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Are you Statistically Prepared to Become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

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Updated September 201310 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives.

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 rather than 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 from 1721 to 17421. The term Prime Minister didn't become the official name for the position until Henry Campbell-Bannerman left office in 1905. To date (2013) 52 men and one woman have held the post since 1721 and, 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 so far. William Gladstone is the only person to have had four separate terms2 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. 14 have had two tenures in the post. Many have also retained the position following a successful election victory for their political party.

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 and 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 103?

The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom

So who are the 53 people to have held the post so far? Here is the full list in chronological order from when they first held the post.

NameBirth NamePartyDates of term/s
Sir Robert WalpoleN/AWhig1721 - 1742
Earl of WilmingtonSpencer ComptonWhig1742 - 3
Henry PelhamN/AWhig1743 - 54
Duke of NewcastleThomas Pelham-HollesWhig1754 - 6
1757 - 62
Duke of DevonshireWilliam CavendishWhig1756 - 7
Earl of ButeJohn StuartTory1762 - 3
George GrenvilleN/AWhig1763 - 5
Marquess of RockinghamCharles WentworthWhig1765 - 6
Earl of ChathamWilliam Pitt the ElderWhig1766 - 8
Duke of GraftonAugustus Henry FitzroyWhig1767 - 70
Lord NorthFrederick NorthTory1770 - 82
Earl ShelburneWilliam Petty FitzMauriceWhig1782 - 3
Duke of PortlandWilliam BentinckTory1783
1807 - 9
William PittN/ATory1783 - 1801
1804 - 6
Henry AddingtonN/ATory1801 - 4
Lord GrenvilleWilliam Wyndham GrenvilleWhig1806 - 07
Spencer PercevalN/ATory1809 - 12
Earl of LiverpoolRobert Banks JenkinsonTory1812 - 27
George CanningN/ATory1827
Viscount GoderichFrederick RobinsonTory1827 - 8
Duke of WellingtonArthur WellesleyTory1828 - 30
Earl GreyCharles GreyWhig1830 - 34
Viscount MelbourneWilliam LambWhig1834
1835 - 41
Sir Robert PeelN/ATory1834 - 5
1841 - 6
Earl RussellJohn RussellWhig1846 - 51
1865 - 6
Earl of DerbyEdward StanleyConservative1852
1858 - 9
1866 - 8
Earl of AberdeenGeorge Hamilton GordonTory1852 - 5
Viscount PalmerstonHenry TempleLiberal1855 - 8
1859 - 65
Benjamin DisraeliN/AConservative1868
1874 - 80
William GladstoneN/ALiberal1868 - 74
1880 - 85
1892 - 94
Marquess of SalisburyRobert Gascoygne-CecilConservative1885 - 6
1886 - 92
1895 - 1902
Earl of RoseberyArchibald Philip-Primrose RoseberyLiberal1894 - 5
Arthur BalfourN/AConservative1902 - 5
Sir Henry Campbell-BannermanN/ALiberal1905 - 08
Herbert Henry AsquithN/ALiberal1908 - 16
David Lloyd GeorgeN/ALiberal1916 - 22
Andrew Bonar LawN/AConservative1922 - 3
Stanley BaldwinN/AConservative1923
1924 - 29
1935 - 37
Ramsey MacDonaldJames Ramsey MacDonaldLabour1924
1929 - 35
Neville ChamberlainArthur Neville ChamberlainConservative1937 - 40
Sir Winston ChurchillN/AConservative1940 - 45
1951 - 55
Clement AttleeN/ALabour1945 - 51
Sir Anthony EdenRobert Anthony EdenConservative1955 - 57
Harold MacmillanMaurice Harold MacmillanConservative1957 - 63
Sir Alec Douglas-HomeN/AConservative1964
Harold WilsonJames Harold WilsonLabour1964 - 1970
1974 - 76
Edward HeathN/AConservative1970 - 74
James CallaghanLeonard James CallaghanLabour1976 - 79
Margaret ThatcherMargaret RobertsConservative1979 - 90
John MajorN/AConservative1990 - 97
Tony BlairAnthony Charles Lynton BlairLabour1997 - 2007
Gordon BrownJames Gordon BrownLabour2007 - 2010
David CameronN/AConservative2010 - present

The Important Pre-requisites

Anyone wishing to become President of the USA has to meet a series of criteria regarding nationality, age and so on. The criteria that must be met by those wishing to be considered for the post of Prime Minister are substantially less detailed4.

A candidate for Prime Minister is simply invited by the monarch 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.

It's an obvious bonus to be a prominent politician known by the monarch of the day but recently the monarch has mostly invited the leader of the largest party in Parliament to form the government5. 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 majority party.

As you most likely will be a member of the House of Commons, you must be over 18 (the minimum age was 21 until an Electoral Commission review in 2006) and be a British, Commonwealth or Irish citizen resident in the UK at the time of your nomination and the day of the poll. There are other disqualifications from being a candidate and therefore an MP:

  • Peers who are members of the House of Lords

  • Bishops and archbishops who are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual

  • Undischarged bankrupts

  • Civil servants and other paid office holders of the Crown including judges, members of the armed forces or police

  • Citizens of another country outside of the Commonwealth, including other European Union countries

  • 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

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 this Researcher 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 53 Prime Ministers who have held office up to 2013, 34 have been commoners and not held a title when they first took over the premiership. Of the other 19, nine were Earls6, five have been Dukes, three Viscounts, and two Marquises.

No Lord has been Prime Minister since the end of the Marquis of Salisbury'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.

Since hereditary peers have now been abolished from taking an automatic seat in the House of Lords by quirk of birth, the situation has changed somewhat. 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. Even so, you stand the best chance of becoming Prime Minister, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, by getting elected to the House of Commons.

Party Allegiance

Three parties or groupings have held power in the United Kingdom from 1721 to 2013. 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 governments. So far 23 Prime Ministers have been of Tory or Conservative persuasion, from William Pitt the Younger (1783 - 1801) to David Cameron (2010 - ). Seventeen have been Whigs or Liberal starting with Robert Walpole (1721 - 42) until David Lloyd George (1916 - 22). Six have been Labour since Ramsey McDonald (1924) to Gordon Brown (2007 - 10). 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 main camps.

The Conservatives and Labour have together 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. So most people would assume that future Prime Ministers would have to be aligned to one of those two parties. However in 1983 they only gathered 71.8% due to the strength then of the new alliance between the Social Democratic and Liberal Parties, and at the 2004 European Elections the 'big two' gained less than 50% of the vote with other parties, including the Liberal Democrats, gathering the rest.

At the 2005 election Labour had 37% of the vote, Conservatives 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, and the Liberal Democrat Leader said that three party politics was now established in the nation. Indeed, in 2010, no one party gained a majority and the Liberal Democrats entered into a Coalition Government with the Conservatives.

Therefore in 2013 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. Overall, however, your best chance to obtain the top job is to be a Tory leader

Place of Birth

Not surprisingly, the largest number of Prime Ministers have been born in England, with 40 in total by 2013. Scotland can claim six, 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.


  • London - 19 - 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, David Cameron

  • Home Counties - 7 - Henry Pelham, William Pitt, Lord Grenville, Marquis of Salisbury, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, John Major

  • North East - 4 - Earl Grey, Herbert Henry Asquith, Anthony Eden, Harold Wilson

  • North West - 4 - Robert Peel, Earl of Derby, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George

  • Midlands - 3 - Earl of Wilmington, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill

  • East Anglia - 2 - Robert Walpole, Margaret Thatcher

  • West Country - 1 - Stanley Baldwin


  • Scotland - 6 - Earl of Aberdeen, James Balfour, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Ramsey MacDonald, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown

  • Ireland - 2 - Earl of Shelburne, Duke of Wellington

  • Canada - 1 - Andrew Bonar Law

  • Unknown - 4 - 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 BirthYearsDays% of Total
Total281 c. 3037100

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 (up to 2013) 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.

First Name

Out of all the possible names in the English language only 25 made it into the highest office of the land by 2013. 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 have only been two Prime Ministers to share that name and one is more often remembered as Ted Heath.

The most popular name for Scottish monarchs (with a total of seven) is James8. Three Prime Ministers, Wilson, MacDonald and Brown, have been Christened James, although all of them were known by their second given names instead.

  • William - 8 - Devonshire, Chatham, Shelburne, Pitt, Lord Grenville, Portland, Melbourne, Gladstone
  • Henry - 5 - Pelham, Addington, Palmerston, Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith
  • Robert - 5 - Walpole, Liverpool, Peel, Salisbury, Eden
  • Arthur - 3 - Wellington, Balfour, Chamberlain
  • George - 3 - George. Grenville, Canning, Aberdeen
  • James - 3 - MacDonald, Wilson, Brown
  • John - 3 - Bute, Russell, Major
  • Charles - 2 - Rockingham, Grey
  • David - 2 - Lloyd George, Cameron
  • Edward - 2 - Derby, Heath
  • Frederick - 2 - North, Goderich
  • Spencer - 2 - Wilmington, Perceval
  • Alec/Alexander - Douglas-Home
  • Andrew - Bonar Law
  • Anthony - Blair
  • Archibald - Rosebery
  • Augustus - Grafton
  • Benjamin - Disraeli
  • Clement - Attlee
  • Leonard - Callaghan
  • Margaret - Thatcher
  • Maurice - Macmillan
  • Stanley - Baldwin
  • Thomas - Newcastle
  • Winston - Churchill

Therefore, having a regal name is good. Although if you are called Æthelred 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 Son9 - 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 Son10 - 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); Brown (1 el 1 yn b)

  • 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); Cameron (1 el b, 1 el s, 1 yn 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 son might give an individual a slight edge due to the historic propensity of PMs sitting in the hereditary House of Lords.

Some interesting historical notes: both William Pitt the Elder 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 otherwise 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 a 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 - 19 - Walpole, Bute, George Grenville, Chatham, North, Lord Grenville, Canning, Wellington, Grey, Melbourne, Derby, Gladstone, Salisbury, Rosebery, Balfour, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Cameron

  • 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)

  • Unknown/home - 2 - Devonshire11, Shelburne

  • 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)

  • Kirkcaldy High School - Brown

  • 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)

Education (2) - University

  • Oxford - 26 - George 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); Cameron (Brasenose)

  • Cambridge - 12 - Perceval, Grey, Melbourne, Balfour, Campbell-Bannerman, Baldwin (Trinity); Goderich, Aberdeen, Palmerston (b) (St John's); Walpole (King's); Newcastle (Clare Hall); Grafton (Peterhouse)

  • University of Life - 8 - Devonshire, Rockingham, Pitt, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Callaghan, Major

  • Edinburgh - 2 - Palmerston (a), Russell, Brown

  • Birmingham - Chamberlain12

  • Leiden, Netherlands - Bute

  • London - MacDonald (Birkbeck)13

  • Sandhurst Military Academy - Churchill

  • Royal Academy of Equitation, Angiers, France - Wellington

  • Utrecht - Chatham (b)

Age First Entered Parliament

24 of our Premiers (up to 2013) 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.

Under 25
21 exactly the age of Maturity14: 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
29 Wilson

30 - 39
30 Macmillan, Blair
32 Campbell-Bannerman, Brown
33 Perceval, Asquith, Heath, Callaghan
34 Cameron
36 Wellington, Major
37 Attlee
39 MacDonald

40 - 49
40 Baldwin
42 Bonar Law
49 Chamberlain


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

  • Landowner15 - 7 - Walpole, Newcastle, Devonshire, Portland, Walpole, Rosebery, Douglas-Home

  • Politics 16 - 6 - Pelham, Chatham, Grafton, North, Pitt, Salisbury, Cameron (a)

  • Military - 5 - Rockingham, Shelburne, Wellington, Churchill (a), Heath17

  • Banking - 2 - Bonar Law, Major

  • Journalism/Media - 4 - MacDonald, Churchill (b), Brown (b), Cameron (b)

  • Manufacturing - 2 - Baldwin, Chamberlain

  • Publishing - 2 - Lord Grenville18, Macmillan

  • Civil Servant - 1 - Wilson

  • Lecturer - 1 - Brown (a)

  • 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 and so it is not surprising that there are only two left-handed Prime Ministers on record to date: Churchill and Callaghan.

Region Represented

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.

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 a Parliamentary seat indicates the minister was newly ennobled to the House of Lords almost immediately after leaving the Commons. A + indicates inheritance of the family seat.


  • Home Counties - 8

    • Pelham (Seaford 1717 - 1722, Sussex 1722 - 1754)
    • George Grenville (Buckingham 1741 - 1770)
    • Canning (Newtown 1793 - 1796, 1806 - 1807, Wendover 1796 - 1802, Tralee 1802 - 1806, Hastings 1807 - 1812, Liverpool 1812 - 1822 NW, Harwich 1823 - 1826, Newport 1826 - 1827, Seaford 1827)
    • Palmerston (Horsham 1805 - 1806, Newport (Isle of Wight) 1806 - 1811, Cambridge University 1811 - 1831 East Anglia, Bletchingley 1831 - 1832, Hampshire South 1832-1835, Tiverton 1835 - 1865)
    • Disraeli (Maidstone 1837 - 1841, Shrewsbury 1841 - 1847 West Country, Buckinghamshire 1847 - 1876*)
    • Churchill (Oldham NW 1900 - 1906, Manchester North West NW 1906 - 08, Dundee Scotland 1908 - 22, Epping 1924 - 1945, Woodford 1945 -1964)
    • Macmillan (Stockton-on-Tees NE 1924 - 1945, Bromley 1945 - 196419)
    • Heath (Bexley 1950 - 2001)

  • Midlands - 7

    • 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 - 1929, Birmingham Edgbaston 1929 - 1940)
    • Eden (Warwick and Leamington 1923 - 195720)
    • Major (Huntingdon 1979 - 2001)
    • Cameron (Witney 2001 - present)

  • London - 4

    • Russell (Tavistock 1812 - 1820, 1830 - 1831, Huntingdonshire Midlands 1820 - 1826, Bandon Bridge 1826 - 1830, Devon 1831 - 1835, Stroud 1835 - 1841, City of London 1841 - 1861*)
    • Gladstone (Newark 1832 - 1845 Midlands, Oxford University Midlands 1847 - 1865, South Lancashire 1865 - 1868, Greenwich 1868 - 1879, Midlothian  Scotland 1879 - 1895)
    • Attlee (Limehouse 1922 - 1950, Walthamstow West 1950 - 1955*)
    • Thatcher (Finchley 1959 - 1992*)

  • North West - 3

    • Pitt (Appleby 1781 - 1784, University of Cambridge 1784 - 1806)
    • Wilson (Ormskirk 1945 - 1950, Huyton 1950 - 1983*)
    • Balfour (Hertford Home Counties 1874 - 1885, East Manchester 1885 - 1906, City of London 1906 - 1922*)

  • West Country - 3

    • Chatham (Old Sarum 1735 - 1754, Aldborough 1754 - 1756, Okehampton 1756 - 1757, Bath 1757 - 1766*)
    • Addington (Devizes 1784 - 1805*)
    • Baldwin (Bewdley 1908 - 1937*)

  • East Anglia - 1 - Walpole (Castle Rising 1701 - 1702, King's Lynn 1702 - 1712, 1713 - 1742)

  • North East - 2 - Blair (Sedgefield 1983 - 2007)

Scotland - 5

  • Campbell-Bannerman (Stirling Burghs 1868 - 1908)
  • Asquith (East Fife 1886 - 1918, Paisley 1920 - 1925*)
  • Bonar Law (Glasgow Blackfriars 1900 - 1906, Dulwich London 1906 - 1910, Bootle NW 1911 - 1918, Glasgow Central 1918 - 1923)
  • Douglas-Home (Lanark 1931 - 1951+; Kinross 1963 - 1974*)
  • Brown (Dunfermline East 1983 - 2005, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 2005 - 2010

Wales - 3

  • David Lloyd George (Caernarvon 1890 - 1945*)
  • MacDonald (Leicester Midlands 1906 - 1918, Aberavon 1922 - 1929, Seaham 1929 - 1935, Scottish Universities 1935 - 37)
  • Callaghan (Cardiff South 1945 - 1987*)

In Lords when first became PM - 19

  • Wilmington (Eye 1698 - 1710, East Grinstead 1713 - 1728*)
  • Newcastle (Inherited seat soon after 21st birthday)
  • Devonshire (Derbyshire 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 (Boroughbridge 1756, Bury St Edmunds 1756 - 1757+)
  • Shelburne (Chipping Wycombe Home Counties 1760 - 1761+)
  • Lord Grenville (Buckinghamshire Home Counties 1782 - 1790*)
  • Portland (Weobley 1761 - 1762+)
  • Liverpool (Rye 1790 - 1803+)
  • Goderich (Carlow Ireland 1806 - 1807, Ripon NE 1807 - 1827*)
  • Wellington (Rye 1806 - 1814*)
  • Grey (Northumberland NE 1786 - 1807+)
  • Melbourne (Leominster West Country 1805 - 1807, Portarlington 1807 - 1812+)
  • 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+)

Previous Cabinet Posts

Most, but not every, Prime Minister has had some previous experience of being in Government. Indeed Tony Blair was not even an MP the last time his party was in power as 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 Secretary or Foreign Secretary. These are the major positions of power apart from 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); Brown (b)

  • 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); Cameron (deputy) (a)

  • Trade - Shelburne (a); Canning (b); Goderich (b); Gladstone (a); Lloyd George (a); Baldwin (a); Churchill (a); Wilson; Heath (d); Brown (a)

  • 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; Cameron (b)

  • Health - Chamberlain (b)

  • Housing - Macmillan (a)

  • Ireland - Lord Grenville (a); Wellington21; 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 Commons22 - Wilmington (a); Addington; Lord Grenville (b)

  • None - Newcastle; Rockingham; MacDonald23; Blair

  • Unknown - Devonshire


Although it was possible to become PM while being 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: as at 2013 there is a 70% chance that you have entered parliament before you were 30, and almost 50% chance 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; up to 2013 only 25% haven't been and the PM has been English for about 80% of the time.

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 Scotland, as this region is only just behind. Best to avoid London as, while it is extremely handy to the Palaces of Westminster, relatively few Prime Ministers have actually represented constituents in the city itself while Premier.

Although 36% of past Prime Ministers had been educated at Eton, in the more egalitarian mid-20th Century onwards, none had been from 1964 until David Cameron was elected in 2010. So your choice of school isn't so important as long as you work hard - up to 2013, 72% 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, and your name had best be something traditional and regal like William, Henry or Robert. It doesn't matter whether you are the eldest or youngest child in your family, or somewhere in between, but it helps if you have at least one older sister.

The most typical Prime Minister so far was Anthony Eden - born in England, originally Robert, he went to Eton and Oxford and then served as Chancellor and Foreign Secretary for the Conservatives before obtaining the top job.

However, in order for you to become Prime Minister, in today's party political structure you need to be popular firstly within your own party, so you will become leader, and secondly with the electorate. Then the world is your oyster my son, or daughter.

1Previously, the monarch was the first minister of Parliament.2With a break between each term.3Or rather the small flat at the top of the building - there isn't actually a keyhole in the front door of the Prime Ministerial residence in Downing Street, London.4Although the criteria to become a candidate for Parliament in the first place are quite strict.5Although in the elections of February and October 1974, Ted Heath was first called upon to form a government. Only when he could not command a majority was Harold Wilson called to form a government.6John Russell had become Earl Russell in time for his second term from 1865 - 66. Benjamin Disraeli was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876 during his second tenure. Sir Alec Douglas-Home renounced his Earldom to become Prime Minister in 1963.7We are not sure quite when in April Walpole was appointed First Lord of the Treasury by George I.8Two of whom also ruled over England.9Meaning the older one of only two boys in the family.10Important position in aristocratic families as this was the spare for the heir.11Assumed to have been privately educated.12At the time he studied at Mason College, later part of Birmingham University.13Evening Classes.14While this is still the minimum age at which anyone can become a Member of Parliament the Electoral Commission are currently considered bring this age down to 18 in line with the voting age. In Scotland the Local Governance Bill (2004) has been passed doing this for Local Councillors in Scotland.15Often the sons of peers who inherited the title and never actually had to find other employment than on their father's estates.16Often these are the sons of politicians who gained a seat upon graduation from university.17To be fair, Heath left University as World War II broke out and was elected to Parliament upon its conclusion.18Edited his Uncle Earl Chatham's Letters19Macmillan accepted a life peerage twenty years after he resigned from Parliament in 1984.20Was created Earl of Avon in 1961.21He resigned to assume command of the Army in the Iberian Wars. He was Commander in Chief when he became PM and had to resign his military position.22Not strictly a cabinet post but still an important role.23He was the First Labour PM; his opposition the World War I led to him not holding a post in Lloyd George's coalition war government.

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