HOME

TheInfoList




The Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, more commonly referred to as the Leader of the Opposition, is the person who leads the
Official Opposition Parliamentary opposition is a form of political opposition Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution ...
in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
. By convention, the
Leader of the Opposition The leader of the opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest party not in government in a parliamentary democracy. The leader of the opposition is seen as the alternative prime minister, premi ...
is the leader of the largest
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
that is not in
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departmen ...
. When a single party wins outright, this is the party leader of the second-largest political party in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
. The current Leader of the Opposition is
Sir Keir Starmer Sir Keir Rodney Starmer (born 2 September 1962) is a British politician and former lawyer who has served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition sin ...
, the
Leader of the Labour PartyThe title Leader of the Labour Party may refer to: *Leader of the Labour Party (Ireland) *Leader of the Labour Party (Netherlands) *Leader of the Labour Party (UK) **Leader of the Scottish Labour Party *Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party See als ...
. Starmer was elected to that position on 4 April 2020. The Leader of the Opposition is often viewed as an alternative or shadow
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
, and is appointed to the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's per ...
. They lead an Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, which scrutinises the actions of the
Cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
and offers alternative policies. In the nineteenth century, party affiliations were generally less fixed and the leaders in the two Houses were often of equal status. A single and clear Leader of the Opposition was only definitively settled if the opposition leader in the House of Commons or House of Lords was the outgoing prime minister. However, since the
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other politica ...

Parliament Act 1911
, there has been no dispute that the leader in the House of Commons is pre-eminent and has always held the primary title. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to a salary in addition to their salary as a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) ...
. In 2019, this additional entitlement was available up to £65,181.


Leaders of the opposition from 1807

The first modern Leader of the Opposition was
Charles James Fox Charles James Fox (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806), styled ''The Honourable The prefix The Honourable (or The Honorable in the United States and the Philippines), abbreviated to The Hon., Hon., or The Hon'ble, is an honorific ...
, who led the Whigs as such for a generation, except during the
Fox–North Coalition The Fox–North coalition was a government in Great Britain that held office during 1783.Chris Cook and John Stevenson, ''British Historical Facts 1760–1830'', Macmillan, 1980 As the name suggests, the ministry was a coalition of the groups sup ...
in 1783. He finally rejoined the government in 1806, and died later that year.


Early developments 1807–30

For there to be a recognised Leader of the Opposition, it is necessary for there to be a sufficiently cohesive opposition to need a formal leader. The emergence of the office thus coincided with the period when wholly united parties (
Whig Whig or Whigs may refer to: Parties and factions In the British Isles * A pejorative nickname for the Kirk Party The Kirk Party were a radical Presbyterian faction of the Scotland, Scottish Covenanters during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. ...
and
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
, governments and oppositions) became the norm.''His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830'', Archibald S. Foord, Oxford University Press (1964), 494 pages . This situation was normalised in the Parliament of 1807–1812, when the members of the Grenvillite and Foxite Whig factions resolved to maintain a joint, dual-house leadership for the whole party. The
Ministry of all the Talents The Ministry of All the Talents was a national unity government#REDIRECT National unity government {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ... in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northe ...
, in which both Whig factions participated fell at the 1807 general election, during which the Whigs had re-adopted traditional factions, forming ''an'' opposition. The prime minister of the Talents ministry,
Lord Grenville William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville, (25 October 175912 January 1834), styled as Lord Grenville from 1790, was a British Pittite Tory politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the Uni ...
had led his eponymous faction from the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
. Meanwhile, the government leader of the House of Commons, Viscount Howick (later known as Earl Grey and the political heir of
Charles James Fox Charles James Fox (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806), styled ''The Honourable The prefix The Honourable (or The Honorable in the United States and the Philippines), abbreviated to The Hon., Hon., or The Hon'ble, is an honorific ...
who had died in 1806), led his faction, the Foxite whigs, from the House of Commons. Howick's father, the 1st Earl Grey died on 14 November 1807. As such the new Earl Grey vacated his seat in the House of Commons and moved to the House of Lords. This left no obvious Whig leader in the House of Commons. Grenville's article in the ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' confirms that he was considered the Whig leader in the House of Lords between 1807 and 1817, despite Grey leading the larger faction. Grenville and Grey, political historian Archibald Foord describes as being " duumvirs of the party from 1807 to 1817" and consulted about what was to be done. Grenville was at first reluctant to name a leader of the opposition in the House of Commons, commenting "... all the elections in the world would not have made Windham or Sheridan leaders of the old Opposition while Fox was alive ...". Eventually they jointly recommended
George Ponsonby George Ponsonby (5 March 17558 July 1817), was a British lawyer and Whig (British political faction), Whig politician. He served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1806 to 1807 in the Ministry of All the Talents. Background and education Ponso ...
to the Whig MPs, whom they accepted as the first leader of the opposition in the House of Commons. Ponsonby, an Irish lawyer who was the uncle of Grey's wife, had been
Lord Chancellor of Ireland The Lord High Chancellor of Ireland (commonly known as Lord Chancellor of Ireland) was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 19 ...
during the Ministry of all the Talents and had only just been re-elected to the House of Commons in 1808 when he became leader. Ponsonby proved a weak leader but as he could not be persuaded to resign and the duumvirs did not want to depose him, he remained in place until he died in 1817. Lord Grenville retired from active politics in 1817, leaving Grey as the leader of the opposition in the House of Lords. Grey was not a former prime minister in 1817, unlike Grenville, so under the convention that developed later in the century he would have been in theory of equal status to whoever was leader in the other House. However, there was little doubt that if a Whig ministry was possible, Grey rather than the less distinguished Commons leaders would have been invited to form that government. In this respect Grey's position was like that of the Earl of Derby in the Protectionist Conservative opposition of the late 1840s and early 1850s. Earl Grey witnessed a delay of about a year, until 1818, before a new leader of the opposition in the House of Commons was chosen. This was
George Tierney George Tierney Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (20 March 1761 – 25 January 1830) was an Irish people, Irish Whig (British political faction), Whig politician. For much of his career he was in opposition to the governments of Wi ...

George Tierney
who was reluctant to accept the leadership and had weak support from his party. On 18 May 1819, Tierney moved a motion in the Commons for a committee on the state of the nation. This motion was defeated by 357 to 178, a division involving the largest number of MPs until the debates over the Reform bill in the early 1830s. Foord comments that "this defeat put an effective end to Tierney's leadership ... Tierney did not disclaim the leadership till 23 Jan. 1821 ..., but he had ceased to exercise its functions since the great defeat". Between 1821 and 1830 the Whig Commons leadership was left vacant. The leadership in the House of Lords was not much more effective: in 1824 Grey retired from active leadership, asking the party to follow the
Marquess of Lansdowne Marquess of Lansdowne is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain The Peerage of Great Britain comprises all extant peerages created in the Kingdom of Great Britain after the Acts of Union 1707 but before the Acts of Union 1800. It replaced ...
"as the person whom his friends were to look upon as their leader". Lansdowne disclaimed the title of leader, although in practice he performed the function. Following the retirement of
Lord Liverpool Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, (7 June 1770 – 4 December 1828) was a British Tory The Tories were a political faction Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in gro ...
from the prime ministership in 1827, the party political situation changed. Neither the
Duke of Wellington Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish people, Anglo-Irish soldier and Tories (British political party), Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political f ...

Duke of Wellington
or
Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1834–1835 and 1841–1846) simultaneously serving as Cha ...

Robert Peel
agreed to serve under
George Canning George Canning (11 April 17708 August 1827) was a British Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of gener ...

George Canning
and they were followed by five other members of the former Cabinet as well as forty junior members of the previous government. The Tory Party was heavily split between the "High Tories" (or "Ultras", nicknamed after the contemporary party in France) and the moderates supporting Canning, often called '
Canningites Canningites were a faction of United Kingdom, British Tories in the first decade of the 19th century through the 1820s who were led by George Canning. The Canningites were distinct within the Tory party because they favoured Catholic emancipatio ...
'. As a result, Canning found it difficult to maintain a government and chose to invite a number of Whigs to join his Cabinet, including Lord Lansdowne. After Canning's death, Lord Goderich continued the coalition for a few more months. The principal opposition between April 1827 and January 1828 worked with these brief administrations, although Earl Grey and a section of the Whigs were also in opposition to the coalition government. It was during this period that the term "His Majesty's Opposition" for the Opposition was coined, by
John Cam Hobhouse John Cam Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton, (27 June 1786 – 3 June 1869), known as Sir John Hobhouse, Bt, from 1831 to 1851, was an English politician and diarist. Early life Born at Redland near Bristol Bristol () is a and in . Wit ...

John Cam Hobhouse
. The Duke of Wellington formed a ministry in January 1828 and as a direct effect of adopting in earnest the policy of
Catholic Emancipation #REDIRECT Catholic emancipation Catholic emancipation or Catholic relief was a process in the kingdoms of Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of ...
the opposition became composed of most Whigs with many Canningites and some ultra-Tories. Lord Lansdowne, in the absence of any alternative, remained the leading figure in the Whig opposition. In 1830 Grey returned to the front rank of politics. On 30 June 1830 he denounced the government in the House of Lords. He rapidly attracted the support of opponents of the ministry. The renewal of organised opposition was also bolstered earlier in the year by the election of a new leader of the opposition in the House of Commons, the heir of Earl Spencer,
Viscount Althorp A viscount ( , for male) or viscountess (, for female) is a Title#Aristocratic titles, title used in certain European countries for a nobility, noble of varying status. In many countries a viscount, and its historical equivalents, was a non-here ...
. In November 1830 Grey was invited to form a government and resumed the formal leadership of the party and as such Wellington and Peel became the leaders of the opposition in the two Houses, from November 1830.


Leaders of the opposition 1830–1937

In the period of 1830–1937 the normal expectation was that there would be two leading parties (often with smaller allied groups), of which one would form the government and the other the opposition. These parties were expected to have recognised leaders in the two Houses, so there was normally no problem in identifying who led the opposition in each House. The constitutional convention developed in the nineteenth century was that if one of the leaders was the last prime minister of the party, then he would be considered the overall leader of his party. If that was not the case then the leaders of both Houses were of equal status. As the monarch retained some discretion as to which leader should be invited to form a ministry, it was not always obvious in advance which one would be called upon to do so. However, as the leadership of the opposition only existed by custom, the normal expectations and conventions were modified by political realities from time to time. From 1830 until 1846 the
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, ...
/
Conservative Party Conservative Party may refer to: Europe Current *Croatian Conservative Party, *Conservative Party (Czech Republic) *Conservative People's Party (Denmark) *Conservative Party of Georgia *Conservative Party (Norway) *Conservative Party (UK) Histor ...

Conservative Party
and the Whig Party (increasingly often described with its
Radical Radical may refer to: Arts and entertainment Music *Radical (mixtape), ''Radical'' (mixtape), by Odd Future, 2010 *Radical (Smack album), ''Radical'' (Smack album), 1988 *"Radicals", a song by Tyler, The Creator from the 2011 album ''Goblin (album ...
and other allies as the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties around the world. The meaning of ''liberal'' varies around the world, ranging from liberal conservatism on the right to social liberalism on the left. __TOC__ Active liberal parties This is a li ...
) alternated in power and provided clear leaders of the opposition. In 1846 the Conservative Party split into (Protectionist) Conservative and
Peelite The Peelites were a breakaway dissident political faction of the British Conservative Party from 1846 to 1859. Initially led by Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was twice Prime Minister of the Uni ...
(or Liberal Conservative) factions. The Protectionists being the larger group, the recognised leaders of the opposition were drawn from their ranks. In the House of Lords, Lord Stanley (soon becoming
Earl of Derby Earl of Derby ( ) is a title in the Peerage of England The Peerage of England comprises all peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary title Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are nobility ...

Earl of Derby
) was the Protectionist leader. He was the only established front rank political figure in the faction and thus a very strong candidate to form the next Conservative ministry. The leadership in the House of Commons was more problematic.
Lord George Bentinck Lord William George Frederick Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (27 February 180221 September 1848), better known as Lord George Bentinck, was an English Conservative Party (UK), Conservative politician and racehorse owner, noted for his role (with Benja ...

Lord George Bentinck
, the leader of the Protectionist revolt against Sir Robert Peel, initially led the party in the Commons. He resigned in December 1847. The party was then faced with the problem of how to produce a credible leader, who was not
Benjamin Disraeli Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, (21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881), was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government ...

Benjamin Disraeli
. The first attempt to square the circle, was made in February 1848, when the young
Marquess of Granby A marquess (; french: marquis ), es, marqués, pt, marquês. is a nobleman of high hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The German language equivalent is Markgraf (Margrave). A woman wi ...
was installed as the leader. He gave up the post in March 1848. The leadership then fell vacant until February 1849. The next experiment was to entrust the leadership to a
triumvirate A triumvirate ( la, triumvirātus) or a triarchy is a political regime ruled or dominated by three powerful individuals known as triumvirs ( la, triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three are notionally equal, this ...

triumvirate
of Granby, Disraeli and the elderly
John Charles Herries John Charles Herries Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (November 1778 – 24 April 1855), known as J. C. Herries, was a British politician and financier and a frequent member of Tory and Conservative Party (UK), Conservative cabinet ...

John Charles Herries
. In practice Disraeli ignored his co-triumvirs. In 1851 Granby resigned and the party accepted Disraeli as the sole leader. The Protectionists by then were clearly the core of the Conservative Party and Derby was able to form his first government in 1852. The Liberal Party was formally founded in 1859, replacing the Whig Party as one of the two leading parties. With increasing party discipline it became easier to define the principal opposition party and the Leaders of the Opposition. The last overall leader of the opposition to have led it from the House of Lords was the
Earl of Rosebery Earl of Rosebery is a title in the Peerage of Scotland The Peerage of Scotland ( gd, Moraireachd na h-Alba, sco, Peerage o Scotland) is the section of the Peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles ...
. He resigned as such in November 1896. Lord Rosebery had been
Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...
prime minister from 1894 to 1895. The
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other politica ...

Parliament Act 1911
removed the
legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure ...
veto from the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
to permit the welfare-state forming
Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...
legislation to be enacted by the Commons, the
People's Budget The 1909/1910 People's Budget was a proposal of the Liberal government that introduced unprecedented taxes on the lands and incomes of Britain's wealthy to fund new social welfare programmes. It passed the House of Commons The House of Commo ...
and any future
Money Bill In the Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent ...
s without any input from the Lords. This therefore entrenched the de facto position that there could only be one true leader of the opposition and in effect clarified in which house that leader would need to sit. From this point, all leaders of the opposition in the House of Commons would thus be overall leaders of the opposition. In 1915 the Liberal, Conservative and
Labour Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is the ending of pregnancy where one or more babies leaves the uterus by passing through the vagina or by Caesarean section. In 2015, there were about 13 ...
parties formed a coalition. The
Irish Parliamentary Party The Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP; commonly called the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party) was formed in 1874 by Isaac Butt Isaac Butt (6 September 1813 – 5 May 1879) was an Irish barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in commo ...
did not join the government but were by and large not in opposition to it. As almost nobody in the Parliament could be said to be in opposition to the coalition, the leaderships of the opposition in both Houses fell vacant.
Sir Edward Carson Edward Henry Carson, Baron Carson, PC, PC (Ire) (9 February 1854 – 22 October 1935), from 1900 to 1921 known as Sir Edward Carson, was a Scottish-Irish unionist Unionism in Ireland is a political tradition on the island An ...
, the leading figure among the Irish Unionist part of the Conservative and Unionist Party, resigned from the coalition ministry on 19 October 1915. He then became the leader of those Unionists who were not members of the government, effectively leader of the opposition in the Commons. The party situation changed in December 1916: a leading Liberal,
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinat ...

David Lloyd George
, formed a coalition with the support of a section of "Coalition Liberal", Conservative and Labour parties. The Liberal leader,
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928), generally known as H. H. Asquith, was a British statesman and Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liber ...
, and most of his leading colleagues left the government and took up seats on the opposition side of the House of Commons. Asquith was recognised as the leader of the opposition. He retained that post until he was defeated in the
1918 United Kingdom general election The 1918 United Kingdom general election was called immediately after the Armistice with Germany The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World W ...

1918 United Kingdom general election
. Although Asquith continued to be the leader of the Liberal Party, as he was not a member of the House of Commons he was not eligible to be leader of the opposition. The Parliament elected in which sat from 1919 until 1922, represents the most significant deviation from the principle that the leader of the opposition is the leader of the party not in government with the greatest numerical support in the House of Commons. The largest opposition party (disregarding
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, "eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout Ireland; both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The History of Sinn Féin, original Sinn Féin organisation wa ...

Sinn Féin
, whose MPs did not take their seats at Westminster), was the
Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
which had wholly left the Lloyd George coalition and won 57 seats at the general election. Thirty six Liberals had been elected without coalition support; however, they were mixed in their opposition to Lloyd George. The Labour Party did not have a leader until 1922. The Parliamentary Labour Party annually elected a chairman, but the party, due to its congressional origins, refused to assert a claim that the chairman was the leader of the opposition. Although the issue of who was entitled to be leader of the opposition was never formally resolved, in practice the Opposition Liberal leader performed most of the parliamentary functions associated with the office. The small group of opposition Liberals met in 1919, distanced by his coalition's protectionism and nationalization. They resolved that they were the Liberal Parliamentary Party. They elected Sir Donald Maclean as Chairman of the Parliamentary Party. Liberal Party practice at the time, when the overall leader of the party had lost an election to the House of Commons, was for the chairman to function as acting leader in the House. Maclean therefore took on the role of leader of the opposition, followed by Asquith, who returned to the House by winning a
by-election A by-election (also spelled bye-election), also known as a special election in the United States and the Philippines, or a bypoll (India), is an election used to fill an office that has become vacant between general elections. In most cases these ...
(1920–22). From 1922 the Labour Party had a recognised leader so took over all remaining commons opposition roles from the Opposition Liberal Party. Since 1922 the principal Government and Opposition parties have been the
Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
and the
Conservative Party Conservative Party may refer to: Europe Current *Croatian Conservative Party, *Conservative Party (Czech Republic) *Conservative People's Party (Denmark) *Conservative Party of Georgia *Conservative Party (Norway) *Conservative Party (UK) Histor ...

Conservative Party
. There were three instances of peers being seriously considered for the prime ministership, during the twentieth century ( Curzon of Kedleston in 1923,
Halifax Halifax commonly refers to: *Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada *Halifax, West Yorkshire, England *Halifax (bank), a British bank Halifax may also refer to: Places Australia *Halifax, Queensland *Halifax Bay, North Queensland Canada Nova Scotia *Hali ...
in 1940 and
Home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for one or many Human, humans. It is a fully or semi sheltered space and can have both interior and exterior aspects to it. Homes provide sheltered spaces for ...
in 1963), but these were all cases where the Conservative Party was in government and do not affect the list of leaders of the opposition. In 1931–32 the leader of the Labour Party was
Arthur Henderson Arthur Henderson (13 September 1863 – 20 October 1935) was a British people, British iron moulder and Labour Party (UK), Labour politician. He was the first Labour Cabinet of the United Kingdom, cabinet minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize in ...
. He was leader of the opposition for a short period in 1931, but was ineligible to continue when he lost his seat in the 1931 general election.
George Lansbury George Lansbury (22 February 1859 – 7 May 1940) was a British politician and reform movement, social reformer who led the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Secon ...

George Lansbury
was leader of the opposition before he also became the leader of the Labour Party in 1932.


Statutory leaders of the opposition from 1937

Leaders of the opposition in the two Houses of Parliament had been generally recognised and given a special status in Parliament for more than a century before they were mentioned in legislation. '' Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice'' confirms that the office of leader of the opposition was first given statutory recognition in the
Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 The Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 (C.38) was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that set salaries for members of the government and opposition. It is notable as the first Act to formally recog ...
. * Section 5 states that "There shall be paid to the Leader of the Opposition an annual salary of two thousand pounds". * Section 10(1) includes a definition (which codifies the usual situation under the previous custom) "Leader of the Opposition" means that member of the House of Commons who is for the time being the leader in that House of the party in opposition to His Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical strength in that House". * The 1937 Act also contains an important provision to decide who is the Leader of the Opposition, if this is in doubt. Under section 10(3) "If any doubt arises as to which is or was at any material time the party in opposition to His Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons, or as to who is or was at any material time the leader in that House of such a party the question shall be decided for the purposes of this Act by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and his decision, certified in writing under his hand, shall be final and conclusive". Subsequent legislation also gave statutory recognition to the leader of the opposition in the House of Lords. * Section 2(1) of the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, provides that "In this Act "Leader of the Opposition" means, in relation to either House of Parliament, that member of that House who is for the time being the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to Her Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons". * Section 2(2) is in exactly the same terms as section 10(3) of the 1937 Act (apart from substituting Her Majesty's for His Majesty's). * Section 2(3) is a corresponding provision for the
Lord Chancellor The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking among the Great Officers of State In the United Kingdom, the Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of The Crown who either inheri ...
(since 2005, the
Lord Speaker The Lord Speaker is the presiding officerIn a general sense, presiding officer is synonymous with chairperson. Politics *Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, the Speaker of the National Assembly for Wales *Presiding Officer of t ...
) to decide about the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords. The legislative provisions confirm that leader of the opposition is, strictly, a Parliamentary office; so that to be leader a person must be a member of the House in which he or she leads. Since 1937 the leader of the opposition has received a state salary in addition to their salary as a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) ...
(MP), now equivalent to a Cabinet Minister. The holder also receives a
chauffeur A chauffeur is a person employed to drive a passenger motor vehicle, especially a luxury vehicle A luxury car is a car A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle Electric bicycles parked in Yangzhou's main street, Wenchang Lu. ...

chauffeur
-driven car for official business of equivalent cost and specification to the vehicles used by most
cabinet ministers A cabinet is a body of high-ranking State (polity), state officials, typically consisting of the Executive (government), executive branch's top leaders. Members of a cabinet are usually called cabinet Minister (government), ministers or secret ...
. In 1940 the three largest parties in the House of Commons formed a coalition government to continue to prosecute the Second World War. This coalition continued in office until shortly after the defeat of Germany in 1945. As the former leader of the opposition had joined the government the issue arose of who was to hold the office or perform its functions. ''Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1937–1940'' (at paragraph 4069D) reported the situation, based on ''
Hansard ''Hansard'' is the traditional name of the transcripts of Parliamentary debates in Britain and many Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Phi ...
'':
The Prime Minister replying to Mr Denman in the House of Commons on 21 May, said that in view of the formation of an Administration embracing the three main political parties, H.M. Government was of the opinion that the provision of the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, relating to the payment of a salary to the leader of the opposition was in abeyance for the time being, as there was no alternative party capable of forming a Government. He added that he did not consider amending legislation necessary.
The ''
Daily Herald ''Herald'' or ''The Herald'' is the name of various newspapers. ''Herald'' or ''The Herald'' Australia * The Herald (Adelaide), ''The Herald'' (Adelaide) and several similar names (1894–1924), a South Australian Labor weekly, then daily * ''Bar ...
'' reported that the
Parliamentary Labour Party In UK politics, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is the parliamentary party A parliamentary group, parliamentary party, or parliamentary caucus is a group consisting of members of the same political party or electoral fusion of parties i ...
met on 22 May 1940 and unanimously elected Dr H.B. Lees-Smith as Chairman of the PLP (an office normally held by the party leader at that time) and as spokesman of the Party from the opposition front bench. After the death of Lees-Smith, on 18 December 1941, the PLP held a meeting on 21 January 1942.
Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence, 1st Baron Pethick-Lawrence, PC (né Lawrence; 28 December 1871 – 10 September 1961) was a British Labour Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is ...
was unanimously elected Chairman of the PLP and the official spokesman of the party in the House of Commons while the party leader was serving in the government. After the deputy leader of the party (
Arthur Greenwood Arthur Greenwood, (8 February 1880 – 9 June 1954) was a British politician. A prominent member of the Labour Party from the 1920s until the late 1940s, Greenwood rose to prominence within the party as secretary of its research department f ...
) left the government on 22 February 1942 he took over these roles from Pethick-Lawrence until the end of the coalition and the resumption of normal party politics.


List of leaders of the opposition (1807-1911)

The table lists the people who were, or who acted as, leaders of the opposition in the two Houses of Parliament since 1807, prior to which the post was held by
Charles James Fox Charles James Fox (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806), styled ''The Honourable The prefix The Honourable (or The Honorable in the United States and the Philippines), abbreviated to The Hon., Hon., or The Hon'ble, is an honorific ...
for decades. The leaders of the two Houses were of equal status, before 1911, unless one was the most recent Prime Minister for the party. Such a former prime minister was considered to be the overall leader of the opposition. From 1911 the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons was considered to be the overall Leader of the Opposition. Overall leaders names are bolded. Acting leaders names are in italics unless the acting leader subsequently became a full leader during a continuous period as leader. Due to the fragmentation of both principal parties in 1827–30, the leaders and principal opposition parties suggested for those years are provisional.


List of leaders of the opposition (1911-present)

List of Leaders of the Opposition since the Parliament Act.


Notes and references

;Notes : Died in office : Formerly Prime Minister : Subsequently Prime Minister : Formerly and subsequently Prime Minister : Foord suggests that Lansdowne was, in effect, Acting Whig Leader in 1824–27. This may possibly have also been the case in 1828–30. Grey's article in the ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' suggests "... though he called on Lansdowne to take up the leadership of the opposition he was still unwilling to give it up altogether". Grey was in opposition in 1827–28, when Lansdowne was in government. Given the confusion of the politics of the period, particularly after 1827 when both principal parties were fragmented, it is possible that Grey should be considered Leader of the Opposition 1824–1830. However, the definite statements (by Foord) that Grey resigned the leadership in 1824 and (by Cook & Keith) that Grey did not resume the leadership until November 1830 leads to a different conclusion. : An alternative interpretation is that Palmerston (the immediate past Prime Minister) and Lord John Russell (a previous Prime Minister) were joint leaders. Cook & Keith have Palmerston as the sole leader. : Harcourt resigned 14 December 1898. : Rosebery resigned 6 October 1896. : Balfour lost his seat in the House of Commons in January 1906. : During Asquith's coalition government of 1915–1916, there was no formal opposition in either the Commons or the Lords. The only party not in Asquith's Liberal, Conservative, Labour Coalition was the Irish Nationalist Party led by
John Redmond John Edward Redmond (1 September 1856 – 6 March 1918) was an Irish nationalist politician, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister ...

John Redmond
. However, this party supported the government and did not function as an Opposition.
Sir Edward Carson Edward Henry Carson, Baron Carson, PC, PC (Ire) (9 February 1854 – 22 October 1935), from 1900 to 1921 known as Sir Edward Carson, was a Scottish-Irish unionist Unionism in Ireland is a political tradition on the island An ...
, the leading figure amongst the Irish Unionist allies of the Conservative Party, resigned from the coalition ministry on 19 October 1915. He then became the de facto leader of those Unionists who were not members of the government, effectively Leader of the Opposition in the Commons. : Asquith lost his seat in the House of Commons in December 1918. : Douglas in ''The History of the Liberal Party 1895–1970'' observes that "The technical question whether the Leader of the Opposition was Maclean or
William Adamson William Adamson (2 April 1863 – 23 February 1936) was a Scottish trade unionist and Labour Party (UK), Labour politician. He was Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1917 to 1921 and served as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1 ...

William Adamson
, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, was never fully resolved ... The fact that Adamson did not press his claim for Opposition leadership is of more than technical interest, for it shows that the Labour Party was still not taking itself seriously as a likely alternative government". : The Labour Party did not appoint a leader in the Lords until it formed its first government in 1924. : Henderson lost his seat in the House of Commons on 27 October 1931. : Lansbury was acting as leader, in the absence from the House of Commons of Henderson, in 1931–1932; before becoming party leader himself in 1932. : Attlee was acting as leader, after the resignation of Lansbury on 25 October 1935, before being elected party leader himself on 3 December 1935. : During World War II a succession of three Labour politicians acted as Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of allowing the House of Commons to function normally; however as in the mid World War I ministry, opposition did not run under a party-whipped system. As the Government 1940–45 was a coalition government in which Labour politicians functioned fully as members of the Government, neither Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee nor these three received the salary for the post of Leader of the Opposition. The largest party that opposed the war and was not part of the coalition – and therefore, in theory, the opposition – was the
Independent Labour Party The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893, when the Liberal Party (UK), Liberals appeared reluctant to endorse working-class candidates, representing the interests of the majority. A sitt ...
, led by
James Maxton James Maxton (22 June 1885 – 23 July 1946) was a British left-wing Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism Egalitarianism (), or equalitarianism, is a school of thought within political philosophy that bu ...
. With only three MPs, it tried to take over the opposition frontbench but was widely opposed in this venture. : Commonly referred to as the acting leader, following the death or immediate resignation of the leader, but is, according to the Labour Party Rule Book, fully leader until the next leader is selected. Before 1981 the leader, in opposition, was elected annually by the parliamentary Labour Party. From 1981 to 2010, the leader was elected by an electoral college of party members, MPs and
MEPs A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is a person who has been elected to serve as a popular representative in the European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three Legislature, legislative branches of the European Un ...
, as well as
trade unions A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
before the party switched to a true
one member, one voteIn the Parliamentary system, parliamentary politics of the United Kingdom and Canada, one member, one vote (OMOV) is a method of selecting party leaders by a direct vote of the members of a political party. Traditionally, these objectives have been a ...
system in 2015.


List of Leaders of the Opposition by length of tenure

This list notes each Leader of the Opposition, from the
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other politica ...

Parliament Act 1911
granting legislative preeminence to the House of Commons, and the
Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 The Ministers of the Crown Act 1937 (C.38) was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that set salaries for members of the government and opposition. It is notable as the first Act to formally recog ...
the leader of the second largest faction within it a statutory title and salary, rather than the customary role as HM Official Opposition, in order of term length. This is based on the difference between dates; if counted by number of calendar days all the figures would be one greater. Of the 35 Leaders of the Opposition listed, 7 served more than 5 years, 5 have lost more than one general election, and 7 have served less than a year.


See also

*
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either the highest or second-highest official in the Executive (government), executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a ...
*
Leader of the Opposition The leader of the opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest party not in government in a parliamentary democracy. The leader of the opposition is seen as the alternative prime minister, premi ...


References


Bibliography

* ''British Historical Facts 1760–1830'', by Chris Cook and John Stevenson (The Macmillan Press 1980) * ''British Historical Facts 1830–1900'', by Chris Cook and Brendan Keith (The Macmillan Press 1975) * ''His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830'', by Archibald S. Foord (Oxford University Press and Clarendon Press, 1964) * ''History of the Liberal Party 1895–1970'', by
Roy Douglas Richard Roy Douglas (12 December 1907 – 23 March 2015), better known as Roy Douglas, was an English composer, pianist and arranger. He worked as musical assistant to Ralph Vaughan Williams Ralph Vaughan Williams, (; 12 October 1872– ...
(Sidgwick & Jackson 1971) * ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'' * ''Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000'', by David Butler and Gareth Butler (Macmillan Press 8th edition, 2000) {{DEFAULTSORT:Leader Of The Opposition (United Kingdom)
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...