An undemocratic democracy? – U.K. Prime Ministers

It’s not often these days (and age) that I learn something new that is completely revelatory to me but today was one of those days. Let me share this with you.

You would have to have been born in 1952 or earlier to have been able to vote and elect consecutive U.K. Prime Ministers in a General Election.

Yes, just read that again.

If you’re like me, you’ll have assumed you have voted Prime Ministers in and out as the norm. It’s far from it. Let me explain.

U.K. General Elections

U.K. General Elections used to take place every four to five years by convention unless there was a vote of no confidence triggering an election. The Fixed Term Parliament Act was introduced by the ConDem coalition Government to enable security for the coalition. (As we’ve seen in recent weeks in the U.K. this has had long lasting unintended consequences.)

If you’re like me you assume that Prime Ministers are elected at every election. How wrong can we be! Let me tell you how wrong we are.

U.K. Prime Ministers

2016 – Theresa May – assumed office after Cameron resigned and without a leadership election.

2010-2016 – David Cameron – Elected in but not out as he resigned.

2007-2010 – Gordon Brown – assumed office after Blair

1997-2007 – Tony Blair – elected in but not out as he resigned

1990 -1997 – Sir John Major – assumed office after Thatcher and a Conservative leadership contest

1979 – 1990 Baroness Margaret Thatcher – elected in but not out as she was ousted by her own party

1976 -1979 James Callaghan – assumed office after Harold Wilson retired

1974 -1976 – Harold Wilson – retired at age 60

1970 – 74 Ted Heath The last Prime Minister to be both elected in and out by the electorate via a General Election.

Fascinating facts

So to be able to have voted Ted Heath in (and out) a person must have been 18 in 1970 (the first election after the lowering of the voting age to 18). That means they would have to have been born in 1952 or earlier. To put that into context, born before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (which was in 2nd June 1953). That person will be over 67 years old in 2019.

Just think about that. Are you as surprised as I was?

We tend to assume that Prime Ministers are both elected and defeated in General Elections but the evidence demonstrates that the Prime Minister hasn’t achieved that since 1974.

By comparison, Americans born 43 years later, in 1995, will have voted to elect two consecutive Presidents in a General Election.

Food for thought.