
2 William Pitt the Younger 18 years, 343 days 2 Tory (Pittite) 1783 1801 Resigned [5]
1804 1806 Died
3 The Earl of Liverpool 14 years, 305 days 1 Tory (Pittite) 1812 1827 Resigned due to illness [11]
4 The Marquess of Salisbury 13 years, 252 days 3 Conservative 1885 1886 [11]
1886 1892
1895 1902 Resigned due to illness
5 William Ewart Gladstone 12 years, 126 days 4 Liberal 1868 1874 [11]
1880 1885
1886 1886
1892 1894 Resigned
6 Lord North 12 years, 58 days 1 Tory (Northite) 1770 1782 Resigned [11]
7 Margaret Thatcher 11 years, 208 days 1 Conservative 1979 1990 Resigned [11]
8 Henry Pelham 10 years, 191 days 1 Whig 1743 1754 Died [11]
9 Sir Tony Blair 10 years, 56 days 1 Labour 1997 2007 Resigned [11]
10 The Viscount Palmerston 9 years, 141 days 2 Whig / Liberal 1855 1858 [5]
1859 1865 Died
11 H. H. Asquith 8 years, 244 days 1 Liberal 1908 1916 Resigned [11]
12 Sir Winston Churchill 8 years, 239 days 2 Conservative 1940 1945 Defeated in election [5]
1951 1955 Resigned due to illness
13 Harold Wilson 7 years, 279 days 2 Labour 1964 1970 Defeated in election [11]
1974 1976 Resigned
14 The Duke of Newcastle 7 years, 205 days 2 Whig 1754 1756 [5]
1757 1762
15 Stanley Baldwin 7 years, 82 days 3 Conservative 1923 1924 Lack of majority after election [5]
1924 1929 Defeated in election
1935 1937 Resigned
16 Benjamin Disraeli 6 years, 339 days 2 Conservative 1868 1868 Election [5]
1874 1880 Election
17 Ramsay MacDonald 6 years, 289 days 2 Labour 1924 1924 Defeated in election [5]
Labour / National Labour 1929 1935 Resigned due to illness
18 Harold Macmillan 6 years, 281 days 1 Conservative 1957 1963 Resigned due to illness [11]
19 The Viscount Melbourne 6 years, 255 days 2 Whig 1834 1834 [5]
1835 1841 Defeated in election
20 Sir John Major 6 years, 155 days 1 Conservative 1990 1997 Defeated in election [5]
21 Lord John Russell 6 years, 110 days 2 Whig / Liberal 1846 1852 Defeated in election [5]
1865 1866 Resigned
22 Clement Attlee 6 years, 92 days 1 Labour 1945 1951 Defeated in election [11]
23 David Cameron 6 years, 63 days 1 Conservative 2010 2016 Resigned [11]
24 David Lloyd George 5 years, 317 days 1 Liberal 1916 1922 Resigned [5]
25 Sir Robert Peel 5 years, 57 days 2 Conservative 1834 1835 Defeated in election [11]
1841 1846 Resigned
26 The Earl of Derby 3 years, 280 days 3 Conservative 1852 1852 [11]
1858 1859
1866 1868 Resigned due to illness
27 Edward Heath 3 years, 259 days 1 Conservative 1970 1974 Defeated in election [11]
28 The Earl Grey 3 years, 229 days 1 Whig 1830 1834 Resigned [5]
29 Arthur Balfour 3 years, 145 days 1 Conservative 1902 1905 Resigned [5]
30 The Duke of Portland 3 years, 82 days 2 Whig / Tory (Pittite) 1783 1783 [11]
1807 1809 Resigned due to illness
31 Henry Addington 3 years, 54 days 1 Tory (Pittite) 1801 1804 Replaced [11]
32 Boris Johnson 3 years, 44 days 1 Conservative 2019 2022 Resigned [11]
33 James Callaghan 3 years, 29 days 1 Labour 1976 1979 Defeated in election [5]
34 Theresa May 3 years, 11 days 1 Conservative 2016 2019 Resigned [11]
35 Neville Chamberlain 2 years, 348 days 1 Conservative 1937 1940 Resigned [5]
36 The Duke of Wellington 2 years, 320 days 2 Tory 1828 1830 Replaced [5]
1834 1834 Caretaker
37 Gordon Brown 2 years, 318 days 1 Labour 2007 2010 Defeated in election [5]
38 Spencer Perceval 2 years, 221 days 1 Tory (Pittite) 1809 1812 Assassinated [5]
39 Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 2 years, 122 days 1 Liberal 1905 1908 Resigned due to illness [5]
40 George Grenville 2 years, 85 days 1 Whig (Grenvillite) 1763 1765 Replaced [11]
41 The Earl of Chatham 2 years, 76 days 1 Whig (Chathamite) 1766 1768 Resigned due to illness [11]
42 The Earl of Aberdeen 2 years, 42 days 1 Peelite 1852 1855 Resigned [5]
43 Sir Anthony Eden 1 year, 279 days 1 Conservative 1955 1957 Resigned due to illness [11]
44 Rishi Sunak 1 year, 243 days 1 Conservative 2022 Incumbent [11]
45 The Earl of Wilmington 1 year, 119 days 1 Whig 1742 1743 Died [11]
46 The Marquess of Rockingham 1 year, 113 days 2 Whig (Rockinghamite) 1765 1766 Resigned [5]
1782 1782 Died
47 The Earl of Rosebery 1 year, 109 days 1 Liberal 1894 1895 Election [11]
48 The Duke of Grafton 1 year, 106 days 1 Whig (Chathamite) 1768 1770 Resigned [5]
49 The Lord Grenville 1 year, 42 days 1 Whig 1806 1807 Replaced [11]
50 Sir Alec Douglas-Home 363 days 1 Conservative (Scot. Unionist) 1963 1964 Defeated in election [11]
51 The Earl of Bute 317 days 1 Tory 1762 1763 Resigned [5]
52 The Earl of Shelburne 266 days 1 Whig (Chathamite) 1782 1783 Replaced [11]
53 The Duke of Devonshire 225 days 1 Whig 1756 1757 Replaced [5]
54 Andrew Bonar Law 211 days 1 Conservative (Scot. Unionist) 1922 1923 Resigned due to illness [5]
55 The Viscount Goderich 144 days 1 Tory (Canningite) 1827 1828 Replaced [5]
56 George Canning 119 days 1 Tory (Canningite) 1827 1827 Died [11]
57 Liz Truss 49 days 1 Conservative 2022 2022 Resigned [4][11]

Disputed

edit
Prime Minister Length served Terms in office Party Start and end Reason for exit
The Earl Waldegrave 4 days 0 Whig 1757 Unsupported
The Earl of Bath 2 days 0 Whig 1746 Unsupported

See also

edit

References

edit
  1. ^ Dodd, A. H. (1956). The Growth of Responsible Government from James the First to Victoria. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. p. 50.
  2. ^ Marriott, J. A. R. (1925). English Political Institutions. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p. 87.
  3. ^ a b "Baroness Margaret Thatcher: Conservative 1979 to 1990". GOV.UK. Crown. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Liz Truss doubles down on disastrous 'growth' plan in farewell speech". The Independent. 25 October 2022. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Past Prime Ministers". gov.uk. Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 25 August 2008.
  6. ^ Marx, Willem (20 October 2022). "British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns after weeks of criticism and turmoil". NPR. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  7. ^ Landler, Mark; Castle, Stephen (20 October 2022). "Here is the latest on the political turmoil in Britain". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  8. ^ Fortescue, Ali (20 October 2022). "The divided Tories won't find it easy choosing a new PM". Sky News. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  9. ^ Mackay, Robert (28 December 1987). "Thatcher longest serving British prime minister". United Press International. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  10. ^ Marriott, John (1923). English Political Institutions: An Introductory Study (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 83. OL 17361473W.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "British Prime Ministers | University of Oxford". www.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 20 October 2022.