A few years ago, the top jobs in politics were dominated by youthful figures from Tony Blair to David Cameron, and the young William Hague. Now it’s a different story. Jeremy Corbyn celebrated his 68th birthday in May, and Theresa May turns 61 this October. Throw in the new Lib Dem leader and the combined age of the main three party leaders is two centuries plus two years.
British voters might well be divided by age when it comes to voting intentions and positions on the EU, but the top jobs in politics are not.
Here is a list of the seven oldest prime ministers based on when they left the office for the final time.
1 William Gladstone (84)
This Liberal giant served as prime minister on four separate occasions spanning a period of over twenty years. When he stepped down for the final time he was an impressive 84 years-old – ten years older than Sir Vince Cable’s current age. He then went on to live until he was 88.
2 Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple) (80)
While Gladstone became prime minister when he was much older than Lord Palmerston, it is the latter who holds the record for being the oldest person to take the premiership on their first occasion. Unlike Gladstone, he died in the top job at the impressive age of seventy.
3 Winston Churchill (80)
Winston Churchill was prime minister for two non-consecutive terms, the first of which was during World War Two, and the second of which was after Atlee’s Labour government. His second term last from 1951 and 1955 until he was succeeded by Anthony Eden. When Churchill resigned as prime minister following ill health he was 80 years old.
4 Benjamin Disraeli (75)
Disraeli was another prime minister who left the top job at a ripe old age. This nineteenth century prime minister is perhaps best known for the quote most often attributed to him, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.”
He served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister. The second time he got the job he was seventy years old and left the post when he was 75.
5 Lord John Russell (73)
Starting of as a Whig, Russell was a key player in creating the Great Reform Act of 1832. He took over as prime minister from Robert Peele and was a political rival of another old prime minister on this list, the Viscount Palmerston, but left the post aged 73.
6 Marquess of Salisbury (Robert Gascoyne-Cecil) (72)
This former Conservative prime minister served in the top job on three separate occasions, his final term ending just after the turn of the 20th century in 1902. He ended his final term aged 72, but he started his political career at the age of 23 when he became the MP for Stamford.
7 Henry Campbell Bannerman (71)
One of four former UK prime ministers who ended their time in office aged 71, Campbell-Bannerman made his debut as prime minister in 1905 only to leave the post less than three years later in 1908. This Liberal served in Gladstone’s governments and eventually took over the top job himself and won the 1906 election. He quit two years later because of illness and died soon after.
British Business Secretary Vince Cable
Prime Minister Vince Cable?
Sir Vince Cable is a long way from becoming prime minister, but if critics argue he is too old for the job of party leader he can point to this list with confidence for it shows that for many political leaders, age is just a number.
A detailed list of exact ages and lengths of service can be found here. All ages are based off this. Information of past prime ministers is based off the government's past PMs blog series which can be accessed here.
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