Leader of the Labour Party (UK)
|Leader of the Labour Party|
|Member of||National Executive Committee|
|Precursor||Chair of the PLP|
|Inaugural holder||Keir Hardie|
|Formation||17 January 1906|
Harriet Harman was the deputy leader of the Labour Party and acting leader since the resignation of Ed Miliband on 8 May 2015 following Labour's defeat at the 2015 general election. On 12 September 2015, she was replaced by Jeremy Corbyn, who won the 2015 Labour leadership election. On the same day, Tom Watson was elected as the deputy leader of the Labour Party, a role he held until the 2019 general election. Corbyn's leadership was challenged in mid-2016, but he was re-elected in that year's leadership election with a larger majority. After a historic election defeat in 2019, Corbyn called for the search of his replacement in the following year. In the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, Keir Starmer was elected as Leader.
The post of Leader of the Labour Party was officially created in 1922. Before this, between when Labour MPs were first elected in 1906 and the general election in 1922, when substantial gains were made, the post was known as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. In 1970, the positions of leader of the Labour Party and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party were separated.
In 1921, J. R. Clynes became the first leader of the Labour Party to have been born in England; prior to this, all party leaders had been born in Scotland. In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour prime minister, leading a minority government which lasted nine months. Clement Attlee would become the first Labour leader to lead a majority government in 1945. The first to be born in Wales was Neil Kinnock, who was elected in 1983. The most electorally successful leaders of the Labour Party to date are: Tony Blair, who won three consecutive electoral victories in 1997, 2001 (both landslide victories), and 2005, and Harold Wilson, who won four general elections out of five contested, in 1964, 1966, February 1974 and October 1974.
Unlike other British political party leaders, the Labour leader does not have the power to dismiss or appoint their deputy. Both the leader and deputy leader are elected by an alternative vote system. From 1980 to 2014 an electoral college was used, with a third of the votes allocated to the Party's MPs and MEPs, a third to individual members of the Labour Party, and a third to individual members of all affiliated organisations, including socialist societies and trade unions. The 2015 leadership election used a "one member, one vote" system, in which the votes of party members and members of affiliated organisations are counted equally. MPs and MEPs votes are not counted separately, although a candidate needs to receive the support of 10% of Labour MPs in order to appear on the ballot.
When the Labour Party is in opposition, as it currently is, the leader of the Labour Party usually acts as the Leader of the Opposition, and chairs the shadow cabinet. Concordantly, when the Party is in government, the leader would usually become the prime minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service, as well as appointing the cabinet.
Leaders of the Labour Party (1906–present)
- Note: the right-hand column does not allocate height proportional to time in office.
|Portrait||Constituency||Took office||Left office||Prime Minister (term)|
|Merthyr Tydfil||17 February 1906||22 January 1908||Campbell-Bannerman 1905–1908|
|Barnard Castle||22 January 1908||14 February 1910|
|Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown||14 February 1910||6 February 1911|
|Leicester||6 February 1911||5 August 1914|
|Barnard Castle||5 August 1914||24 October 1917|
|Lloyd George 1916–1922|
|West Fife||24 October 1917||14 February 1921|
|6||J. R. Clynes
|Manchester Platting||14 February 1921||21 November 1922|
|Aberavon||21 November 1922
|28 August 1931|
|28 August 1931
|25 October 1932||MacDonald 1931–1935|
|Bow and Bromley||25 October 1932
|8 October 1935|
|8 October 1935
|7 December 1955|
|Lewisham South||7 December 1955||14 December 1955|
|Leeds South||14 December 1955
|18 January 1963
(died in office)
|Belper||18 January 1963||14 February 1963|
|Huyton||14 February 1963
|5 April 1976|
|Cardiff South East||5 April 1976
|10 November 1980||himself 1976–1979|
|Ebbw Vale||10 November 1980
|2 October 1983|
|Islwyn||2 October 1983
|18 July 1992|
|Monklands East||18 July 1992
|12 May 1994
(died in office)
|Derby South||12 May 1994||21 July 1994|
|Sedgefield||21 July 1994
|24 June 2007|
|Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath||24 June 2007
|11 May 2010||himself 2007–2010|
(acting: 1st time)
|Camberwell and Peckham||11 May 2010||25 September 2010||Cameron 2010–2016|
|Doncaster North||25 September 2010
|8 May 2015|
(acting: 2nd time)
|Camberwell and Peckham||8 May 2015||12 September 2015|
|Islington North||12 September 2015
|4 April 2020|
|Holborn and St Pancras||4 April 2020
It is not uncommon for a retired leader of the Labour Party to be granted a peerage upon their retirement, particularly if they served as prime minister; examples of this include Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson. However, Neil Kinnock was also elevated to the House of Lords, despite never being prime minister, and Michael Foot declined a similar offer.
Living former party leaders
There are seven living former party leaders: five elected and two acting. From oldest to youngest:
|Leader||Term of office||Date of birth|
|Neil Kinnock||1983–1992||28 March 1942|
|Jeremy Corbyn||2015–2020||26 May 1949|
|Gordon Brown||2007–2010||20 February 1951|
|Tony Blair||1994–2007||6 May 1953|
|Ed Miliband||2010–2015||24 December 1969|
|Acting leader||Term of office||Date of birth|
|Margaret Beckett||1994||15 January 1943|
|Harriet Harman||2010 & 2015||30 July 1950|
- History of the Labour Party (UK)
- Leader of the Conservative Party (UK)
- Leader of the Liberal Democrats
- Henderson was defeated in his Burnley seat in the 1931 election, and did not return to Parliament during his third term as leader. George Lansbury acted as the Labour parliamentary leader, until formally succeeding Henderson as party leader.
- As they were not elected or appointed in an official capacity, they are not included in the order count.
- Deputy Leaders who assumed the role of party leader temporarily because of the death or resignation of the incumbent, serving until the election of a new leader. Herbert Morrison acted as leader for the 7 days between Clement Attlee's resignation and Hugh Gaitskell's election as leader. George Brown and Margaret Beckett acted as leader following deaths of Gaitskell and John Smith, respectively. Harriet Harman acted as leader twice when Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband resigned.
- Thorpe, Andrew. (2001) A History Of The British Labour Party, Palgrave, ISBN 0-333-92908-X
- "Labour proposals 'all-but guarantee leftwing Corbyn successor'". www.msn.com. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
- "Leaders of the Labour Party". election.demon.co.uk. United Kingdom Election Results. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds (2010), Attlee: A Life in Politics, London: I B Tauris, p. 260
- Clarke, Charles; James, Toby S. (2015). British Labour Leaders. London: Biteback.