Leader of the Conservative Party (UK)

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Leader of the Conservative Party
Liz Truss Official Portrait.jpg
Incumbent
Liz Truss

since 5 September 2022
TypeParty leader
StatusChief executive officer
Inaugural holderRobert Peel (de facto)
Bonar Law (de jure)
Formation1834 (de facto)
1922 (de jure)

The leader of the Conservative Party (officially the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party) leads the British Conservative Party as its most senior member. The current holder of the position is Liz Truss, who has held the position since 5 September 2022 following her victory in the party's leadership election.[1]

From the party's formation in 1834 until 1922, the leader of the Conservative Party was not a formal position; instead, there was a party leader in each chamber of Parliament, and they were considered equal unless one took precedence over the other, such as when one was serving as prime minister. Following the passage of the Parliament Act of 1911, the reduction of power in the House of Lords suggested that the Conservative leader in the House of Commons would be preeminent, but this fact was not formalized until 1922.

Since 1922, a leader of the Conservative Party has been formally elected, even when the party is in opposition. Originally, the party leader was appointed opaquely by other high-ranking members of the party. This process was gradually democratized in the late 20th century; in 1965, the appointment was linked to a vote by party MPs, and in 1998, the process was opened to all party members to decide between the last two candidates selected by parliamentarians.[2][3]

Under party rules, members can vote in the Conservative leadership even if they are not British citizens, do not live in the UK and do not have the right to vote in a UK general election.[4][5]

As of September 2022, three of the party's leaders have been women: Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, and Liz Truss, all of whom have served as prime minister.

Overall leaders of the party (1834–1922)[edit]

Overall leader
(Birth–death)
Portrait Constituency / title Took office Left office Prime Minister (term)
Sir Robert Peel
(1788–1850)
Robert Peel by RR Scanlan detail.jpg Tamworth 18 December 1834[a] 29 June 1846 himself 1834–35
Melbourne 1835–41
himself 1841–46
Edward Smith-Stanley
14th Earl of Derby from 1851
(1799–1869)
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby-1865.jpg Baron Stanley
(1846–1851)
Earl of Derby
(1851–1868)
29 June 1846 27 February 1868 Russell 1846–52
himself 1852
Aberdeen 1852–55
Palmerston 1855–58
himself 1858–59
Palmerston 1859–65
Russell 1865–66
himself 1866–68
Benjamin Disraeli
1st Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876
(1804–1881)
Disraeli.jpg Buckinghamshire
(1868–1876)
Earl of Beaconsfield
(1876–1881)
27 February 1868 19 April 1881
(Died in office)
himself 1868
Gladstone 1868–74
himself 1874–80
Gladstone 1880–85
Vacant
Leader of the Lords – 3rd Marquess of Salisbury
Leader of the Commons – Stafford Northcote
19 April 1881 23 June 1885
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
(1830–1903)
Robert cecil.jpg Marquess of Salisbury 23 June 1885 11 July 1902 himself 1885–86
Gladstone 1886
himself 1886–92
Gladstone 1892–94
Rosebery 1894–95
himself 1895–1902
Arthur Balfour
(1848–1930)
A.J. Balfour LCCN2014682753 (cropped).jpg Manchester East
(1902–1906)
City of London
(1906–1911)
11 July 1902 13 November 1911 himself 1902–05
C.-Bannerman 1905–08
Asquith 1908–16
Vacant
Leader in the House of Lords – 5th Marquess of Lansdowne
Leader in the House of Commons – Bonar Law
13 November 1911 10 December 1916[b]
Lloyd George 1916–22
Bonar Law
(1858–1923)
Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg Bootle
(1916–1918)
Glasgow Central
(1918–1921)
10 December 1916[b] 21 March 1921
Vacant
Leader in the House of Lords – 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
Leader in the House of Commons – Austen Chamberlain
21 March 1921 23 October 1922 [b]

Leaders of the party (1922–present)[edit]

Leader
(Birth–death)
Portrait Constituency / title Took office Left office Prime Minister (term)
Bonar Law
(1858–1923)
Andrew Bonar Law 02.jpg Glasgow Central 23 October 1922
(Party meeting)
28 May 1923 himself 1922–23
Stanley Baldwin
(1867–1947)
Stanley Baldwin ggbain.35233 (cropped).jpg Bewdley 28 May 1923
(Party meeting)
31 May 1937 himself 1923–24
MacDonald 1924
himself 1924–29
MacDonald 1929–35
himself 1935–37
Neville Chamberlain
(1869–1940)
Chamberlain Neville.jpg Birmingham Edgbaston 31 May 1937
(Party meeting)
9 October 1940 himself 1937–40
Winston Churchill
(1874–1965)
Sir Winston Churchill (cropped).jpg Epping
(1940–1945)
Woodford
(1945–1955)
9 October 1940
(Party meeting)
21 April 1955 himself 1940–45
Attlee 1945–51
himself 1951–55
Anthony Eden
(1897–1977)
Anthony Eden (retouched).jpg Warwick and Leamington 21 April 1955
(Party meeting)
22 January 1957 himself 1955–57
Harold Macmillan
(1894–1986)
Harold Macmillan (cropped).jpg Bromley 22 January 1957
(Party meeting)
11 November 1963 himself 1957–63
Alec Douglas-Home
(1903–1995)
Alec Douglas-Home (c1963) (cropped).jpg Earl of Home
(1963)
Kinross and Western Perthshire
(1963–1965)
11 November 1963
(Party meeting)
27 July 1965 himself 1963–64
Wilson 1964–70
Edward Heath
(1916–2005)
Edward Heath 4 Allan Warren (cropped).jpg Bexley
(1965–1974)
Sidcup
(1974–1975)
27 July 1965
(Elected)
11 February 1975
himself 1970–74
Wilson 1974–76
Margaret Thatcher
(1925–2013)
Margaret Thatcher cropped.jpg Finchley 11 February 1975
(Elected)
27 November 1990
Callaghan 1976–79
herself 1979–90
John Major
(b. 1943)
Major PM full (cropped).jpg Huntingdon 27 November 1990
(Opponents withdrew)
19 June 1997
himself 1990–97
Blair 1997–2007
William Hague
(b. 1961)
William Hague Foreign Secretary (2010).jpg Richmond (Yorks) 19 June 1997
(Elected)
13 September 2001
Iain Duncan Smith
(b. 1954)
Official portrait of Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP crop 2.jpg Chingford and Woodford Green 13 September 2001
(Elected)
6 November 2003
Michael Howard
(b. 1941)
Official portrait of Lord Howard of Lympne crop 2.jpg Folkestone and Hythe 6 November 2003
(Unopposed)
7 October 2005[6]
David Cameron
(b. 1966)
David Cameron official.jpg Witney 6 December 2005
(Elected)
11 July 2016
Brown 2007–10
himself 2010–16
Theresa May
(b. 1956)
Theresa May (2016) (cropped).jpg Maidenhead 11 July 2016
(Opponents withdrew)
7 June 2019
Acting: 7 June 2019 – 23 July 2019
herself 2016–19
Boris Johnson
(b. 1964)
Boris Johnson official portrait (cropped).jpg Uxbridge and South Ruislip 23 July 2019
(Elected)
5 September 2022 himself 2019–2022
Liz Truss
(b. 1975)
Liz Truss Official Portrait.jpg South West Norfolk 5 September 2022
(Elected)
Incumbent herself 2022–present

Timeline[edit]

Liz TrussBoris JohnsonTheresa MayDavid CameronMichael HowardIain Duncan SmithWilliam HagueJohn MajorMargaret ThatcherEdward HeathAlec Douglas-HomeHarold MacmillanAnthony EdenWinston ChurchillNeville ChamberlainStanley BaldwinBonar LawArthur BalfourRobert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of SalisburyBenjamin DisraeliEdward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of DerbyRobert Peel

Living former party leaders[edit]

There are seven living former party leaders. From oldest to youngest:

Leader Term of office Date of birth
Michael Howard 2003–2005 (1941-07-07) 7 July 1941 (age 81)
John Major 1990–1995 (1943-03-29) 29 March 1943 (age 79)
1995–1997
Iain Duncan Smith 2001–2003 (1954-04-09) 9 April 1954 (age 68)
Theresa May 2016–2019 (1956-10-01) 1 October 1956 (age 65)
William Hague 1997–2001 (1961-03-26) 26 March 1961 (age 61)
Boris Johnson 2019–2022 (1964-06-19) 19 June 1964 (age 58)
David Cameron 2005–2016 (1966-10-09) 9 October 1966 (age 55)

House of Lords and Commons leaders[edit]

Leaders in the House of Lords (1834–present)[edit]

Those asterisked were considered the overall leader of the party.

Portrait Leader Term of office LOTO Other ministerial offices held as Leader of the House of Lords
Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 6th Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox, and 1st Duke of Gordon.jpg The Duke of Richmond and Lennox 26 February
1870
21 August
1876
1870–1874 Lord President of the Council (21 February 1874 – 28 April 1880)
Benjamin Disraeli by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, 1878.jpg The Earl of Beaconsfield* 21 August
1876
19 April
1881
1880–1881 Prime Minister (20 February 1874 – 21 April 1880)
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (12 August 1876 – 4 February 1878)
Robert-Gascoyne-Cecil-3rd-Marquess-of-Salisbury (cropped).jpg The Marquess of Salisbury* 9 May
1881
12 July
1902
1881–1885
1886
1892–1895
Prime Minister (23 June 1885 – 28 January 1886)
Foreign Secretary (24 June 1885 – 6 February 1886)
Prime Minister (25 July 1886 – 11 August 1892)
Foreign Secretary (14 January 1887 – 11 August 1892)
Prime Minister (25 June 1895 – 11 July 1902)
Foreign Secretary (29 June 1895 – 12 November 1900)
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (12 November 1900 – 11 July 1902)
Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire.jpg The Duke of Devonshire 12 July
1902
10 October
1903
Lord President of the Council (29 June 1895 – 19 October 1903)
President of the Board of Education (3 March 1900 – 8 August 1902)
Marquess of Lansdowne.jpg The Marquess of Lansdowne 10 October
1903
10 December
1916
1905–1915 Foreign Secretary (12 November 1900 – 4 December 1905)
Minister without Portfolio (25 May 1915 – 10 December 1916)
George Curzon2.jpg The Earl Curzon of Kedleston
(1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston from 1921)
10 December
1916
20 March
1925
1924 President of the Air Board (15 May 1916 – 3 January 1917)
Lord President of the Council (10 December 1916 – 23 October 1919)
Foreign Secretary (23 October 1919 – 22 January 1924)
Lord President of the Council (3 November 1924 – 20 March 1925)
Lord salsbury.jpg The Marquess of Salisbury 27 April
1925
17 June
1931
1929–1931 Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (6 November 1924 – 4 June 1929)
Hailsham1.JPG The Viscount Hailsham 17 June
1931
7 June
1935
1931 War Secretary (5 November 1931 – 7 June 1935)
7th Marquess of Londonderry.jpg The Marquess of Londonderry 7 June
1935
22 November
1935
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
1st Earl of Halifax 1947.jpg The Viscount Halifax 22 November
1935
21 February
1938
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (22 November 1935 – 28 May 1937)
Lord President of the Council (22 May 1937 – 9 March 1938)
Stanhope7.JPG The Earl Stanhope 21 February
1938
14 May
1940
President of the Board of Education (28 May 1937 – 27 October 1938)
First Lord of the Admiralty (27 October 1938 – 3 September 1939)
Lord President of the Council (3 September 1939 – 10 May 1940)
Thomas Inskip MP.jpg The Viscount Caldecot 14 May
1940
3 October
1940
Dominions Secretary
1st Earl of Halifax 1947.jpg The Viscount Halifax 3 October
1940
22 December
1940
Foreign Secretary (21 February 1938 – 22 December 1940)
George Lloyd, 1st Baron Lloyd.png The Lord Lloyd 22 December
1940
8 February
1941
Colonial Secretary (12 May 1940 – 4 February 1941)
Walter Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne.png The Lord Moyne 8 February
1941
22 February
1942
Colonial Secretary
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury.jpg Viscount Cranborne
(5th Marquess of Salisbury from 1947)
21 February
1942
29 March
1957
1945–1951 Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (21 February 1942 – 24 September 1943)
Colonial Secretary (21 February 1942 – 22 November 1942)
Dominions Secretary (24 September 1943 – 26 July 1945)
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (28 October 1951 – 7 May 1952)
Commonwealth Relations Secretary (12 March 1952 – 24 November 1952)
Lord President of the Council (25 November 1952 – 29 March 1957)
Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg The Earl of Home 29 March
1957
27 July
1960
Commonwealth Relations Secretary (7 April 1955 – 27 July 1960)
Lord President of the Council (until 17 September 1957, from 14 October 1959)
Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham Allan Warren.jpg The Viscount Hailsham 27 July
1960
20 October
1963
Lord President of the Council
– Minister for Science (14 October 1959 – 20 October 1963)
Peter Carington 1984.jpg The Lord Carrington 20 October
1963
20 June
1970
1964–1970 Minister without Portfolio (20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964)
George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe.jpg The Earl Jellicoe 20 June
1970
23 May
1973
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
No image.svg The Lord Windlesham 23 May
1973
4 March
1974
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Peter Carington 1984.jpg The Lord Carrington 4 March
1974
4 May
1979
1974–1979
Christopher Soames.jpg The Lord Soames 5 May
1979
14 September
1981
Lord President of the Council
No image.svg The Baroness Young 14 September
1981
11 June
1983
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (14 September 1981 – 7 April 1982)
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (7 April 1982 – 11 June 1983)
No image.svg The Viscount Whitelaw 11 June
1983
10 January
1988
Lord President of the Council
No image.svg The Lord Belstead 10 January
1988
28 November
1990
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
No image.svg The Lord Waddington 28 November
1990
11 April
1992
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Official portrait of Lord Wakeham crop 2.jpg The Lord Wakeham 11 April
1992
20 July
1994
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil 2013-crop.jpg Viscount Cranborne
(7th Marquess of Salisbury from 2003)
20 July
1994
3 December
1998
1997–1998 Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal (20 July 1994 – 2 May 1997)
Official portrait of Lord Strathclyde crop 2.jpg The Lord Strathclyde 3 December
1998
7 January
2013
1998–2010 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (12 May 2010 – 7 January 2013)
Jonathan Hill 2015.jpg The Lord Hill of Oareford 7 January
2013
15 July
2014
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Official portrait of Baroness Stowell of Beeston crop 2, 2019.jpg The Baroness Stowell of Beeston 15 July
2014
14 July
2016
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Official portrait of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park crop 2.jpg The Baroness Evans of Bowes Park 14 July
2016
6 September
2022
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
Official portrait of Lord True crop 2.jpg The Lord True 6 September
2022
Incumbent Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal

Leaders in the House of Commons (1834–1922)[edit]

Those asterisked were considered the overall leader of the party.

Elections of Conservative leaders by party meeting[edit]

House of Commons[edit]

# Date of meeting Name of leader elected Category attending meeting Location of meeting Chair Proposer Seconder Refs
1 9 February 1848 The Marquess of Granby Protectionist commoners Residence of George Bankes [8]
[9]
2 1 February 1849 Benjamin Disraeli Residence of the Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe [10]
The Marquess of Granby
John Charles Herries
3 13 November 1911 Bonar Law Unionist Members of Parliament Carlton Club, Pall Mall Henry Chaplin, senior Privy Councillor on the Unionist benches (appointed 1885) Walter Long Austen Chamberlain [11]
4 21 March 1921 Austen Chamberlain Unionist Members of Parliament Carlton Club, Pall Mall Lord Edmund Talbot, Conservative Chief Whip Captain Ernest George Pretyman Sir Edward Coates: "a back bencher and one of the rank and file" [12]
5 23 October 1922 Bonar Law Unionist peers, MPs, and candidates Hotel Cecil, The Strand The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Stanley Baldwin: "chosen ... to be the spokesman for the House of Commons" [13]
6 28 May 1923 Stanley Baldwin "Conservative Party" Hotel Cecil, The Strand The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Leader of the House of Lords The Earl of Derby Captain Ernest George Pretyman: "a member of the House of Commons who [had] been a colleague in that House of Mr Bonar Law for something over 25 years" [14]
7 31 May 1937 Neville Chamberlain "peers and MPs who receive the Conservative whip, ... prospective candidates who have been adopted by constituency associations, and ... members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist associations from England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland." Caxton Hall, Caxton Street The Viscount Halifax, Leader of the House of Lords The Earl of Derby Winston Churchill (Privy Councillor since 1907) [15]
8 9 October 1940 Winston Churchill "Peers and MPs who receive the Conservative whip, ... prospective candidates who have been adopted by constituency associations, and ... members of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations from England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland." London The Viscount Halifax, Leader of the House of Lords The Viscount Halifax Sir George Courthope: "one of the senior back benchers of the party" [16]
9 21 April 1955 Sir Anthony Eden "Conservative and National Liberal members of the two Houses of Parliament, Conservative and National Liberal parliamentary candidates and members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations" Church House, Dean's Yard, Westminster The Marquess of Salisbury, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess of Salisbury Rab Butler (Privy Councillor since 1939) [17]
10 22 January 1957 Harold Macmillan "Conservative and Unionist members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, ... prospective parliamentary candidates and ... members of the executive committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. National Liberal members of both Houses of Parliament and adopted prospective candidates were also present" The Marquess of Salisbury, Leader of the House of Lords The Marquess of Salisbury Rab Butler (Privy Councillor since 1939) [18]
11 11 November 1963 Sir Alec Douglas-Home "members of both Houses of Parliament taking the Conservative whip, prospective candidates who [had] been adopted by constituency associations, members of the executive of the mass party, and National Liberal MPs and adopted prospective candidates" Church House, Dean's Yard, Westminster The Lord Carrington, Leader of the House of Lords The Lord Carrington Geoffrey Lloyd: "the senior Conservative Privy Councillor in the Commons next in line to Sir Winston Churchill" (appointed 1943) [19]

House of Lords[edit]

# Date of meeting Name of leader elected Category attending meeting Location of meeting Chair Proposer Seconder Notes
1 9 March 1846 The Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe Peers Residence of the Duke of Richmond The Earl of Eglinton [20]
2 15 February 1869 The Earl Cairns 23 peers The Earl of Malmesbury The Earl of Malmesbury [21]
3 26 February 1870 The Duke of Richmond Peers Carlton Club The Marquess of Salisbury The Earl of Derby [22]
4 9 May 1881 The Marquess of Salisbury Conservative members of the House of Lords Residence of the Marquess of Abergavenny The Marquess of Abergavenny The Duke of Richmond The Earl Cairns [23]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Date of the Tamworth Manifesto.
  2. ^ a b c Date on which Law became Leader of the House of Commons.
  3. ^ Granby resigned "either in the end of December [1851] or on one of the first days of January [1852]".[7]
  4. ^ Date on which Balfour failed to be elected in Manchester East.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Liz Truss set to become new UK Conservative prime minister". AP NEWS. 5 September 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Constitution of the Conservative Party" (PDF). January 2021. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 September 2021.
  3. ^ Alexandre-Collier, Agnès (1 November 2018). "Brexit reveals the fractures of the British Conservatives". Le Monde diplomatique (in French). Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  4. ^ Nevett, Joshua (12 August 2022). "Tory leadership election: Meet the overseas voters picking the next PM".
  5. ^ Smith, Hannah (10 August 2022). "Who can vote in the Conservative leadership contest?".
  6. ^ https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01366/SN01366.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ Monypenny, William Flavelle; Buckle, George Earle (1914). The life of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield, Volume III. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 312–3.
  8. ^ "A Cabinet Council was held at half-past 2 o'clock." Times [London, England] 10 Feb. 1848: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.
  9. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. pp. 151–2.
  10. ^ Monypenny, William Flavelle; Buckle, George Earle (1914). The life of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield, Volume III. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 138–9.
  11. ^ "The Unionist Leadership." Times [London, England] 14 Nov. 1911: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Unionist M.P.s' New Leader." Times [London, England] 22 Mar. 1921: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Unionists Elect Mr. Bonar Law." Times [London, England] 24 Oct. 1922: 18. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Conservative Leader." Times [London, England] 29 May 1923: 19. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  15. ^ "The New Leader And The Old." Times [London, England] 1 June 1937: 17+. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Conservative Leader." Times [London, England] 10 Oct. 1940: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  17. ^ Our Political Correspondent. "Sir A. Eden as Leader." Times [London, England] 22 Apr. 1955: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 19 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Mr. Macmillan states Party philosophy". The Times. London. 23 January 1957. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  19. ^ Our Political Correspondent. (12 November 1963). "Prime Minister is Ageless". The Times. London. p. 12. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  20. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 124.
  21. ^ Malmesbury, The Right Hon. [James Howard Harris,] the [3rd] Earl of (1885). Memoirs of an Ex-Minister. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 645.
  22. ^ "We are enabled to state that, in compliance with." Times [London, England] 28 Feb. 1870: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 26 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Meeting Of The Conservative Peers." Times [London, England] 10 May 1881: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 25 July 2014.