Mark's Musings

A miscellany of opinions, thoughts, rants and comments

Greatest Prime Minister?


Listed in: Current Events, Politics and News

A YouGov survey commissioned by The Sun puts Margaret Thatcher, unsurprisingly, at the top of the list in response to the question “Who do you think has been the greatest British Prime Minister since 1945?”. The full order, according to respondants, is:

  1. Margaret Thatcher 28%
  2. Winston Churchill 24%
  3. Tony Blair 10%
  4. Harold Wilson 6%
  5. Clement Attlee 5%
  6. Gordon Brown 2%
  7. Anthony Eden 1%
  8. Harold MacMillan 1%
  9. Alec Douglas-Home 1%
  10. Jim Callaghan 1%
  11. John Major 1%
  12. Edward Heath 0%
  13. David Cameron 0%

Some commentators have picked up on David Cameron’s position at the bottom; I think that’s rather unfair as you can really only judge a PM by his or her legacy and, clearly, Cameron hasn’t been in office long enough to be able to determine that. Edward Heath’s big fat zero is possibly unfair too, but I suspect he only got that because the survey didn’t allow for negative figures.

It does seem to me, though, that people are voting mainly on a combination of their personal memories and popular mythology. I think Winston Churchill is considerably overrated in this poll: as a wartime leader he was excellent but his post-war government was mediocre at best. And I’m surprised by the lack of votes for Clement Attlee; you would have thought that the PM who gave us the modern welfare state (and massive nationalisation) would be held in higher regard, particularly by those on the left of politics.

If I was placing them in order, I’d have Thatcher at the top (of course), followed by Tony Blair and then Attlee in third place. The rest, I think, are much of a muchness – only the three I’ve chosen managed to rise above mediocrity and approach greatness. Harold Wilson was a good administrator, but too much in thrall to the unions. Jim Callaghan’s government was ineffective primarily because he inherited the long-term consequences of Wilson’s pandering to the unions, though. Callaghan himself was not as inept as he is sometimes painted (although he was, arguably, one of the best political examples of the Peter Principle), but he was simply powerless to make any real difference. John Major and Gordon Brown had the misfortune to be following on from a great leader (and suffering the fallout from their ejection from power). Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home were politicrats who rose to their position almost by default. And I think we’re still waiting for the next great British politician (and no, it won’t be Boris).

  • Jeff…

    Never say never!!!!

  • LOL

    Margaret Thatcher?! That is the funniest thing i have ever heard. Couldn’t care less that she has just died, IMHO she deserved to die long ago.
    A God awful prime minister!! How she got voted a head of someone who go our country through WWII, I will never know. Thanks for a good laugh..

  • AlPhur

    Crazy list. Should we believe these polls?

    Living memory, I notice.

    I would hang Blair down a lot lower, along with Brown, considering the mess they left us with.

    Did you know that every Labour government, ever, 1924 on, left our economy and currency in a worse state than when they came to office?

    And that, counter to mythology, not one Labour government until Blair’s increased NHS funding (corrected for inflation) as much as any Conservative govt? Then Blair threw money in but wasted it. Tax-and-waste policies.

    It’s interesting what you find if you do the historical research.

    • nickw

      The problem with these polls is that it is difficult to be objective unless you are politically neutral. For example, I would find it hard to rate Margaret Thatcher higher than Brown or even Major – but that is my own political prejudices coming out. Way before my time but it would have to be Attlee for me… and Brown the least bad since 1979. But this is just political prejudices again.

      • AlPhur

        Well, I’d generally favour Conservatives but I would still place Heath as the pits. And at least Wilson had some redeeming features.

        The sheer nastiness of some people about Thatcher reminds me that the there are probably more lower classes (and under) than working classes in that group.

        As for Labour being the party of working classes, I don’t think they’ve ever done the working classes a favour – and the parties are arguably as bad as each other at supporting corrupt money.

        I think nowadays I’d be somewhere on the ???????????? wing of the Tory party.

  • AlPhur

    @ Mark Goodge

    However, I came here to mis-use this facility because I can’t find a regular email webmaster contact anywhere. Some oversight, I’m sure. And I’m averse to social media. Especially G+. And FB. And Twittery.

    So, Mark, there’s a vain hope you might read this & respond.

    Anyway I’ve just used your telepest.couk (thanks), wrote a comment, signed into Disqus and whoa, it eradicated my pearls of wisdom. Hugely irrity.

    I know web designers are malevolent, but is it meant to do that?

    And then my keyboard back/forth arrows don’t work in the boxes. Why?

    Then no webmaster address.


    Fixit, eh?

  • Daniel