Leader of the Labour Party
Official portrait of Keir Starmer (cropped).jpg
Sir Keir Starmer
since 4 April 2020
StatusParty leader
Member ofNational Executive Committee
PrecursorChair of the PLP
Inaugural holderKeir Hardie
Formation17 January 1906

The leader of the Labour Party is the highest position within the United Kingdom's Labour Party. The current holder of the position is Keir Starmer, who was elected to the position on 4 April 2020, following his victory in the party's leadership election.

The post of Leader of the Labour Party was officially created in 1922. Before this, between when Labour MPs were first elected in 1906 and the general election in 1922, when substantial gains were made, the post was known as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.[1] In 1970, the positions of leader of the Labour Party and chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party were separated.

In 1921, John R. Clynes became the first leader of the Labour Party to have been born in England; all party leaders before him had been born in Scotland. In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour prime minister, leading a minority government which lasted nine months. Clement Attlee would become the first Labour leader to lead a majority government in 1945. The first to be born in Wales was Neil Kinnock, who was elected in 1983. The most electorally successful leaders of the Labour Party to date are Tony Blair, who won three consecutive electoral victories in 1997, 2001 (both landslide victories), and 2005, and Harold Wilson, who won four general elections out of five contested, in 1964, 1966, February 1974 and October 1974. As of 2021, the only Labour leaders not to contest a general election (excluding temporary acting leaders) are George Lansbury (who stood down), John Smith (who died in office), and Keir Starmer.[a]

When the Labour Party is in opposition, as it currently is, the leader of the Labour Party usually acts (as the second largest party) as the leader of the Opposition, and chairs the shadow cabinet. Concordantly, when the Party is in government, the leader would usually become the prime minister of the United Kingdom, first lord of the Treasury and minister for the civil service, as well as appointing the cabinet.

Selection process

Unlike other British political party leaders, the Labour leader does not have the power to dismiss or appoint their deputy. Both the leader and deputy leader are elected by an alternative vote system.

From 1980 to 2014 an electoral college was used, with a third of the votes allocated to the Party's MPs and MEPs, a third to individual members of the Labour Party, and a third to individual members of all affiliated organisations, including socialist societies and trade unions.

The 2015 leadership election used a "one member, one vote" system, in which the votes of party members and members of affiliated organisations are counted equally. MPs' and MEPs' votes are not counted separately, although a candidate needs to receive the support of 10% of Labour MPs in order to appear on the ballot.[2]

Leaders of the Labour Party (1906–present)

Note: the right-hand column does not allocate height proportional to time in office.

A list of leaders (including acting leaders) since 1906.[3]

No. Leader
Constituency Took office Left office Prime Minister (term)
1 Keir Hardie
Merthyr Tydfil 17 February 1906 22 January 1908 Campbell-Bannerman 1905–1908
2 Arthur Henderson
(1st time)
Barnard Castle 22 January 1908 14 February 1910
Asquith 1908–1916
3 George Barnes
George Nicoll Barnes in 1916.jpg
Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown 14 February 1910 6 February 1911
4 Ramsay MacDonald
(1st time)
Ramsay MacDonald ggbain.29588.jpg
Leicester 6 February 1911 5 August 1914
(2) Arthur Henderson
(2nd time)
Barnard Castle 5 August 1914 24 October 1917
Lloyd George 1916–1922
5 William Adamson
Cropped photograph of William Adamson.jpg
West Fife 24 October 1917 14 February 1921
6 J. R. Clynes
J.R. Clynes LCCN2014717260 (cropped).jpg
Manchester Platting 14 February 1921 21 November 1922
Law 1922–1923
(4) Ramsay MacDonald
(2nd time)
J. Ramsay MacDonald LCCN2014715885 (cropped).jpg
Aberavon 21 November 1922
28 August 1931
Baldwin 1923–1924
Himself 1924
Baldwin 1924–1929
Himself 1929–1931
(2) Arthur Henderson
(3rd time)
28 August 1931
25 October 1932 MacDonald 1931–1935
7 George Lansbury
George Lansbury MP.jpg
Bow and Bromley 25 October 1932
8 October 1935
Baldwin 1935–1937
8 Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee.jpg
Walthamstow West
8 October 1935
7 December 1955[4]
Chamberlain 1937–1940
Churchill 1940–1945
Himself 1945–1951
Churchill 1951–1955
Eden 1955–1957
Herbert Morrison[c]
Lewisham South 7 December 1955 14 December 1955
9 Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell.jpg
Leeds South 14 December 1955
18 January 1963
(died in office)
Macmillan 1957–1963
George Brown[c]
Belper 18 January 1963 14 February 1963
10 Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson.jpg
Huyton 14 February 1963
5 April 1976
Douglas-Home 1963–1964
Himself 1964–1970
Heath 1970–1974
Himself 1974–1976
11 James Callaghan
James Callaghan (1975).jpg
Cardiff South East 5 April 1976
10 November 1980 Himself 1976–1979
Thatcher 1979–1990
12 Michael Foot
Michael Foot (1981).jpg
Ebbw Vale 10 November 1980
2 October 1983
13 Neil Kinnock
(b. 1942)
Start campagne voor Europese verkiezingen van PvdA (Rotterdam) Neal Kinnoch , k, Bestanddeelnr 932-9811.jpg
Islwyn 2 October 1983
18 July 1992
Major 1990–1997
14 John Smith
Monklands East 18 July 1992
12 May 1994
(died in office)
Margaret Beckett[c]
(b. 1943)
Official portrait of Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP crop 2.jpg
Derby South 12 May 1994 21 July 1994
15 Tony Blair
(b. 1953)
Tony Blair in 2002.jpg
Sedgefield 21 July 1994
24 June 2007
Himself 1997–2007
16 Gordon Brown
(b. 1951)
Gordon Brown (2008).jpg
Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 24 June 2007
11 May 2010 Himself 2007–2010
Harriet Harman[c]
(b. 1950)
(acting: 1st time)
Official portrait of Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP crop 2.jpg
Camberwell and Peckham 11 May 2010 25 September 2010 Cameron 2010–2016
17 Ed Miliband
(b. 1969)
Official portrait of Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP crop 2.jpg
Doncaster North 25 September 2010
8 May 2015
Harriet Harman[c]
(b. 1950)
(acting: 2nd time)
Official portrait of Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP crop 2.jpg
Camberwell and Peckham 8 May 2015 12 September 2015
18 Jeremy Corbyn
(b. 1949)
Official portrait of Jeremy Corbyn crop 2, 2020.jpg
Islington North 12 September 2015
4 April 2020
May 2016–2019
Johnson 2019–2022
19 Keir Starmer
(b. 1962)
Official portrait of Keir Starmer crop 2.jpg
Holborn and St Pancras 4 April 2020
Truss 2022
Sunak 2022 – present
Keir StarmerJeremy CorbynEd MilibandGordon BrownTony BlairJohn Smith (Labour Party leader)Neil KinnockMichael FootJames CallaghanHarold WilsonHugh GaitskellClement AttleeGeorge LansburyJ. R. ClynesWilliam AdamsonRamsay MacDonaldGeorge Barnes (British politician)Arthur HendersonKeir Hardie

Leaders in the House of Lords

Main article: Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords


It is not uncommon for a retired leader of the Labour Party to be granted a peerage upon their retirement, particularly if they served as prime minister; examples of this include Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson. However, Neil Kinnock was also elevated to the House of Lords, despite never being prime minister, and Michael Foot declined a similar offer.

See also


  1. ^ See Labour's electoral performance.
  2. ^ Henderson was defeated in his Burnley seat in the 1931 election, and did not return to Parliament during his third term as leader. George Lansbury acted as the Labour parliamentary leader, until formally succeeding Henderson as party leader.
  3. ^ a b c d e Deputy Leaders who assumed the role of party leader temporarily because of the death or resignation of the incumbent, serving until the election of a new leader. As they were not elected or appointed in an official capacity, they are not included in the order count. Herbert Morrison acted as leader for the seven days between Clement Attlee's resignation and Hugh Gaitskell's election as leader. George Brown and Margaret Beckett acted as leader following deaths of Gaitskell and John Smith, respectively. Harriet Harman acted as leader twice when Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband resigned.


  1. ^ Thorpe, Andrew. (2001) A History of the British Labour Party, Palgrave, ISBN 0-333-92908-X
  2. ^ "Labour proposals 'all-but guarantee leftwing Corbyn successor'". www.msn.com. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  3. ^ Boothroyd, David. "Leaders of the Labour Party". election.demon.co.uk. United Kingdom Election Results. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  4. ^ Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds (2010), Attlee: A Life in Politics, London: I B Tauris, p. 260

Further reading