Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party (UK)

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The Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party is sometimes an official title of a senior Conservative politician of the United Kingdom.

Some are given this title officially by the party, such as Peter Lilley,[1] while others are given the title as an unofficial description by the media, such as William Hague.[2] Distinct from being "second-in-command", there is formally no current position of deputy party leader in the party's hierarchy.[3] Unlike the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, whenever the position has existed, it has been conferred through appointment and selection by the party leader, and not by party-wide elections.[3] Government and other official titles often accompanying the deputy party leadership are Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Secretary of State and/or Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or their equivalent, and may be indicated by a single front bench MP being assigned to stand in for the party leader at the Despatch Box during Prime Minister's Questions when the party leader is absent. Perhaps because of the often unofficial nature of the position, reliable sources can sometimes differ over who the deputy actually is or was.[n 1]

The term has sometimes been mistakenly used to refer to the party's deputy chair.[5]

List of deputy leaders[edit]

Name Term began Term ended Concurrent office(s) Leader
Anthony Eden 26 July 1945[6] 6 April 1955 Deputy Leader of the Opposition (1945–1951)[7]
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1945–1951)
Deputy Prime Minister (1951–1955)
Foreign Secretary (1951–1955)
Winston Churchill
Rab Butler 6 April 1955[8] 18 October 1963[n 2] Chancellor of the Exchequer (1955)
Leader of the House of Commons (1955–1961)
Home Secretary (1957–1962)
Chair of the Conservative Party (1959–1961)
Deputy Prime Minister (1962–1963)
First Secretary of State (1962–1963)
Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan
N/A Alec Douglas-Home
Reginald Maudling 27 July 1965[10] 18 July 1972[11] Deputy Leader of the Opposition (1965–1970)[12]
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1965)
Shadow Defence Secretary (1968–1969)
Home Secretary (1970–1972)
Edward Heath
The Viscount Whitelaw 11 February 1975 7 August 1991[13][14] Deputy Leader of the Opposition (1975–1979)[15]
Shadow Home Secretary (1976–1979)
Home Secretary (1979–1983)
Leader of the House of Lords (1983–1988)[16]
Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Geoffrey Howe 24 July 1989 1 November 1990 Deputy Prime Minister (1989–1990)
Leader of the House of Commons (1989–1990)
Margaret Thatcher
Michael Heseltine 20 July 1995 19 June 1997 Deputy Prime Minister (1995–1997)
First Secretary of State (1995–1997)
Deputy Leader of the Opposition (1997)[17]
John Major
Peter Lilley 2 June 1998[18] 15 June 1999[19][20] Deputy Leader of the Opposition (1998–1999)[21] William Hague
Michael Portillo[22] 1 February 2000 18 September 2001 Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2000–2001)
Michael Ancram 18 September 2001 6 December 2005 Deputy Leader of the Opposition (2001–2005)[23]
Shadow Foreign Secretary (2001–2005)
Shadow Defence Secretary (2005)
Iain Duncan Smith
Michael Howard
George Osborne 8 December 2005[2][n 1] January 2009[2][n 1] Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2005–2010) David Cameron
William Hague 8 December 2005[4][n 1] 8 May 2015 Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet (2005–2010)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (2005–2010)
First Secretary of State (2010–2015)
Foreign Secretary (2010–2014)
Leader of the House of Commons (2014–2015)
George Osborne 8 May 2015 13 July 2016 First Secretary of State (2015–2016)[3]
Chancellor of the Exchequer (2010–2016)
Damian Green 11 June 2017 20 December 2017 First Secretary of State (2017)[24]
Minister for the Cabinet Office (2017)
Theresa May
David Lidington[25] 8 January 2018 Present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2018–present)
Minister for the Cabinet Office (2018–present)

Living former deputy leaders[edit]

There are currently seven living former deputy leaders:

The most recent death of a former deputy leader was that of Lord Howe of Aberavon (served 1989–90) on 9 October 2015 (aged 88 years, 293 days).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d As an example of reliable sources sometimes differing over who the deputy actually is or was, in January 2009, the Telegraph described George Osborne as "performing the 'deputy' role" for David Cameron prior to January 2009,[2] while the Guardian described William Hague as Cameron's apparent de facto deputy over the same period.[4]
  2. ^ Alec Douglas-Home appointed Butler Foreign Secretary but he lost the title of Deputy Prime Minister.[9] He also lost the title of First Secretary of State.


  1. ^ "Peter Lilley, Member of Parliament for Hitchin and Harpenden". The Conservative Party. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016. He stood for the Conservative Leadership in 1997; becoming Shadow Chancellor then Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party Responsible for Policy Renewal until 2000. 
  2. ^ a b c d Andrew Porter, Political Editor (14 January 2009). "David Cameron anoints William Hague as his deputy". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2016. David Cameron is to give William Hague a wider-ranging role – effectively making him the deputy leader of the Conservative Party.
    The Tory leader's decision to bring Mr Hague closer to him will be seen as a rebuff for George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, who had performed the "deputy" role since Mr Cameron became leader.
    But Mr Osborne's stock has fallen since the Yachtgate saga in which he admitted being offered a loan from a Russian oligarch.
    Mr Cameron said: "William is effectively my deputy in all but name and people need to know that. I have been in this job for three years. William did it for four."
    The Tory leader told The Sun: "There's a real opportunity as we go into an election year of William as well as doing the foreign affairs stuff of actually carrying a lot of the message to the country."
    "I want people to see the role he has already which is effectively deputy in all but name. But you are going to see him in the frontline on national issues.
  3. ^ a b c Guardian editorial (17 June 2015). "The Guardian view on party deputy leaders: a job about nothing". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2016. David Cameron's choice of George Osborne shows that party leaders need a reliable second-in-command. A deputy isn't the same thing.
    Political parties require leaders but they have very little call for deputy leaders. They do, on the other hand, require a second-in-command. The distinction between the two is important. The Conservatives understand it. Labour and some smaller parties do not.
    The difference was well illustrated in the Commons today by George Osborne's debut at prime minister's questions in the absence of David Cameron. Mr Osborne is not the Tory deputy leader. No such post exists. Yet the party has got on pretty well over the years without one. On the other hand, Mr Osborne is very much Mr Cameron's second-in-command, not as of right or of rank, but chosen because of ability and trust. He is the man to whom Mr Cameron most confidently turns to act as his senior lieutenant. The chancellor now carries the title of first secretary of state as an acknowledgment of that reality. Mr Osborne's confident performance today showed why this is.
  4. ^ a b Sparrow, Andrew (14 January 2009). "Cameron names Hague as de facto deputy Tory leader – why?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2016. For Conservative party Kremlinologists, today's interview with David Cameron and William Hague in the Sun is fascinating. Cameron uses the interview to announce that Hague is now deputy Tory leader "in all but name". But Hague has not been formally given the title and, given that he has always deputised for Cameron at PMQs and chaired meetings in Cameron's absence, there were good grounds for thinking he was the de facto deputy leader anyway. 
  5. ^ Ann Gripper (11 May 2015). "David Cameron's 2015 cabinet: Meet the ministers appointed in all Conservative post-election reshuffle". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 17 July 2016. Robert Halfon will become deputy leader of the Conservative Party. 
  6. ^ Parties at War: Political Organization in Second World War Britain
  7. ^ On This Day – 9 January 1957: Sir Anthony Eden resigns
  8. ^ The Macmillan-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1957–1969
  9. ^ Howard, Anthony (1987). RAB: The Life of R. A. Butler. Jonathan Cape. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-224-01862-3. 
  10. ^ Choosing the Tory Leader: Conservative Party Leadership Elections from Heath to Cameron
  11. ^ Heath Faces Cabinet Reshuffle
  12. ^ A Matter of Weeks Rather Than Months: The Impasse between Harold Wilson and Ian Smith
  13. ^ "Willie Whitelaw dies aged 81". The Guardian. Press Association. 1 July 1991. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  14. ^ Sherrin, Ned (25 September 2008). Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations. OUP Oxford. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-19-923716-6. 
  15. ^ The Hugo Young Papers: Thirty Years of British Politics – Off the Record
  16. ^ Thatcher's No. 2 Cabinet minister resigns
  17. ^ Opposition Front Bench Spokespersons as at 13 May 1997
  18. ^ Hague's junior frontbenchers are young and to the right
  19. ^ About Peter
  20. ^ Peter Lilley
  21. ^ Democracy Live – Peter Lilley MP
  22. ^ Oppenheim, Maya (31 January 2016). "Ex Conservative minister Michael Portillo claims Thatcher was 'liberal' about homosexuality". The Independent. London. Retrieved 14 October 2016. Speaking on This Week, the ex-deputy Conservative Party leader said: "Many people would have an impression of Margaret Thatcher as a great prude – actually she wasn't". 
  23. ^ Peerage for the Rt Hon Michael Ancram
  24. ^ McDonald, Henry (21 June 2017). "DUP says deal with Tories 95% complete". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2017. Damian Green, the first secretary of state and in effect May's deputy, said on Wednesday... 
  25. ^ Rayner, Gordon (19 January 2018). "Britain could one day join a reformed EU, hints Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 January 2018.