Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
The Times constructed a poll for the first time of all British Prime Ministers in the lead-up to the 2010 general election. Before this there were two polls in 1999 and 2000, carried out by BBC Radio 4 and the British Politics Group; both consulted only a relatively small number of experts. A wider-reaching poll was conducted in 2004 by the University of Leeds and Ipsos MORI. All rankings involved only prime ministers from the 20th and 21st centuries, with no coverage for the other 31 pre-20th-century Prime Ministers.
- 1 2010 University of Leeds survey of postwar PMs
- 2 Mori/University of Leeds survey
- 3 Previous surveys
- 4 BBC History Magazine list
- 5 Popular opinion
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
2010 University of Leeds survey of postwar PMs
In 2010, the University of Leeds and Woodnewton Associates carried out a survey of 106 academics who specialised in British politics or British history, to rank the performance of all (then) 12 prime ministers since 1945. (It should be noted that Churchill's ranking was for his second term only.)
|#||Prime Minister||Years in Office||Political party|
|5||Harold Wilson||1964–1970, 1974–1976||Labour|
|6||Winston Churchill||(1940–1945), 1951–1955||Conservative|
Mori/University of Leeds survey
In 2004, the University of Leeds and Ipsos Mori conducted an online survey of 258 academics who specialised in 20th-century British history and/or politics. There were 139 replies to the survey, a return rate of 54% — by far the most extensive survey done so far. The respondents were asked to rate all the 20th-century British Prime Ministers in terms of their success and asking them to assess the key characteristics of successful PMs.
Respondents were asked to indicate on a scale of 0 to 10 how successful or unsuccessful they considered each PM to have been in office (with 0 being highly unsuccessful and 10 highly successful). A mean of the scores could then be calculated and a league table based on the mean scores.
The five Labour Prime Ministers were, on average, judged to have been the most successful, with a mean of 6.0 (median of 5.9). The three Liberal PMs averaged 5.8 (median of 6.2) and the twelve Conservative PMs 4.8 (median of 4.1).
Prime Ministers by average scholar rank
|#||Prime Minister||Years in Office||Political party||Mean Score
|2||Winston Churchill||1940–1945, 1951–1955||Conservative||7.9|
|3||David Lloyd George||1916–1922||Liberal||7.3|
|8||Stanley Baldwin||1923–1929, 1935–1937||Conservative||6.2|
|9||Harold Wilson||1964–1970, 1974–1976||Labour||5.9|
|14||Ramsay MacDonald||1924, 1929–1935||Labour||3.7|
|16||Andrew Bonar Law||1922–1923||Conservative||3.5|
- *Poll taken in 2004, while Blair was still in office.
BBC Radio 4 Poll
In December 1999 a BBC Radio 4 poll of 20 prominent historians, politicians and commentators for The Westminster Hour produced the verdict that Churchill was the best British Prime Minister of the 20th century, with Lloyd George in second place and Clement Attlee in third place. As Blair was still in office he was not ranked. The worst PM in that survey was judged to be Anthony Eden.
- Churchill (Con)
- Lloyd George (Lib)
- Attlee (Lab)
- Asquith (Lib)
- Thatcher (Con)
- Macmillan (Con)
- Salisbury (Con)
- Baldwin (Con)
- Campbell-Bannerman (Lib)
- Wilson (Lab)
- Heath (Con)
- Callaghan (Lab)
- Bonar Law (Con)
- MacDonald (Lab)
- Douglas-Home (Con)
- Balfour (Con)
- Major (Con)
- Chamberlain (Con)
- Eden (Con)
BBC History Magazine list
Historian Francis Beckett ranked the 20th-century Prime Ministers with points out of five in 2006, based on how well the leaders implemented their policies — not on the policies themselves. Margaret Thatcher and Clement Attlee shared the highest ranking.
5: Clement Attlee
5: Margaret Thatcher
4: Winston Churchill
4: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
4: Edward Heath
4: Harold Macmillan
3: Herbert Henry Asquith
3: Stanley Baldwin
3: Tony Blair
3: David Lloyd George
3: Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, Lord Salisbury
3: James Harold Wilson
2: Arthur James Balfour
2: James Callaghan
1: Sir Alec Douglas-Home
1: Andrew Bonar Law
1: James Ramsay MacDonald
1: John Major
0: Neville Chamberlain
0: Robert Anthony Eden
In September 2008 the BBC Newsnight programme conducted an online poll. Asking voters to decide who they thought was the greatest and worst of postwar Prime Ministers. 27,000 people responded, and decided that Winston Churchill was the greatest, with Attlee second, and Gordon Brown last.
The full results were:
1. Winston Churchill
2. Clement Attlee
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. Harold Macmillan
5. Harold Wilson
6. Tony Blair
7. Edward Heath
8. John Major
9. James Callaghan
10. Alec Douglas-Home
11. Anthony Eden
12. Gordon Brown
In a BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons in 2002, five Prime Ministers were ranked in the top 100. Winston Churchill was voted greatest Briton, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was in 15th place, (though not featured in contemporary polls, as he was a 19th-century politician), Margaret Thatcher was in 16th place, Tony Blair was 67th and David Lloyd George was 79th.
The BBC television programme The Daily Politics asked viewers in 2007 to select their favourite Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher topped the list with 49% of the vote, with Clement Attlee coming second with 32%.
|#||Name||Party||Term in office||The Times overall ||Matthew Parris ||Peter Riddell ||Ben MacIntyre |
|2||2||Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington||Whig||1742–1743||50||51||42|
|Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne||Whig||1754–1756
|5||5||William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire||Whig||1756–1757||44||35||44||47|
|6||7||John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute||Tory||1762–1763||46||44||49||40|
|Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham||Whig||1765–1766
|9||10||William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham||Whig||1766–1768||16||25||14||18|
|10||11||Augustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton||Whig||1768–1770||49||42||50||49|
|11||12||Frederick North, Lord North||Tory||1770–1782||50||49||37||44|
|12||14||William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne||Whig||1782–1783||26||29||41||05|
|William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland||Whig||1783
|William Pitt the Younger||Tory||1783–1801
|15||17||Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth||Tory||1801–1804||39||36||39||36|
|16||19||William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville||Whig||1806–1807||43||39||40||35|
|18||22||Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool||Tory||1812–1827||19||22||22||15|
|20||24||Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich||Tory||1827–1828||37||52||51|
|Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington||Tory||1828–1830
|22||26||Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey||Whig||1830–1834||08||09||10||06|
|William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne||Whig||1834
|25||32||John Russell, 1st Earl Russell||Whig||1846–1852||21||15||29||14|
|Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby||Conservative||1852
|27||34||George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen||Peelite||1852–1855||42||41||31||43|
|Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston||Whig
|29||38||John Russell, 1st Earl Russell||Whig||1865–1866||21||15||29||14|
|William Ewart Gladstone||Liberal||1868–1874
|Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury||Conservative||1885–1886
|33||48||Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery||Liberal||1894–1895||45||46||46||50|
|36||52||H. H. Asquith||Liberal||1908–1916||11||21||09||26|
|37||53||David Lloyd George||Liberal||1916–1922||02||02||03||02|
- Historical rankings of Canadian prime ministers
- Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States
- Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of Australia
- 100 Greatest Britons
- "Academics rate Brown one of the worst post 1945 PMs - University of Leeds". Leeds.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Gordon Brown 'third worst PM since 1945', poll of historians finds". Telegraph. 3 August 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Rating British Prime Ministers Ipsos MORI. Retrieved November 29, 2004.
- Churchill, 'Greatest' PM of 20th Century BBC Politics. Retrieved January 4, 2000.
- Thatcher and Attlee top PM list, BBC News website, 29 August 2006.
- BBC Newsnight poll
- 100 Great Britons BBC History, accessed 23 May 2007
- Your Favourite Prime Minister, 13 June 2007.
- The Times's Top 50 Prime Ministers
- Matthew Parris: my top 50 Prime Ministers
- Peter Riddell: my top 50 Prime Ministers
- Ben Macintyre: My top 50 Prime Ministers
- Buller, Jim, and Toby S. James. "Statecraft and the Assessment of National Political Leaders: The Case of New Labour and Tony Blair." British Journal of Politics & International Relations (2012) 14#4 pp: 534-555.
- Kaarbo, Juliet, and Margaret G. Hermann. "Leadership styles of prime ministers: How individual differences affect the foreign policymaking process." The Leadership Quarterly (1998) 9#3 pp: 243-263.
- Strangio, Paul et al. (2013). Understanding Prime-Ministerial Performance: Comparative Perspectives. Oxford UP. pp. 224, 226. ISBN 978-0-19-966642-3.
- Theakston, Kevin, and Mark Gill. "Rating 20th‐Century British Prime Ministers." British Journal of Politics & International Relations (2006) 8#2 pp: 193-213.
- Theakston, Kevin, and Mark Gill. "The postwar premiership league." Political Quarterly (2011) 82#1 pp: 67-80. Online