7 shortest-serving UK prime ministers since 1945 – what about May?

There is no limit on how long UK prime ministers can serve in the top job – the longest-serving PM lasted over twenty years. Here are the shortest serving prime ministers since the end of WW2.

7th – Clement Attlee

Labour’s second ever prime minister was Clement Attlee, the great social reformer, whose government built the NHS and invested heavily in Britain following the devastating effects of the Second World War. There is no denying that Attlee was one of Britain’s most transformative PMs. He won two elections – one in 1945 and one in 1950 – however, the latter only produced a small Labour majority so he went back to the polls a year later, but was defeated by Winston Churchill’s return to power. He was prime minister for 6 years and 92 days.

6th – David Cameron

Cameron’s Conservatives won the most seats in the 2010 election, but had to go into coalition with the Liberal Democrats to form a majority government. Then, five years later, Cameron won an outright Conservative majority, but his second term was cut short when Britain voted to leave the EU. His time in Number 10 lasted 6 years and 63 days.

5th – Edward Heath

The Conservatives’ Heath contested four general elections against Harold Wilson, but he only became PM following one of them – in 1970. At the election, Heath won a slim majority, which last until the February election of 1974, which resulted in a hung parliament. Heath’s time at the top lasted only 3 years and 259 days.

4th – James Callaghan

Following Wilson’s surprise announcement to step down as PM in 1966, a competitive leadership contest emerged. Callaghan won the vote and became Labour’s fourth prime minister; however, his time was cut short by Margaret Thatcher’s ascent to power in the 1979 election. He lasted just 3 years and 29 days in power.

3rd – Gordon Brown

Labour’s most recent prime minister to date took over from Tony Blair unopposed in 2007. He led the country during the financial crisis, but ultimately lost the 2010 election to David Cameron’s Conservatives. He lasted just 2 years and 319 days in power.

2nd – Anthony Eden

Sir Anthony EdenOften seen as one of Britain’s worst performing prime ministers it is not surprising that Eden did not last long. Taking over from an ill Winston Churchill, Eden’s time at the top started off well – he increased the Conservative party’s majority at the 1955 election, but his failed attempt to invade Suez damaged his credibility, forcing him to resign just 1 year and 279 days into the job.

1st – Alec Douglas-Home

Serving from 1963 – 1964, Douglas-Home lasted less than one year in office – 362 days to be precise. He was picked from the Tories “magic circle” to succeed Harold MacMillan, but lost the 1964 general election to Harold Wilson’s Labour. He would later serve as foreign secretary.

Theresa May – where does she fit in?

The current prime minister is currently sandwiched in between Douglas-Home and Eden. She may have a short term in power, but at least she is not at the very bottom of the list.

The lengths of service for this list are based off figures from the Wikipedia page on PMs by tenure.

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