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How will Boris Johnson's stack up against other Prime Ministers?

He’s served two more days as PM than Neville Chamberlain, so how will Boris Johnson stack up against Britain’s most notable Prime Ministers?

  • Boris Johnson oversaw Britain’s departure from European Union and Europe’s fastest Covid vaccine rollout
  • He was also hailed by many for leading the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • But the PM’s failures and setbacks ultimately led to him being forced by his own party to resign
  • He has so far served just one more day than Neville Chamberlain’s two years and 348 days in office
  • All his predecessors, including Theresa May, Tony Blair and Winston Churchill, all have supporters and critics  

Despite having served for less than three years as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s time in Downing Street has proved hugely eventful. 

After winning the largest Conservative election victory since 1987, Mr Johnson presided over Britain’s departure from the European Union, oversaw the response to the Coronavirus pandemic and led the West in its support of Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

But whether it was the controversial £200,000 refurbishment of the Downing Street flat; the Partygate scandal or the sleaze sagas that culminated in the allegations surrounding Chris Pincher, Mr Johnson was ultimately brought down by his setbacks and failures as PM. 

Below, MailOnline has compared Mr Johnson’s record to many of those who have come before him.

Included are his immediate predecessors – Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major and Margaret Thatcher – along with his hero Winston Churchill, ‘appeaser’ Neville Chamberlain and Labour’s transformational PM Clement Attlee. 

Mr Johnson has served for nearly three years in office and just two more days so far than Neville Chamberlain, who was in Downing Street for two years and 348 days. 

Boris Johnson 

Time in office: Two years, 350 days (and counting)

Achievements

Winning the biggest Conservative election victory since 1987

Boris Johnson’s victory in the 2019 General Election, which gave him a majority of 81, was the biggest since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987. 

Under a pithy campaign slogan of ‘Get Brexit Done’, Mr Johnson took swathes of seats in the former northern Labour heartlands dubbed the ‘Red Wall’ with many voting Conservative for the first time.

The victory also destroyed any hopes that Labour’s hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn had of entering Downing Street, a prospect that had spooked the business establishment and terrified many Jewish people after the party’s anti-Semitism scandal.

Despite having served for less than three years as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s time in Downing Street has proved hugely eventful

Getting Britain out of the EU

In January 2020, just a month after Mr Johnson’s election victory, his Brexit deal passed through the Commons with a majority of 99. 

The achievement ended years of deadlock and wrangling that had destroyed the premiership of his predecessor Theresa May. 

The issue of Britain’s relationship with Europe had also done terminal damage to the governments of David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, so the resolution that came under Mr Johnson – even if it left issues including the future of Northern Ireland unresolved – marked an important milestone. 

In January 2020, just a month after Mr Johnson’s election victory, his Brexit deal passed through the Commons with a majority of 99. Above: Mr Johnson with EU leaders in 2019 

Fastest vaccine rollout in Europe during coronavirus pandemic

Despite facing criticism for his handling of elements of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Mr Johnson was widely praised for overseeing the development of effective vaccines and their subsequent fast rollout.

The first vaccination, of 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan, came on December 8, 2020. Ms Keenan became the first woman in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab following its clinical approval.

The first phase of the rollout prioritised the most vulnerable, in a schedule primarily based on age. The delivery plan was adjusted on 30 December 2020, delaying second doses so that more people could receive their first dose.

Despite facing criticism for his handling of elements of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Mr Johnson was widely praised for overseeing the development of effective vaccines and their subsequent fast rollout. The first vaccination, of 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan (pictured), came on December 8, 2020

Britain’s rollout was among the fastest in the world with among the highest uptake in its first few months. 

By February 2021, more than 20million people had received their first dose of a vaccine, more than any other country in Europe. 

By October 2021, over 40 million Brits – around 85 per cent of adults – had received at least one dose of a Covid jab

Supporting Ukraine after Russia invasion

Mr Johnson was one of the first world leaders to send arms to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, and went on to become the first western European leader to address the country’s parliament.

In a surprise trip to Kyiv in April 2022, Johnson pledged further British arms and financial aid to the Ukrainian cause. In June, Mr Johnson said a further £430million in financial aid would be heading Ukraine’s way, bringing total support to £1.2billion. 

The PM has repeatedly won praise from Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky for the firm backing. He compared Mr Johnson’s eagerness to help to a less enthusiastic response from other NATO countries such as Germany.

The PM has repeatedly won praise from Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky for the firm backing Britain has given to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country in February

Failures

Questions over £200,000 refurbishment of Downing Street flat

It emerged this week that the cost of Mr Johnson’s renovations of the Downing Street flat was more than £200,000.

It included £2,250 worth of ‘gold’ wallpaper which he had complained about his wife Carrie Johnson buying. 

A leaked copy of the invoice for the renovation, seen by the Independent, revealed that the flat makeover included a £7,000 rug, a £3,675 drinks trolley and two sofas which cost more than £15,000 in total. 

It emerged this week that the cost of Mr Johnson’s renovations of the Downing Street flat was more than £200,000. It included £2,250 worth of ‘gold’ wallpaper which he had complained about his wife Carrie Johnson buying. Above: The couple in Downing Street

The refurbishment was led by celebrity designer Lulu Lytle. Britain’s Electoral Commission later fined the Conservatives £17,800 for failing to accurately report a donation from millionaire Lord Brownlow to pay for it.

Mr Johnson’s then ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, later criticised the Prime Minister for failing to disclose some messages exchanged with the donor. However, he concluded that Johnson had not intentionally lied about the messages.

Attempting to rip up Parliament’s standards rules after Owen Paterson scandal 

In November last year, an inquiry found the then Conservative MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, guilty of an ‘egregious’ breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two firms which had paid him £500,000.

Instead of allowing the Commons to impose a 30-day suspension on Mr Paterson, Mr Johnson attempted to change the rules on standards in public life to help his colleague.

Mr Johnson’s attempt to change the rule kicked off a sleaze row which mired his Government in controversy before he backed down.

In November last year, an inquiry found the then Conservative MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson (pictured), guilty of an ‘egregious’ breach of lobbying rules on behalf of two firms which had paid him £500,000

The effort to reverse-ferret was derailed and descended into farce when veteran Tory Christopher Chope shouted ‘object’, forcing the government to bring a debate and vote.

Mr Paterson resigned as an MP and the Conservatives suffered a very bruising defeat in the subsequent North Shropshire by-election to the Liberal Democrats. 

Overseeing mass breaking of Covid lockdown rules in Downing Street ‘Partygate’ scandal

In November 30, 2021, the first story of what would become ‘partygate’ broke, with reports that Downing Street staff had held three gatherings almost a year earlier, when London was under lockdown restrictions.

A video then emerged of the then Downing Street press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about parties during a press conference rehearsal. 

She resigned a day later and Mr Johnson apologised at Prime Minister’s Questions, saying he was ‘furious’ about the video and appointed Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate the allegations.

Photographs showed Mr Johnson at a Christmas quiz and sitting in the garden of Number 10 while staff apparently drank wine and chatted.

In November 30, 2021, the first story of what would become ‘partygate’ broke, with reports that Downing Street staff had held three gatherings almost a year earlier, when London was under lockdown restrictions. A photograph showed Mr Johnson at a Christmas quiz

In the New Year, an email leaked showing how Mr Johnson’s private secretary invited 100 people to a party in Downing Street while the country was still in lockdown and claims Mr Johnson had attended the gathering himself.

Those claims were confirmed at Prime Minister’s Questions when Mr Johnson once again apologised and admitted attending the party, which he said he believed was a ‘work event’.

More Conservative MPs called for his resignation, pushing the party’s internal divisions further into the open.

Cracks within the party widened as Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour on January 19. David Davis became the most senior Tory MP to publicly call for the Prime Minister to resign.

Civil servant Sue Gray’s report into partygate criticised Downing Street’s drinking culture, whilst Mr Johnson was among those who were fined by the Met Police for a breach of lockdown restrictions.   

Appointing Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip despite being told about misconduct allegations 

On June 30 2022, Chris Pincher dramatically resigned as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests the evening before at the Carlton Club, a Tory private members’ club in London.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson was not aware of any ‘specific allegations’ about Mr Pincher when he appointed him to the whips office, but it emerged over the following days that he was told about allegations against him as far back as 2019.

On July 5, Mr Johnson was forced into a humiliating apology over his handling of the row after it emerged he had forgotten about being told of previous allegations of ‘inappropriate’ conduct.

On June 30 2022, Chris Pincher dramatically resigned as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests the evening before at the Carlton Club, a Tory private members’ club in London. Above: Mr Johnson with Mr Pincher

The saga ultimately led to Mr Johnson’s downfall, with the resignations of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid triggering a slew of departures that forced the PM to resign. 

The allegations surrounding Mr Pincher were just the latest in a slew of misconduct claims levelled at Tory MPs.  In May, Neil Parish had been forced to resign as an MP after it emerged he watched pornography in the Commons chamber, whilst a month earlier MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. 

Another unnamed MP was told to keep away from Parliament after being arrested on suspicion of rape, whilst fellow MP David Warburton was suspended over claims of sexual misconduct. 

Theresa May

Time in office: Three years, 11 days

Achievements

£20billion increase in NHS funding

In 2018, Mrs May announced that the NHS would get an extra £20billion a year by 2023. She said the move would be funded by a ‘Brexit dividend’.

The NHS Long-Term Plan also included the expansion in mental health services which was hailed by some campaigners.

In 2018, Mrs May announced that the NHS would get an extra £20billion a year by 2023. She said the move would be funded by a ‘Brexit dividend’

Laws granting bereavement leave for parents

Mrs May also received some praise for the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act, which granted working couples a right to two weeks’ leave if they lost a child or suffered a stillbirth. 

No such legislation had existed before this point.   

Raising the minimum wage 

Mrs May also oversaw the raising of the minimum wage. In April 2019, it was increased to £8.21, the greatest increase since its introduction in 1998. 

Record low unemployment

Shortly before Mrs May left office, the unemployment rate was at 3.8 per cent, the lowest since the autumn of 1974. 

There were also more than a million more people in office than when Mrs May took office.  

Launching 25-year environment plan

Mrs May’s appointment of Michael Gove as Environment Secretary proved to be a success, with many praising the former leadership contender’s achievements in the role. 

Mrs May launched a 25-year environment plan to tackle issues such as plastic waste, and also committed the UK to achieving ‘net zero’ climate emissions by 2050. This aim was taken up with zeal by her successor Mr Johnson.

Failures

Failing to get Britain out of the EU

Mrs May failed to fulfil her promise to get Britain out of the EU after the 2016 referendum, despite years of wrangling with Brussels and attempts to get her Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons. 

She famously broke down in tears when she resigned in a televised address outside Downing Street. 

The then PM was ultimately forced to step down over her failure to get her own MPs to sign up to her Brexit deal.  

The then PM was ultimately forced to step down over her failure to get her own MPs to sign up to her Brexit deal. Above: Mrs May making her resignation speech in 2019

Loss of majority in snap 2017 General Election 

In April 2017, Mrs May unexpectedly announced that she was triggering a General Election, explaining that it was ‘the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead’. 

However, the election campaign proved disastrous for Mrs May, who made awkward appearances and speeches and saw her poll lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour evaporate. 

The result of the election wiped out her slim Commons majority as her party lost seats, whilst Labour gained constituencies. 

Mrs May was instead forced to form a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party that would allow her to stay in office.  

Failing to pass social care reforms

Mrs May 2017 election manifesto included proposals to reform social care. The plans would have seen the threshold for free care raised from £23,250 to £100,000. 

The plans also meant that people would have the value of their property taken into account when their care costs were calculated. 

The policy was quickly dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ by critics and bombed on the doorstep, prompting Mrs May to perform a U-turn where she said she would impose a cap on the amount of money anyone had to pay for care costs.

After the disastrous election result, the social care reforms fell by the wayside and the issue was not resolved. 

David Cameron

Time in office: Six years, 63 days

Achievements

Forming and maintaining Coalition government 

Although Mr Cameron failed to win the 2010 election, he went on to form a deal with the then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg which led to the establishment of the Coalition Government. 

Despite predictions that the partnership would quickly collapse, Mr Cameron held together the occasionally fraught relationship for five years before the 2015 General Election. 

Although David Cameron failed to win the 2010 election, he went on to form a deal with the then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg which led to the establishment of the Coalition Government

Legalised gay marriage

In 2013, the act of Parliament legalising same-sex marriage was passed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. 

Mr Cameron wrote at the time: ‘This is an important moment for our country. It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth.’ 

Even though he was hailed by campaigners for the move, Mr Cameron was fiercely criticsed by some Tory activists and MPs for pushing through the historic legislation. 

The then PM later admitted that it had been a political error to force the legislation through, but insisted the policy was still right.  

Oversaw Scottish referendum victory

In the 2014 referendum over Scottish independence, Mr Cameron led the campaign for Scotland to remain part of the UK. 

Despite facing criticism in some quarters for the way the campaign was handled, Mr Cameron’s gamble in allowing the vote to take place ultimately paid off as the Better Together campaign won. 

Won the 2015 General Election 

Mr Cameron won a majority in the 2015 General Election despite predictions that there would be another Hung Parliament or that Labour – then led by Ed Miliband – would sweep to victory. 

The election prompted Mr Miliband to resign as Labour leader and also wiped out the Liberal Democrats’ position as they lost 49 seats. 

The victory gave Mr Cameron the first Conservative majority since John Major in 1992.  

Economic revival after 2008 financial crisis

The Conservative campaign in 2010 was filled with warnings about the action the Government would need to take to tackle the enormous budget deficit and national debt following the financial crisis. 

The new Chancellor George Osbourne imposed a tough regime of spending cuts that saw the budget deficit fall from 10.8 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 4.4 per cent by 2015.  

Mr Cameron’s government also oversaw the creation of 1.8million new jobs. 

Failures

Loss in the 2016 Brexit referendum

Mr Cameron will forever be remembered for his decision to allow a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, and the fact that the Remain campaign, which he led, went on to lose the poll. 

The defeat triggered his resignation and the premature end of his time in Downing Street, just two years after his 2015 General Election victory. 

Chaos after 2011 Libya intervention

Mr Cameron opted to join a Nato-led coalition against the then Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi when he faced a mass rebellion in 2011. 

The PM argued that intervention was right ‘because we believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people. 

But when bombs dropped by the RAF helped to secure the downfall of Gaddafi, the country was plunged into chaos as Mr Cameron failed to help fill the void. 

Libya has been mired in crisis ever since. The US President at the time, Barack Obama, later said that Mr Cameron had not been ‘invested’ in rebuilding Libya but had been ‘distracted by a range of other things’. 

Outcry over resignation honours list

Mr Cameron was criticised after his resignation in 2016 for lavishing gongs on pro-EU campaigners and political aides.

Mr Cameron awarded 46 gongs – including a knighthood for his former director of communications Craig Oliver and a CBE for Labour’s Will Straw, the leader of the defeated Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.

Former Chancellor George Osborne was made a Companion of Honour, while knighthoods are also handed out to Remain-backing Cabinet ministers Michael Fallon, Oliver Letwin and Patrick McLoughlin. 

Appointing later-jailed Andy Coulson as communications director

Mr Cameron controversially appointed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his director of communications in 2007. 

Coluson then took on the same role when the Coalition was formed in 2010. In 2014, Coulson was found guilty of plotting to hack phones when he was editor of the newspaper. 

Mr Cameron was forced to issue a public apology for appointing Coulson in the first place. He said after Coulson’s conviction: ‘I’m extremely sorry that I employed him, it was the wrong decision and I’m very clear about that.’

Mr Cameron controversially appointed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson (left) as his director of communications in 2007

Gordon Brown

Time in office: Two years, 318 days

Achievements

Led the global response to the 2008 financial crisis

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007 after waiting for the job for 10 years as Chancellor. He was almost immediately faced with the immense task of dealing with the 2008 financial crisis, when it seemed as if banks and economies around the world were on the brink of collapse.

Brown is credited with leading the global response to the crisis and a multi-billion pound bailout which stopped banks from closing their doors. 

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007 after waiting for the job for 10 years as Chancellor. He was almost immediately faced with the immense task of dealing with the 2008 financial crisis, when it seemed as if banks and economies around the world were on the brink of collapse

He quickly recognised the economy would need a huge temporary cash injection to stay afloat. 

A year later, most of the rest of the world’s developed economies had followed his lead. His decade as Chancellor and a near-obsessive attention to detail served him well in steadying a tanking economy.

Passed the 2008 Climate Change Act

Brown also passed the historic 2008 climate change act which created the foundation for the UK’s plan for reducing emissions and addressing climate change. 

Failures

Failed to call an election at height of popularity 

As Chancellor, Brown had been one of the most popular politicians in the country and succeeded Tony Blair in 2007 on a wave of popularity. 

The new Prime Minister was widely expected to call an election that year, with Labour 11 points ahead in the polls. 

Brown dithered, delayed then decided against an election despite expectations – causing him lasting damage.

Refusal to hold referendum on EU Lisbon treaty

Brown lost more credibility when he refused to hold a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty in 2007 and agreed to sign it. 

In the face of criticism, he missed the signing ceremony in Lisbon and arrived the day after – prompting criticism from both pro and anti-EU camps.

Defeat on allowing Gurkhas to settle in UK

He suffered a surprise defeat in the Commons in 2009 when a bill was passed to let all former Gurkhas settle in the UK. 

A rebellion of 27 Labour MPs in the vote undermined Brown’s authority. 

He suffered a surprise defeat in the Commons in 2009 when a bill was passed to let all former Gurkhas settle in the UK. A rebellion of 27 Labour MPs in the vote undermined Brown’s authority. Above: Actress Joanna Lumley with Gurkha veterans outside the House of Commons. Ms Lumley led the campaign for the Gurkhas’ right to remain

Heard describing pensioner Gillian Duffy as ‘bigoted woman’

Mr Brown’s most famous public episode came when he called a voter he had spoken to about immigration a ‘bigoted woman’ in his car while still wearing his microphone. 

The incident to many signified an out of touch Prime Minister during the 2010 election campaign. 

Mr Brown’s most famous public episode came when he called Gillian Duffy, a voter he had spoken to about immigration, a ‘bigoted woman’ in his car while still wearing his microphone

Loss in the 2010 General Election

Brown lost the 2010 election, coming behind David Cameron’s Conservatives by almost 50 seats. 

He remained in Downing Street for several days, suggesting that a minority coalition could be formed between Labour and the Lib Dems before finally resigning as Labour leader. 

Tony Blair

Time in office: 10 years, 56 days

Achievements

Won three General Elections 

Tony Blair remains the most electorally successful Labour leader in history – winning three elections in a row starting with a landslide in 1997. 

He won a 179-seat majority that year and enjoyed an astonishing 93% approval rating early in his term and shortly after the death of Princess Diana.

Introduced the minimum wage

Mr Blair’s government introduced the minimum wage to the UK for the first time in 1998 – set at at least £3.60 an hour for workers over the age of 21. It helped to increase the wages of the lowest-paid, who had previously seen the slowest increase in their income, and did not cost jobs despite some expectations.

Introduced Scottish and Welsh devolution 

The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were established by the Devolution Act in the same year. 

Hugely popular, the Scottish Parliament did not ‘kill Scottish nationalism stone dead’ as some had predicted. 

Ploughed money into education and health 

The Blair years also saw billions more invested into health and education as the economy boomed, improving public services and seeing more school leavers go to university.

Established peace in Northern Ireland with Good Friday Agreement

A landmark moment of Mr Blair’s administration was the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 to (largely) bring peace to Northern Ireland. 

Painstaking negotiations with unionists and Irish nationalists along with the US established the power-sharing framework in Northern Ireland and self-determination for its electorate. 

A landmark moment of Mr Blair’s administration was the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 to (largely) bring peace to Northern Ireland

Failures

Passed controversial Human Rights Act 

The introduction of the 1998 Human Rights Act has proved controversial in the years since, as many argue it leaves the government open to spurious legal challenges.

The Human Rights Act has faced opposition in recent months as legal challenges have been levelled against the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Critics argue the law restricts the elected government from carrying out its agenda, with policy questions settle by unelected judges. 

The government has suggested it could repeal the act in recent months and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. 

Attempted to restrict civil liberties after 2005 7/7 bombings

Equally controversial was his suggestion that civil liberties should be restricted after the 7/7 bombings in 2005. This included stop and search and 

Invasion of Iraq

Few failures hang over Prime Ministers as Iraq hangs over Tony Blair. 

His decision to invade the Middle East state alongside US President George W Bush – shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan – casts a shadow over his legacy. 

Mr Blair’s certainty that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the West proved unfounded – the Chilcot Inquiry found in 2017 that he was ‘not straight’ with the country in the run-up to the war. 

The aftermath of both Iraq and Afghanistan saw a years-long campaign against guerilla warfare and the region descending into chaos, costing hundreds of thousands of lives. 

Few failures hang over Prime Ministers as Iraq hangs over Tony Blair. His decision to invade the Middle East state alongside US President George W Bush – shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan – casts a shadow over his legacy 

John Major

Time in office: Six years, 155 days 

Achievements

Unexpectedly won the 1992 General Election 

John Major’s first real achievement as Prime Minister was to win an election that nobody – perhaps including himself – expected him to win. 

Defeating Neil Kinnock in the 1992 election after taking over from Margaret Thatcher in 1990, Major won the most votes ever by a Conservative leader, a record that still stands. 

However, he only achieved a slim majority, which left him vulnerable to rebellions from the backbenches for the rest of his term.

John Major’s first real achievement as Prime Minister was to win an election that nobody – perhaps including himself – expected him to win

Began the Northern Ireland peace process 

Major laid the groundwork for the peace process in Northern Ireland which paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement signed by Tony Blair. 

He normalised British-Irish relations through his strong relationship with Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and agreed the Downing Street Declaration in 1993 which formalised the ‘principle of consent’ – opening the door to peace talks in Northern Ireland. 

Failures 

Financial turmoil of ‘Black Wednesday’ 

Within months of his shock election win, Major’s administration was rocked by Black Wednesday – when the UK was kicked out of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) after interest rates hit 15% as the Prime Minister tried to defend the pound’s value. 

A huge amount of money was wasted trying to keep Britain in the ERM, though it did help to keep the country out of the volatile Eurozone. 

Tory rebellion over EU Maastricht Treaty

Major’s narrow majority in the Commons consistently frustrated him as – like all modern Conservative leaders – he battled with his party over Europe. 

The revolt over the Maastricht Treaty infuriated Major so much he was heard to refer to the rebels as ‘bastards’ and resigned the Conservative leadership to force a leadership challenge. 

Though he won the vote comfortably, his authority never recovered.

Beset by series of sleaze scandals 

Despite his ‘back to basics’ campaign for morality in politics, Major’s government was mired in allegations of sleaze and scandal for years, including affairs and paid lobbying by MPs. 

The combination of party infighting and constant scandals saw the Conservatives plummet in the polls.

Landslide defeat in 1997 General Election

This resulted in the 1997 General Election which saw the Conservatives wiped out in the face of Tony Blair’s New Labour – losing 178 seats and winning just 165. 

The morning after the election, Major immediately resigned as party leader and went to watch cricket at The Oval. 

This resulted in the 1997 General Election which saw the Conservatives wiped out in the face of Tony Blair’s New Labour – losing 178 seats and winning just 165

Margaret Thatcher

Time in office: 11 years, 208 days

Achievements

Rose to become first female Prime Minister 

Mrs Thatcher unexpectedly became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 after standing against Edward Heath. 

The feat made her first ever female leader of a major political party in Britain. 

Mrs Thatcher then swept to victory in the 1979 election, making her Britain’s first female Prime Minister.  

Mrs Thatcher unexpectedly became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 after standing against Edward Heath. The feat made her first ever female leader of a major political party in Britain. Mrs Thatcher then swept to victory in the 1979 election, making her Britain’s first female Prime Minister

Won the Falklands War 

When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, Mrs Thatcher was hugely unpopular and was in danger of being forced out by her own MPs. 

But her insistence on launching a campaign to re-take the Falklands galvanised her government and the country. 

Despite steep odds and warnings by military advisors that the campaign could prove disastrous, British forces overcame the Argentinians and declared victory in the Falklands War. 

The triumph made Mrs Thatcher hugely popular and destroyed any hopes that her critics had of removing her. 

Won three elections 

Mrs Thatcher went on to win a landslide victory in the 1982 General Election, trouncing a Labour party led by the hard-left Michael Foot. 

The PM then also won another resounding victory in the 1987 election, allowing her to continue her transformation of the country. 

Oversaw economic transformation of Britain

Mrs Thatcher inherited a disastrous economic situation in 1979, with inflation having peaked at 25 per cent in 1975.

As part of her plans to tackle the crisis, she imposed a tough regime of fierce spending cuts  and the privatisation of state-controlled businesses. 

Big British names that were privatised included British Telecom and airline British Airways. 

But her policies led to brutal divisions in the country, as they boosted the service sector and home ownership but led to the decline of manufacturing and industries such as coal mining and steel making.

Smashed the power of militant trade unions

Part of Mrs Thatcher’s programme involved tackling the power of over-mighty trade unions, who had crippled the country in the 1970s by going on strike. 

Her battle with the National Union of Miners, led by Arthur Scargill, led to the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. 

By building up huge coal stockpiles before implementing controversial pit closures, Mrs Thatcher defied Scargill’s attempts to bring the country to a standstill. 

Her ultimate victory of the NUM ended years of militant chaos, whilst further legislation curbed the power of the trade unions in general.  

Implemented Right to Buy policy

The Right to Buy scheme was  introduced after the passing of the 1980 Housing Act, allowed council house tenants to buy their own homes.

The policy led to more than 2.5million council houses being sold at discounted rates and – despite fierce opposition from some on the Left – allowed some of Britain’s poorest people to have a home of their own.

The policy’s success was typified by the words of mother-of-two Ann Young, who said when she became the owner of the millionth council home to be sold under the scheme in 1986, that Mrs Thatcher’s government had made her ‘dream’ a ‘reality’.

Along with victory in the Falklands War, the policy helped Mrs Thatcher to her landslide election win in 1982.  

The Right to Buy scheme was introduced after the passing of the 1980 Housing Act, allowed council house tenants to buy their own homes

Helped to end the Cold War

Mrs Thatcher is credited by many with helping to end the Cold War. 

She worked closely with US President Ronald Reagan and developed a strong relationship with the Soviet Union’s leader Mikhail Gorbachev, persuading him to open up his country to the West. 

Mrs Thatcher’s official foreign policy advisor, Percy Cradock, later said that the PM ‘acted as a conduit from Gorbachev to Reagan, selling him in Washington as a man to do business with, and operating as an agent of influence in both directions.’ 

The Cold War ultimately came to a peaceful conclusion with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union itself. 

Failures

Was forced out by her own MPs

Like Mr Johnson, Mrs Thatcher was forced by her own party to resign. 

She saw off a leadership challenge in 1989, when back bencher Sir Anthony Mayer challenged her for the keys to Number 10. 

However, with Mrs Thatcher’s authority damaged by the disastrous Poll Tax, Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe then made a dramatic resignation speech in the Commons that further damaged her credibility as leader. 

Just says later, her fierce critic and former Cabinet colleague Michael Heseltine challenged her for the leadership.

Although she won 55 per cent of the vote in the first round of the contest, Mrs Thatcher fell four votes short of the number needed to win outright. 

Although she initially said she would contest a second ballot, Mrs Thatcher was pressured by members of her own Cabinet to resign and eventually agreed to step down. She made a tearful final speech outside Downing Street.  

Like Mr Johnson, Mrs Thatcher was forced by her own party to resign. Above: Mrs Thatcher leaving Downing Street after being forced out as PM

Introduced the hugely unpopular ‘Poll Tax’ 

Mrs Thatcher introduced the Community Charge – which was dubbed the Poll tax by critics – despite intense opposition from within her own party and in the country. 

The tax, a single flat-rate charge on every adult, saw the rich and poor have to pay equal amounts and was fiercely resisted. 

The unpopularity culminated in riots around the country, most notably in Trafalgar Square at the end of March 1990. 

Mrs Thatcher introduced the Community Charge – which was dubbed the Poll tax by critics – despite intense opposition from within her own party and in the country. The tax, a single flat-rate charge on every adult, saw the rich and poor have to pay equal amounts and was fiercely resisted. The unpopularity culminated in riots around the country, most notably in Trafalgar Square at the end of March 1990

Oversaw record levels of unemployment  

Mrs Thatcher’s tough programme of spending cuts and the closure of steel mills and coal mines led to mass unemployment.

In 1982, it rose above 3million for the first time since the 1930s and went on to rise above 4million. 

This consequence of her policies is one of the reasons why Mrs Thatcher is now so unpopular with millions of working class Britons.  

Became a hate figure for critics of her policies 

Critics of Mrs Thatcher say that her policies she caused immense hardship for millions of people. 

She is blamed by some for destroying Britain’s manufacturing industries, whilst the high unemployment figures during the 1980s caused hardship for millions. 

When she died in 2013, fierce critics propelled the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead to number two in the charts. 

A statue of the PM in her home town of Grantham, Lincolnshire, was finally erected this year but was then immediately vandalised. 

Clement Atlee

Time in office: Six years, 92 days 

Achievements 

Introduced the NHS, making healthcare free

Clement Attlee’s post-war government is widely considered one of the most significant in British history. 

After defeating war leader Winston Churchill in the 1945 election, Attlee’s Labour Party established the modern welfare state. 

Attlee and Aneurin Bevan, his health secretary, established the NHS in 1948 – making healthcare free at the point of access for all in the UK since.

Clement Attlee’s post-war government is widely considered one of the most significant in British historyAfter defeating war leader Winston Churchill in the 1945 election, Attlee’s Labour Party established the modern welfare state

Introduced the Welfare State

Atlee expanded the welfare state through unemployment and sickness benefits, pensions, maternity grants and death grants.  

Oversaw mass nationalisation of industries 

He also oversaw the nationalisation of industries including coal, gas, electricity the railways, the airlines and the Bank of England. 

The legacy of Atlee’s government changed the course of British politics and his policies were accepted by a broad consensus from all parties until Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979. 

Atlee is less known as playing a key role in the creation of NATO at the start of the Cold War and building a nuclear arsenal for Britain.  

Failures

Lost the 1951 General Election 

Despite its success, Atlee’s administration lost popularity amid ongoing rationing and austerity. In 1950, Labour narrowly won an election with a majority of just five. 

The government lost further support by its commitment to the Korean War and rearmament shortly after. Prescription charges were also introduced, which led to the resignations of Bevan and future Prime Minister Harold Wilson from the cabinet.

In 1951, Labour lost another election to the Conservatives and Winston Churchill returned as Prime Minister. Atlee remained leader until 1955, when a second election defeat forced him to resign, after which he retired to the House of Lords. 

Winston Churchill  

Time in office: Eight years, 239 days 

Achievements

Led Britain to victory in the Second World War

Despite having been in the political wilderness for much of the 1930s, Sir Winston rose to become Prime Minister against all the odds in May 1940. 

He then led Britain through the rest of the Second World War, helping to keep morale high despite the disastrous defeat at Dunkirk and other setbacks. 

Amidst the threat of the invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany, Churchill rousingly told Britons that ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’ and ‘never surrender’. 

The words were part of a series of speeches that he made throughout the war to keep morale high. 

Despite having been in the political wilderness for much of the 1930s, Sir Winston rose to become Prime Minister against all the odds in May 1940. Above: Churchill making the V for Victory sign outside Downing Street

Alerted the West to the threat of the Soviet Union 

Despite having allied with the Soviet Union in the latter part of the Second World War, Churchill was quick to spot the threat that dictator Joseph Stalin posed to the West. 

Oversaw the Queen’s Coronation 

Churchill was very close to the Queen and was her first Prime Minister. He had known her since she was a child and gave her wise advice after she assumed the Crown following the death of her father. 

Churchill, who by then was in his second term as Prime Minister, also presided over Her Majesty’s Coronation in 1953, an event that led to the explosion in television ownership. 

Churchill was very close to the Queen and was her first Prime Minister. He had known her since she was a child and gave her wise advice after she assumed the Crown following the death of her father

Won a second term as PM in 1951 

Despite having lost the 1945 election, Sir Winston won a second term as PM at the 1951 election. He went on to serve another four years in Downing Street before he suffered a stroke and resigned in 1955.  

Failures

Lost the 1945 election despite WWII victory

Despite having led Britain to victory in the Second World War, Sir Winston unexpectedly lost the 1945 election to Labour’s Clement Attlee. 

Some historians believe that the moment during the election campaign where Sir Winston likened Labour to Hitler’s Gestapo contributed to his defeat. 

Whilst voters cherished him as a war leader, he failed to inspire with his party’s unexciting manifesto that failed to match Labour’s promises.

Despite having led Britain to victory in the Second World War, Sir Winston unexpectedly lost the 1945 election to Labour’s Clement Attlee

Neville Chamberlain

Time in office: Two years, 348 days 

Achievements

Improved working conditions

Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Chamberlain secured the passing of the 1937 Factories Act, which was aimed at improving working conditions in factories and placing limits on the working hours of women and children. 

In 1938, Chamberlain passed the Holidays with Pay Act, which recommended employers give workers a week off with pay. It also led to the expansion of holiday camps and leisure accommodation for the working classes. 

Delayed the outbreak of the Second World War 

Although he has been condemned by many for the ultimate failure of the Munich Agreement to prevent war, Chamberlain’s efforts at maintaining peace did delay the outbreak of the Second World War. 

Some historians argue that this crucial prolonging of peace gave Britain more time to re-arm before war did eventually come. 

Failures

The Munich Agreement and appeasement

Despite the fact that it did delay the war, the Munich Agreement ultimately failed in its main objective: of preventing war in Europe. 

The agreement – the central plank in Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement – ceded the Sudetenland region of what was then Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler. 

Chamberlain in 1938, holding the Munich Agreement which had been signed with Adolf Hitler in the hope of avoiding war

It was hoped the concession would be enough to avoid Europe-wide armed conflict after months of tensions caused by Germany’s territorial ambitions. 

The Nazi leader had already absorbed Austria into Germany in March 1938 and had been pushing to do the same with his planned invasion of the Sudetenland before he signed the agreement. 

Whilst Chamberlain had told the British public that he believed it was ‘peace for our time’, Churchill had warned him that he had had a choice between ‘war and dishonour’ and, because he had chosen the latter, ‘you will have war’.


Hitler had agreed in the September 1938 Munich Agreement to limit his European territorial ambitions to the Sudetenland region of what was then Czechoslovakia. Pictured: Chamberlain and Hitler shaking hands in Munich (left); the PM returning to the UK after the deal was struck

The following year, Churchill was proven correct when Hitler rode roughshod over the deal signed in Munich by annexing all of Czechoslovakia in March and invading Poland in September

It was that last act of aggression which was the final straw even for the peace-loving Chamberlain – Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

Chamberlain’s downfall as PM then came in May the following year, after the failure of the Allied campaign to defend Norway against Hitler’s forces.

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