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  Wikipedia: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Wikipedia: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Prime Minister is the most senior officer of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom (before 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain). The full title of the current prime minister, Tony Blair, is Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, and Minister for the Civil Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; although, not all prime ministers have been First Lord of the Treasury. The last prime minister not to have been First Lord was Lord Salisbury (-1902).

Until the 18th century, the monarch's most senior minister could hold any of a number of titles; usually either First Lord, Lord Chancellor, Lord Privy Seal, or one of the Secretaries of State. During the late 18th Century, the term "prime minister" came to be used, as an unofficial title for this most senior minister -- as he was "premier among ministers". In 1905, the title was officially recognized by King Edward VII, when the office was given status within the 'order of precedence' (behind the Archbishop of York). The first "actual" prime minister was Henry Campbell-Bannerman.


The Prime Minister's main responsibilities include setting the direction of the government, appointing members of the Cabinet, coordinating the activities of the Cabinet and government departments, participating in ceremonial occasions, and being the 'face' of the government in the UK and abroad.

Becoming Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is technically appointed by the Monarch. By convention, he or she always chooses the leader of the party that holds a majority in the House of Commons. If one party does not have a simple majority but two or more parties form a coalition (a rare occurrence, due to the British electoral system), the leader of the coalition is chosen. If the two major parties (Labour, Conservatives) are evenly matched in the House of Commons and neither can form a coalition with minor parties, then the monarch is free to choose the leader of either party as Prime Minister, though in reality that choice would be decided by which one if any was the outgoing prime minister. A choice could not be made until the outgoing prime minister resigned, at which point whichever was the Leader of the Opposition would be asked to form a government.


The Prime Minister and the government must resign upon the passage of a vote of no confidence or the loss of a vote of confidence, unless the defeated Prime Minister seeks a dissolution of parliament which in theory the monarch may refuse but in practice never does. In practice party discipline is usually strong enough to make these votes rare, with only three successful votes of no confidence since 1885. The Prime Minister must also retain the support of his or her party's parliamentary delegation, and in a number of cases including that of Neville Chamberlain and Margaret Thatcher, a party will oust a Prime Minister who appears to be unpopular.

The leader of the second largest party in the House of Commons is termed the 'Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition'.

First Among Equals or 'semi-president'?

In theory, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is a primus inter pares (first among equals) in the British Cabinet. In appointing a cabinet the Prime Minister generally includes members of parliament who have political bases of their own and who could potentially be a rival of the Prime Minister. In addition, the Prime Minister retains very limited power to appoint members of the British Civil Service and there is usually tension between elected officials and the civil service. However, in practice, a strong Prime Minister can so dominate government that they become a 'semi-president', that is they fulfil the leadership role in a country in the same way as a president, but not carry out the ceremonial duties of a Head of State. Examples include William Ewart Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Origins of the Office

The office of Prime Minister originated out of the office of First Lord of the Treasury. The First Lord of the Treasury was the senior commissioner responsible for administration of the royal treasury when there was no Lord Treasurer, an office which originated in mediaeval times, and ceased to be used after 1714. It was not, however, until Sir Robert Walpole (1721-1742) that the First Lord of the Treasury became the most powerful minister, and became head of government. Prior to that there was no clear head of government, and the most powerful minister could hold any one of a number of titles (including First Lord of the Treasury and Lord Privy Seal). Even after Walpole, the First Lord was not always the most powerful member of the government, even as recently as 1902 when Lord Salisbury, the Lord Privy Seal, served as Prime Minister while Balfour was First Lord of the Treasury. The Prime Minister remains First Lord of the Treasury, and as such, not as Prime Minister, becomes the tenant of 10 Downing Street.

Although Sir Robert Walpole is considered to be the first Prime Minister, the term Prime Minister and conventions regarding appointment did not originate until later. The term was initially an insult, equivalent to teacher's pet, implying that the minister was the puppet of the monarch. Until Robert Peel's unsuccessful attempt to govern without a majority in Parliament, the monarch still retained a great deal of discretion over the naming of the Prime Minister. The title was not formally adopted (though it had long been used) until the premiership of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1905-08) when a 'prime minister' was given a status just behind that of the Archbishop of York.

10 Downing Street

The Prime Minister as First Lord of the Treasury traditionally lives at No. 10 Downing Street, in London. This house was offered by King George II to Sir Robert Walpole as a personal gift. Walpole would not accept it personally, but agreed to receive it in his official capacity as First Lord of the Treasury. Walpole took up residence in 1735. Most subsequent holders of this office have lived there, though some nineteenth century prime ministers chose to live in their own homes. A small number were not First Lord of the Treasury, and so were not entitled to live in Downing Street. Harold Wilson and John Major both lived in Admiralty House for a time. During part of Wilson's time 10 Downing Street underwent major structural renovation involving total rebuilding, while Major moved out in the aftermath of an Provisional IRA mortar attack on the building, while repairs took place. On his election in 1997, Tony Blair took up residence at No. 11 Downing Street, swapping No. 10 with his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, as the residential accommodation at No. 10 is smaller and Blair had four children while Brown was at the time unmarried (the two houses, and others, are interconnected).

List of Prime Ministers and First Lords of the Treasury

In the eighteenth century, it was oftentimes unclear who was to be considered the Prime Minister, with holders of the offices of First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Privy Seal, and Secretary of State all at one time or another acting as the principal minister in various government. For instance Lord Carteret Secretary of State for the Northern Department from 1742 to 1744 and William Pitt the Elder as Secretary of State for the Southern Department from 1756 to 1757 and again from 1757 to 1761 had many of the powers of a Prime Ministers, although other men held the principal office of Lord Treasurer. This list follows conventional practice in not listing such figures as Prime Ministers. However, when in 1766 Pitt, created Earl of Chatham, was asked by the King to form a ministry, he chose to take the lesser office of Lord Privy Seal, rather than taking over the Treasury. Nevertheless, he is generally considered to have been Prime Minister, due to his having been asked by the King to form a ministry. Such considerations make the earlier part of the list somewhat less authoritative in its determination of who, exactly, was Prime Minister at such times.

{| border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2"

|- bgcolor="#dddddd" |Prime Minister |Entered office |Left office |Party

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Sir Robert Walpole |4 April 1721 (15 May 1730) |11 February 1742 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington |16 February 1742 |2 July 1743 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Henry Pelham |27 August 1743 |7 March 1754 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle |16 March 1754 |16 November 1756 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire |16 November 1756 |25 June 1757 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle |2 July 1757 |26 May 1762 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute |26 May 1762 |16 April 1763 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |George Grenville |16 April 1763 |13 July 1765 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham |13 July 1765 |30 July 1766 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham |30 July 1766 |14 October 1768 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton |14 October 1768 |28 January 1770 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Frederick North, Lord North |28 January 1770 |22 March 1782 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham |27 March 1782 |1 July 1782 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne |4 July 1782 |2 April 1783 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Frederick North, Lord North and Charles James Fox, coalition |2 April 1783 |19 December 1783 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |William Pitt The Younger |19 December 1783 |14 March 1801 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Henry Addington |17 March 1801 |10 May 1804 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |William Pitt the Younger |10 May 1804 |23 January 1806 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Lord Grenville |11 February 1806 |31 March 1807 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland |31 March 1807 |4 October 1809 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Spencer Perceval |4 October 1809 |11 May 1812 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool |9 June 1812 |10 April 1827 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |George Canning |10 April 1827 |8 August 1827 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich |31 August 1827 |22 January 1828 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington |22 January 1828 |22 November 1830 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey |22 November 1830 |16 July 1834 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne |16 July |17 November 1834 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Sir Robert Peel |17 November 1834 |18 April 1835 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne |18 April 1835 |30 August 1841 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Sir Robert Peel |30 August 1841 |30 June 1846 |Tory

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Lord John Russell, later 1st Earl Russell |30 June 1846 |23 February 1852 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby |23 February 1852 |19 December 1852 | Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffff" |George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen |19 December 1852 |6 February 1855 |Peelite/Coalition

|- bgcolor="#ffccff" |Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston |6 February 1855 |20 February 1858 |Whig

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby |20 February 1858 |12 June 1859 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston |12 June 1859 |18 October 1865 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |John Russell, 1st Earl Russell |29 October 1865 |28 June 1866 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby |28 June 1866 |27 February 1868 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Benjamin Disraeli |27 February 1868 |3 December 1868 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |William Ewart Gladstone |3 December 1868 |20 February 1874 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Benjamin Disraeli (from 1876, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield) |20 February 1874 |23 April 1880 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |William Ewart Gladstone |23 April 1880 |23 June 1885 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury |23 June 1885 |1 February 1886 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |William Ewart Gladstone |1 February 1886 |25 July 1886 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury |3 August 1886 |15 August 1892 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |William Ewart Gladstone |15 August 1892 |5 March 1894 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery |5 March 1894 |25 June 1895 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ccffff" |Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury |25 June 1895 |12 July 1902 |Conservative/Unionist

|- bgcolor="#ccffff" |Arthur Balfour |12 July 1902 |5 December 1905 |Conservative/Unionist

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman |5 December 1905 |7 April 1908 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ffffcc" |Herbert Henry Asquith |7 April 1908 |27 May 1915 |Liberal

|- bgcolor="#ffffff" |Herbert Henry Asquith |27 May 1915 |7 December 1916 |Liberal/Coalition Government

|- bgcolor="#ffffff" |David Lloyd George |7 December 1916 |23 October 1922 |National Liberal/Coalition Government

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Andrew Bonar Law |23 October 1922 |22 May 1923 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Stanley Baldwin |22 May 1923 |22 January 1924 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Ramsay MacDonald |22 January 1924 |4 November 1924 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Stanley Baldwin |4 November 1924 |5 June 1929 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Ramsay MacDonald |5 June 1929 |24 August 1931 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ccffcc" |Ramsay MacDonald |24 August 1931 |7 June 1935 |National Labour/National Government

|- bgcolor="#ccffcc" |Stanley Baldwin |7 June 1935 |28 May 1937 |Conservative/National Government

|- bgcolor="#ccffcc" |Neville Chamberlain |28 May 1937 |10 May 1940 |Conservative/National Government

|- bgcolor="#ffffff" |Winston Churchill |10 May 1940 |26 July 1945 |Conservative/Coalition Government

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Clement Attlee |26 July 1945 |26 October 1951 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Sir Winston Churchill |26 October 1951 |6 April 1955 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Sir Anthony Eden |6 April 1955 |10 January 1957 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Harold Macmillan |10 January 1957 |19 October 1963 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Sir Alec Douglas-Home |19 October 1963 |16 October 1964 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Harold Wilson |16 October 1964 |19 June 1970 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Edward Heath |19 June 1970 |4 March 1974 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Harold Wilson |4 March 1974 |5 April 1976 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |James Callaghan |5 April 1976 |4 May 1979 |Labour

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |Margaret Thatcher |4 May 1979 |28 November 1990 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ccccff" |John Major |28 November 1990 |2 May 1997 |Conservative

|- bgcolor="#ffcccc" |Tony Blair |2 May 1997 |in office |Labour


See Also

External Links


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona