FT Poll of Prime Ministers

The Financial Times has today published a poll which ranks recently deposed Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the third worst Prime Minister of the post war period. Perhaps unsuprisingly Margaret Thatcher and her “heir” Tony Blair feature highly in the list with Thatcher ranked as the UK’s greatest living Prime Minister with Clement Atlee just pipping her to the overall top rank as the UK’s Best Post War Prime Minister. However one must remember this poll was conducted by largely left wing academics and as such it is perhaps unsuprising that the “father of the NHS” is afforded the top spot while the more controversial Iron Lady is ranked a close number 2. Whilst I broadly agree with many of the rankings in this poll I believe that some Prime Ministers have been treated pretty harshly whilst others have been over-ranked. My ranking of the UK’s best and worst Post War PM’s would be;

1) Margaret Thatcher
2) Clement Atlee
3) Tony Blair
4) Winston Churchill
5) Harold Macmillan
6) Harold Wilson
7) John Major
8) Gordon Brown
9) Edward Heath
10) James Callaghan
11) Sir Alec Douglas-Hume
12) Sir Anthony Eden 

Who would you rank as the Best and Worst Post War Prime Ministers?


15 thoughts on “FT Poll of Prime Ministers

  1. I suspect that in time Blair will slide down the table, Heath will rise, and Thatcher will probably overtake Atlee.

  2. Rather than ranking I’m gonna use a system developed by academics in the US:

    Great: Atlee, Thatcher, Blair

    Near Great: Macmillan, Wilson

    High Average: Brown, Major

    Low Average: Heath, Douglas Home, Churchill

    Failure: Eden, Callaghan

  3. Over time, they’ll all shift places but then may return after a while. When Thatcher dies, she’ll rise a bit. But when Blair dies we may see a similar move. We would be naive to think that our judgement isn’t heavily influenced by what we experience at the moment.

  4. I’d alter that slightly:

    Great: Atlee, Thatcher

    Near Great: Macmillan, Wilson, Blair

    High Average: Heath, Major

    Low Average: Doulgas Home, Churchill, Brown

    Failure: Eden, Callaghan

  5. Atlee and Thatcher are the only post-war PMs who are great. Blair isn’t in their league, notwithstanding his relatively long tenure and some notable accomplishments.

    Heath should be credited more for taking Britain into Europe.

    Brown is rightly placed alongside Churchill and Douglas-Home. The only thing keeping him from ‘Failure’ is his fairly competent handling on the credit crunch (though even this is open to question).

  6. I think it’s interesting how many similarities we see in these lists despite huge political differences. Recent PMs are sometimes the hardest to evaluate. I would certainly place Blair behind Thatcher and Atlee; although I think that history will give him high marks for his social reforms.

    PMs like Heath and Brown present a sort of ‘Nixon’ problem. There are huge contrasts between their successes and their failures in different areas.

  7. To put a Northern non-Tory perspective on it.

    Great: Atlee, Churchill
    Near Great: Macmillan, Wilson, Blair
    High Average: Heath, Major
    Low Average: Major, Thatcher, Brown
    Failure: Eden, Callaghan

  8. No PM ever achieves his or her vision. If they did, it wouldn’t really be a vision but a rather dull kind of hope for improvement.

  9. Thatcher achieved her vision.

    In other countries, Mart Laar, Mikulas Dzurinda, Vaclav Klaus, Lezsek Balcerowicz (sp.?) all substantially achieved their political visions in Estonia, Slovakia, Czech and Poland respectively.

  10. Thatcher raised the tax burden, increased the proportion of GDP spent on benefits and social security, failed to close the productivity gap and took us into the ERM which the most avid supporters describe as incompatible with her vision.

    To take Maart Laar as one example, I don’t think that arms deals with Israel were essential parts of his ‘vision’.

    Any politician who thinks he’s achieved his vision has missed the point of having a vision. I think that the presence of the word ‘substantially’ in your remarks concedes this point.

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