A surprising statistic about British Prime Ministers since 1900

Hunting out some old data recently, I came across against the following statistic from the 2015 general election campaign.

I sort of half-knew it already pre-2015 but had not worked out the numbers. When you see them in print, they’re really quite striking:
BBC graphic showing how many Prime Ministers have not first had to win a general election

Since then, of course, the tally has become 14 out of 23 Prime Ministers got to take up the job without first having to win a general election.

2 responses to “A surprising statistic about British Prime Ministers since 1900”

  1. I do not find this disturbing. The convention is that the Monarch calls on the leader of the group which commands a majority in the Commons and asks him or her to form a government. If the holder of the office dies, retires or loses the confidence of the majority the monarch repeats the process.

    If we become obsessed with the idea that the prime minister must have won the confidence of the public through a general election, then we put too much emphasis on the style, personality, charisma, deftness in dealing with the media etc. and too little on the policies the parties are espousing. As the late great Tony Benn used to say: put the emphasis on the “ishews.”

  2. I tend to agree with Peter. When Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair, there were people saying he lacked legitimacy (and they didn’t mean he was a b******). This was despite it having been well-known for ages that there was some sort of agreement Blair would step down for Brown at some stage, and Labour having won in 2001 and 2005 with anyone who followed politics knowing Brown was the heir-apparent. We do not need a general election every time a PM has had enough or implodes.

    Here is a related fact. Since the activation of the American constitution, by my count, a UK ex-PM has become PM again twelve times, excluding very short and rather artificial breaks – though the last example was Harold Wilson in 1974. In that time, an American ex-President has accomplished this feat just once – Grover Cleveland in 1893.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.