5 home secretaries who became PM – can Amber Rudd reach the top?

A Tory election contest feels inevitable within the next few years, but is history on Amber Rudd’s side?

There are plenty of Tory big beasts seen as future party leaders including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Philip Hammond. One possible contender is the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who is currently the fifth favourite Tory to replace Theresa May as party leader, according to Oddschecker.

A Rudd premiership looks possible, but there are arguably two factors that will not help her case. Firstly, she has a tiny majority, with Hastings and Rye being one of the seats Labour is targeting to win the next election. Secondly, she was initially a remainer and is possibly to close to Theresa May – something that could go against her should the parliamentary party and members want a break from May’s struggling premiership.

But is history on her side when it comes to home secretaries making the jump from the Home Office to Number 10?

1. Theresa May

The most recent and most obvious example of a home secretary becoming prime minister is Theresa May, who ascended to the position without a membership ballot after the UK’s decision to leave the EU last June. She served at the Home Office for over six years, one of the longest terms in recent times.

2. James Callaghan

The last time a home secretary later went on to become PM before Theresa May was back in the 1960s and 1970s. During Harold Wilson’s first spell in power, Callaghan served as the country’s home secretary. He left the position after Edward Heath’s Conservatives won a slim majority in 1970. Four years later, Wilson returned to government, and Callaghan became foreign secretary and later prime minister after Wilson’s surprise decision to step down.

3. Winston Churchill

Before becoming a well-known war-time Conservative prime minister, Churchill was a Liberal MP for the Scottish city of Dundee. Between 1910 and 1911, he served as the Home Secretary under Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government.

4. Herbert Henry Asquith

Before becoming a Liberal prime minister in 1908, Asquith served in a variety of top government positions including the home secretary role. Under the premiership of William Gladstone, this liberal giant served as home secretary between 1892 and 1895.

5. Henry John Temple

Commonly known as the Viscount Palmerston, Temple served as a Whig home secretary between 1852 and 1855 before going on to become leader of the opposition and a Whig PM between 1855 and 1858. A year later, he became prime minister for a second time, this time as a Liberal leader  following the dissolution of the Whigs. He served his second term between 1859 and 1865.

Can Amber Rudd become PM?

There are a few more home secretaries who went on to become prime minister, but the fact they are from the 19th century and before shows just how far we have to dig to find home secretaries who went on to become prime minister. Statistically, it looks unlikely that Amber Rudd would go on to become prime minister, but in this period of fast-moving politics and ever-changing winds, nothing should ever be ruled out.