Leader of the Conservative Party (UK)

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The Leader of the Conservative Party is the most senior politician within the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. The post is currently held by David Cameron, who succeeded Michael Howard in 2005, and who has also been the serving Prime Minister since 2010.

Background[edit]

Until 1922, there was no formal "Leader of the Conservative Party". There was a leader of the Conservative party in each of the two Houses, and they were regarded as equal unless one of them was either the Prime Minister or a former Prime Minister, or if a particular crisis (as in 1846–1847 or 1916) had resulted in one clearly asserting authority over the other. In the periods when this was not the case (1881–1885, 1911–1916, 1921–1922) there was no clear "Leader of the Conservative Party" — this contributed to some of the internal party conflict at the time. The distinction of the leaders is often overlooked by many and there are lists in circulation that assume the eventual single leader who emerged after a period of equal leadership was the leader from the outset. However this was not always the case — for example in 1881 it was widely expected that the Commons leader Sir Stafford Northcote would be the next Conservative Prime Minister, but by the time the party had returned to government in 1885 political developments had resulted in the Lords leader Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury having the stronger claim for the premiership.

When the Parliament Act 1911 reduced the power of the Lords, it seemed likely that the leader in the Commons would be preeminent. But that was not formally recognised for another eleven years, and there were several occasions when members of the Lords were strongly considered for the leadership of the whole party after this time. Since 1922 an overall leader has been formally elected by a joint meeting of MPs, peers, and prospective parliamentary candidates, even when the party is in opposition. Until 1965 this election was a rubber-stamp for the individual who had already been asked by the monarch to form a government; the leadership did not fall vacant at any time when the party was in opposition during this period. Since 1965 a succession of ballots have been held to choose between competing candidates. This was instigated by Alec Douglas-Home in 1964 after the confused circumstances of his own elevation in 1963.

Overall Leader of the Conservative Party, 1828–1922[edit]

Overall leader
(Birth–Death)
Portrait Country of birth Constituency / Title Took Office Left Office Prime Minister (term)
Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington
(1769–1852)
Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.png Royal Standard of Ireland (1542–1801).svg Ireland Duke of Wellington 22 January
1828
18 December
1834
himself 1828–30
Grey 1830–34
himself 1834
Sir Robert Peel
(1788–1850)
Robert Peel.jpg  England Tamworth 18 December
1834[1]
29 June
1846
himself 1834–35
Melbourne 1835–41
himself 1841–46
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby from 1851
(1799–1869)
Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby.jpg  England Baron Stanley until 1851
Earl of Derby from 1851
29 June
1846
27 February
1868
Russell 1846–52
himself 1852
Aberdeen 1852–55
Palmerston 1855–58
himself 1858–59
Palmerston 1859–65
Russell 1865–66
himself 1866–68
Benjamin Disraeli
1st Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876
(1804–1881)
Disraeli.jpg  England Buckinghamshire until 1876
Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876
27 February
1868
19 April
1881
himself 1868
Gladstone 1868–74
himself 1874–80
Gladstone 1880–85
Vacant
Leader of the Lords – 3rd Marquess of Salisbury
Leader of the Commons – Stafford Northcote
19 April
1881
23 June
1885
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
(1830–1903)
Robert cecil.jpg  England Marquess of Salisbury 23 June
1885
11 July
1902
himself 1885–86
Gladstone 1886
himself 1886–92
Gladstone 1892–94
Rosebery 1894–95
himself 1895–1902
Arthur Balfour
(1848–1930)
Arthur Balfour, photo portrait facing left.jpg  Scotland Manchester East until 1906
City of London from 1906
11 July
1902
13 November
1911
himself 1902–05
C.-Bannerman 1905–08
Asquith 1908–16
Vacant
Leader of the Lords – 5th Marquess of Lansdowne
Leader of the Commons – Andrew Bonar Law
13 November
1911
10 December
1916[2]
Andrew Bonar Law
(1858–1923)
Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg New Brunswick, Canada Bootle until 1918
Glasgow Central from 1918
10 December
1916[3]
21 March
1921
Lloyd George 1916–22
Vacant
Leader of the Lords – Lord Curzon
Leader of the Commons – Austen Chamberlain
21 March
1921
23 October
1922

Leader of the Conservative Party (1922–present)[edit]

Leader
(Birth–Death)
Portrait Country of birth Constituency / Title Took Office Left Office Prime Minister (term)
Andrew Bonar Law
(1858–1923)
Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg New Brunswick, Canada Glasgow Central 23 October
1922
(party meeting.)
28 May
1923
himself
Stanley Baldwin
(1867–1947)
Stanley Baldwin ggbain.35233.jpg  England Bewdley 28 May
1923
(party meeting.)
31 May
1937
himself 1923–24
MacDonald 1924
himself 1924–29
MacDonald 1929–35
himself 1935–37
Neville Chamberlain
(1869–1940)
Neville chamberlain1921.jpg  England Birmingham Edgbaston 31 May
1937
(party meeting.)
9 October
1940
himself 1937–40
Churchill 1940
Winston Churchill
(1874–1965)
Winston Churchill cph.3a49758.jpg  England Epping until 1945
Woodford from 1945
9 October
1940
(party meeting.)
21 April
1955
himself 1940–45
Attlee 1945–51
himself 1951–55
Anthony Eden
(1897–1977)
Sir Anthony-Eden number 10 Official.jpg  England Warwick and Leamington 21 April
1955
(party meeting.)
22 January
1957
himself
Harold Macmillan
(1894–1986)
Harold Macmillan number 10 official.jpg  England Bromley 22 January
1957
(party meeting.)
11 November
1963
himself
Alec Douglas-Home
(1903–1995)
Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg  England Earl of Home until 1963
Kinross and Western
Perthshire
from 1963
11 November
1963
(party meeting.)
27 July
1965
himself 1963–64
Wilson 1964–70
Edward Heath
(1916–2005)
Edward Heath  England Bexley until 1974
Sidcup from 1974
27 July
1965
11 February
1975
himself 1970–74
Wilson 1974–76
Margaret Thatcher
(1925–2013)
Margaret Thatcher cropped2.png  England Finchley 11 February
1975
28 November
1990
Callaghan 1976–79
herself 1979–90
John Major
(1943–)
John Major 1996.jpg  England Huntingdon 28 November
1990
19 June
1997
himself 1990–97
William Hague
(1961–)
William Hague 2010 cropped.jpg  England Richmond, Yorks 19 June
1997
13 September
2001
Blair 1997–2007
Iain Duncan Smith
(1954–)
Iain Duncan-Smith Official.jpg  Scotland Chingford and Woodford Green 13 September
2001
6 November
2003
Michael Howard
(1941–)
Michael Howard 1099 cropped.jpg  Wales Folkestone and Hythe 6 November
2003
6 December
2005
David Cameron
(1966–)
David Cameron official.jpg  England Witney 6 December
2005
Incumbent
Brown 2007–10
himself 2010–present

House of Lords and Commons leaders[edit]

Leaders in the House of Lords 1834–present[edit]

Those asterisked were considered the overall leader of the party.

Leaders in the House of Commons 1834–1922[edit]

Those asterisked were considered the overall leader of the party.

Elections of Conservative leaders by party meeting[edit]

House of Commons[edit]

No. Date of meeting Name of leader elected Category attending meeting Location of meeting Chair Proposer Seconder Refs
1. 9 February 1848 Charles Manners, Marquess of Granby Protectionist commoners The residence of George Bankes MP [7]

[8]

2. 1 February 1849 Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Manners, Marquess of Granby, John Charles Herries The residence of Edward Smith-Stanley, Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe [9]
3. 13 November 1911 Andrew Bonar Law Unionist Members of Parliament Carlton Club, Pall Mall Henry Chaplin, senior Privy Councillor on the Unionist benches (appointed 1885) Walter Long Austen Chamberlain [10]
4. 21 March 1921 Austen Chamberlain Unionist Members of Parliament Carlton Club, Pall Mall Lord Edmund Talbot, Conservative Chief Whip Captain Ernest George Pretyman Sir Edward Coates, 'a back bencher and one of the rank and file' [11]
5. 23 October 1922 Andrew Bonar Law Unionist peers, MP's and candidates Hotel Cecil, The Strand The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Stanley Baldwin, 'chosen ... to be the spokesman for the House of Commons' [12]
6. 28 May 1923 Stanley Baldwin 'Conservative Party' Hotel Cecil, The Strand The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Leader of the House of Lords The Earl of Derby Captain Ernest George Pretyman 'a member of the House of Commons who [had] been a colleague in that House of Mr Bonar Law for something over 25 years' [13]
7. 31 May 1937 Neville Chamberlain 'peers and M.P.s who receive the Conservative whip, ... prospective candidates who have been adopted by constituency associations, and ... members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist associations from England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.' Caxton Hall, Caxton Street The Viscount Halifax, Leader of the House of Lords The Earl of Derby Winston Churchill (Privy Councillor since 1907) [14]
8. 9 October 1940 Winston Churchill 'Peers and M.P.s who receive the Conservative whip, ... prospective candidates who have been adopted by constituency associations, and ... members of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations from England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.' London The Viscount Halifax, Leader of the House of Lords The Viscount Halifax Sir George Courthope 'one of the senior back benchers of the party' [15]
9. 21 April 1955 Sir Anthony Eden 'Conservative and National Liberal members of the two Houses of Parliament, Conservative and National Liberal parliamentary candidates and members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations' Church House, Dean's Yard, Westminster The Marquess of Salisbury, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess of Salisbury Richard Austen Butler (Privy Councillor since 1939) [16]
10. 22 January 1957 Harold Macmillan 'Conservative and Unionist members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, ... prospective parliamentary candidates and ... members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. National Liberal members of both Houses of Parliament and adopted prospective candidates were also present' The Marquess of Salisbury, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess of Salisbury Richard Austen Butler (Privy Councillor since 1939) [17]
11. 11 November 1963 Sir Alec Douglas-Home 'members of both Houses of Parliament taking the Conservative whip, prospective candidates who [had] been adopted by constituency associations, members of the executive of the mass party, and National Liberal MP's and adopted prospective candidates' Church House, Dean's Yard, Westminster The Lord Carrington, Leader of the House of Lords The Lord Carrington Geoffrey Lloyd, 'the senior Conservative Privy Councillor in the Commons next in line to Sir Winston Churchill' (appointed 1943) [18]

House of Lords[edit]

No. Date of meeting Name of leader elected Category attending meeting Location of meeting Chair Proposer Seconder Notes
1. 9 March 1846 Edward Smith-Stanley, Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe Peers The residence of Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton [19]
2. 15 February 1869 Hugh Cairns, 1st Earl Cairns 23 peers James Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury James Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury [20]
3. 26 February 1870 Charles Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond Peers The Carlton Club Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby [21]
4. 9 May 1881 Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury Conservative members of the House of Lords The residence of William Nevill, 1st Marquess of Abergavenny William Nevill, 1st Marquess of Abergavenny Charles Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond Hugh Cairns, 1st Earl Cairns [22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Date of the Tamworth Manifesto
  2. ^ Date on which Bonar Law became Leader of the House of Commons
  3. ^ Date on which he became Leader of the House of Commons
  4. ^ The Times, 17 June 1931
  5. ^ Granby resigned 'either in the end of December [1851] or on one of the first days of January [1852]': Monypenny, William Flavelle; Buckle, George Earle (1914). The life of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield, Volume III. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 312–3. 
  6. ^ Date on which he failed to be elected in Manchester East
  7. ^ "A Cabinet Council was held at half-past 2 o'clock." Times [London, England] 10 Feb. 1848: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.
  8. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. 151–2. 
  9. ^ Monypenny, William Flavelle; Buckle, George Earle (1914). The life of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield, Volume III. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 138–9. 
  10. ^ "The Unionist Leadership." Times [London, England] 14 Nov. 1911: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Unionist M.P.s' New Leader." Times [London, England] 22 Mar. 1921: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Unionists Elect Mr. Bonar Law." Times [London, England] 24 Oct. 1922: 18. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Conservative Leader." Times [London, England] 29 May 1923: 19. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  14. ^ "The New Leader And The Old." Times [London, England] 1 June 1937: 17+. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Conservative Leader." Times [London, England] 10 Oct. 1940: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  16. ^ Our Political Correspondent. "Sir A. Eden as Leader." Times [London, England] 22 Apr. 1955: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Mr. Macmillan states Party philosophy", The Times (London), 23 January 1957 
  18. ^ Our Political Correspondent. (12 November 1963), "Prime Minister is Ageless", The Times (London): 12 
  19. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 124. 
  20. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 645. 
  21. ^ "We are enabled to state that, in compliance with." Times [London, England] 28 Feb. 1870: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 26 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Meeting Of The Conservative Peers." Times [London, England] 10 May 1881: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.