UK set for fifth prime minister in just over six years

The urnover of prime ministers has sped up in recent decades.

20 October 2022

The UK is set for its fifth prime minister in just over six years – the fastest turnover in new occupants of 10 Downing Street for nearly a century.

Since the summer of 2016, the country has seen the last weeks of David Cameron’s premiership, the start and end of first Theresa May then Boris Johnson’s time as PM, and now the entirety of Liz Truss’ brief stint in the top job, with another prime minister due in place by the end of this month.

There was a similarly rapid turnover in the 1970s, but of the four prime ministers in office at some point during the period 1974 to 1979 – Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher – Wilson had already served as PM for much of the 1960s.

(PA graphic)

To find a comparable turnover of new prime ministers, it is necessary to go back almost 100 years.

The period from summer 1922 to the end of 1924 saw four different people hold the position of premier, all doing the job for the first time.

It began with David Lloyd George (Liberal), who was coming to the end of a long spell as prime minister; followed by Andrew Bonar Law (Conservative) who resigned after only a few months due to illness; then Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) who lasted only a few months before failing to win a majority at a general election; and finally Ramsay MacDonald (Labour) who led a short-lived minority government.

Turnover of prime ministers in the UK has sped up in recent decades.

In just over 15 years since the summer of 2007, Downing Street will have welcomed six different PMs: Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and her successor.

But in the 28 years between 1979 and 2007, only three people held the top job: Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair.

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