Leaders of the Conservative Party: Wikis


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Leaders of the UK Conservative Party since 1834.



Until 1922 there was no formal "Leader of the Conservative Party". The leaders of Conservative MPs and Conservative peers were regarded as coequal 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 coequal 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 claimant 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. However, this 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. From 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 been already asked by the monarch to form a government. The leadership did not fall vacant at any time when the party was in opposition in this period. Since 1965, a succession of ballots have been held in order to chose between competing candidates. This was instigated by Alec Douglas-Home in 1964 after the confused circumstances of his own elevation in 1963.

Leaders in the House of Lords 1834-present

Those asterisked considered the overall leader of the party.

Leaders in the House of Commons 1834-1922

Overall Leader of the Conservative Party 1834–1922

Portrait Country of Birth Constituency/Title Took Office Left Office   Prime Minister
Sir Robert Peel Robert Peel.jpg England Tamworth 1834 1846 Robert Peel 1834–35
Viscount Melbourne 1835–41
Robert Peel 1841–46
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby from 1851
14th Earl of Derby.jpg England Baron Stanley until 1851
Earl of Derby from 1851
1846 February
Lord John Russell 1846–52
Earl of Derby 1852
Earl of Aberdeen 1852–55
Viscount Palmerston 1855–58
Earl of Derby 1858–59
Viscount Palmerston 1859–65
Earl Russell 1865–66
Earl of Derby 1866–68
Benjamin Disraeli
1st Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876
Disraeli.jpg England Buckinghamshire until 1876
Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876
1881 Benjamin Disraeli 1868
W. E. Gladstone 1868–74
Benjamin Disraeli 1874–76
Earl of Beaconsfield 1876–80
W. E. Gladstone 1880–85
3rd Marquess of Salisbury Leader of Lords
Stafford Northcote Leader of Commons
1881 1885
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
3rd Marquess of Salisbury.jpg England Marquess of Salisbury 1885 11 July
Marquess of Salisbury 1885–86
W. E. Gladstone 1886
Marquess of Salisbury 1886–92
W. E. Gladstone 1892–94
Earl of Rosebery 1894–95
Marquess of Salisbury 1895–1902
Arthur Balfour Arthur Balfour, photo portrait facing left.jpg Scotland City of London 11 July
1911 Arthur Balfour 1902–1905
Henry Campbell-Bannerman 1905–08
H. H. Asquith 1908–16
5th Marquess of Lansdowne Leader of Lords
Andrew Bonar Law Leader of Commons
1911 1916
Andrew Bonar Law Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg New Brunswick Bootle until 1918
Glasgow Central from 1918
1916 1921 David Lloyd George 1916–22
Lord Curzon Leader of Lords
Austen Chamberlain Leader of Commons
1921 23 October

Leader of the Conservative Party 1922–present

Portrait Country of Birth Constituency/Title Took Office Left Office   Prime Minister
Andrew Bonar Law Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg New Brunswick Glasgow Central 23 October
22 May
Andrew Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin Stanley Baldwin 01.jpg England Bewdley 22 May
28 May
Stanley Baldwin 1923–24
Ramsay MacDonald 1924
Stanley Baldwin 1924–29
Ramsay MacDonald 1929–35
Stanley Baldwin 1935–37
Neville Chamberlain Arthur-Neville-Chamberlain.jpg England Birmingham Edgbaston 27 May
9 October
Neville Chamberlain
Winston Churchill Churchill HU 90973.jpg England Epping until 1945
Woodford from 1945
9 October
7 April
Winston Churchill 1940–45
Clement Attlee 1945–51
Winston Churchill 1951–55
Anthony Eden AREden.jpg England Warwick and Leamington 7 April
9 January
Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan Macmillan cph.3b40592.jpg England Bromley 11 January
19 October
Harold MacMillan
Alec Douglas-Home England Earl of Home until 1963
Kinross and Western
from 1963
19 October
27 July
Alec Douglas-Home 1963–64
Harold Wilson 1964–70
Edward Heath Heathdod.JPG England Bexley until 1974
Sidcup from 1974
27 July
11 February
Edward Heath 1970–74
Harold Wilson 1974–76
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher cropped2.png England Finchley 11 February
28 November
James Callaghan 1976–79
Margaret Thatcher 1979–90
John Major John Major 1996.jpg England Huntingdon 28 November
19 June
John Major
William Hague William Hague with poppy.jpg England Richmond, Yorks 19 June
13 September
Tony Blair 1997–2007
Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith, June 2007.jpg Scotland Chingford and Woodford Green 13 September
6 November
Michael Howard Michael Howard 2007.jpg Wales Folkestone and Hythe 6 November
6 December
David Cameron CMEC 1 009.jpg England Witney 6 December
Gordon Brown 2007–

Simple English

The Leader of the Conservative Party is the most senior politician within the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. The post is currently held by David Cameron who is also the Prime Minister at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. There was no proper leader of the Conservative Party until 1922:

Leaders in the House of Lords 1834–present

Those asterisked ( * ) were considered the overall leader of the party.

  • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 1834–1846
  • Edward Smith-Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley (14th Earl of Derby from 1851) 1846–1868 *
  • James Howard Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury 1868–1869
  • Hugh Cairns, 1st Baron Cairns 1869–1870
  • Charles Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond 1870–1876
  • Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield 1876–1881 *
  • Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury 1881–1902 (* from 1885)
  • Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire 1902–1903
  • Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne 1903–1916
  • George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Earl Curzon of Kedleston (1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston from 1921) 1916–1925
  • James Gascoyne-Cecil, 4th Marquess of Salisbury 1925–1931
  • Douglas Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham 1931–1935
  • Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry 1935
  • E. F. L. Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax 1935–1938
  • James Stanhope, 7th Earl Stanhope 1938–1940
  • Thomas Inskip, 1st Viscount Caldecote 1940
  • E. F. L. Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax 1940
  • George Lloyd, 1st Baron Lloyd 1940–1941
  • Walter Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne 1941–1942
  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne (5th Marquess of Salisbury from 1947) 1942–1957
  • Alec Douglas-Home, 14th Earl of Home 1957–1960
  • Quintin Hogg, 2nd Viscount Hailsham 1960–1963
  • Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington 1963–1970
  • George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe 1970–1973
  • David Hennessy, 3rd Baron Windlesham 1973–1974
  • Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington 1974–1979
  • Christopher Soames, Baron Soames 1979–1981
  • Janet Young, Baroness Young 1981–1983
  • William Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw 1983–1988
  • John Ganzoni, 2nd Baron Belstead 1988–1990
  • David Waddington, Baron Waddington 1990–1992
  • John Wakeham, Baron Wakeham 1992–1994
  • Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscount Cranborne 1994–1998
  • Thomas Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde 1998–

Leaders in the House of Commons 1834–1922

  • Sir Robert Peel 1834–1846 *
  • Lord George Bentinck 1846–1847
  • Charles Manners, Marquess of Granby 1848
  • None 1848–1849
  • Jointly Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Manners, Marquess of Granby and John Charles Herries 1849–1852
  • Benjamin Disraeli 1852–1876 (* from 1868)
  • Sir Stafford Northcote 1876–1885
  • Sir Michael Hicks Beach 1885–1886
  • Lord Randolph Churchill 1886–1887
  • William Henry Smith 1887–1891
  • Arthur James Balfour 1891–1906 (* from 1902)
  • Joseph Chamberlain 1906
  • Arthur James Balfour 1906–1911 *
  • Andrew Bonar Law 1911–1921 (* from 1916)
  • Austen Chamberlain 1921–1922

Leaders of the Conservative Party 1922-Present

Date in brackets shows when each person became leader.


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