9 longest-serving UK prime ministers

Theresa May has survived her first year in power, but it’s hard to imagine her serving for a long time. Who are the country’s longest-serving leaders?

Tony Blair (10 years, 56 days)
Tony Blair was the ninth longest-serving prime minister, having led the country for over ten years. He was recently in the news saying that Jeremy Corbyn could end up as the country's next prime minister, according to the BBC. His time in power is remembered for his ability to win elections – three strong Labour majorities in a row, his controversial war in Iraq and his repositioning of Labour in the centre-ground.

Henry Pelham (10 years, 191 days)
This Whig prime minister is sandwiched between two modern long-term leaders on this list. According to the UK government history blog, Pelham was mentored by Sir Robert Walpole, who also makes it on to this list. Pelham was reportedly known for his “integrity”, as well as the the Consolidation Act (1749) and the Marriage Act (1753).

Margaret Thatcher (11 years, 209 days)
Beating Tony Blair by over a year, the UK’s first female prime minister led the country for almost 12 years, and would have probably served for longer if the position had not been taken over by John Major in 1990. Highlights of Thatcher’s premiership include privatisation, the controversial poll tax and victory in the Falklands.

Lord Frederick North (12 years, 58 days)
This eighteenth century Tory was known for the Tea Act of 1773, “which sparked the Boston Tea party and led to the American Revolution in 1776”, according to the UK government records.

William Gladstone (12 years, 126 days)
William Gladstone is one of the more recognisable historical figures on this list, and is known as a liberal giant and a great reformer. Gladstone served in the top job for over 12 years in the second half of the 19th century although his premiership is split into four parts, beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894. Initially a Tory, he went on to be a Liberal prime minister, and is especially known for the historically significant Representation of the People Act (1884), which extended the franchise, and his attempts to give Ireland Home Rule.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury (13 years, 252 days)

This Conservative prime minister led the country around the same time as Gladstone, mainly in some of the intermittent and surrounding years. Government records indicate that he was the final prime minister to come from the House of Lords, bar one minor exception.

Robert Jenkinson, Earl of Liverpool (14 years, 305 days)

This Tory PM led the country for over 14 consecutive years from 1812 to 1827. The main thing associated with him is the Corn Laws, which were a form of protectionism limiting foreign corn from being sold into the UK. 

William Pitt, the Younger (18 years, 343 days)

This leader served more than seven years longer than Margaret Thatcher, which is roughly how long the former would have serve had she stayed on as prime minister and won the 1992 election like John Major. Pitt became prime minister at the age of 24, and led the country when the Act of Union (1800) united the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, as reported by government records.

Sir Robert Walpole (20 years, 314 days)

The longest-serving UK prime minister was Sir Robert Walpole whose time in office was double the time Tony Blair spent in power, over three times longer than David Cameron’s time at the top, and twenty times longer than Theresa May’s time so far. The role of prime minster is one that evolved rather than one that was officially established, and Walpole is credited for being the first prime minister.

All lengths of service are from here.

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