Clement Attlee chosen as Labour’s greatest ever leader

© Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


The Spirit of ’45 lives on – Clement Attlee was the Labour Party’s greatest ever leader, according to LabourList readers.

In our survey this week, which also found that readers feel they have most to fear from an Osborne-led Tory Party, we asked those who took part to pick who they thought was Labour’s best leader from history. People could only pick one, and the list does not include acting leaders (sorry Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman).

Unsurprisingly, Clement Attlee came top with 36%. Attlee is the party’s longest serving leader, having held the office for 20 years. Between 1942 and 1945 he was Deputy Prime Minister in the wartime coalition, before becoming Prime Minister after the Labour landslide of 1945. That Labour Government oversaw the creation of a real welfare state in Britain, including founding the NHS.

You can see the full results here (click to enlarge).

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In second place is Tony Blair, with 15% of all votes. He guided Labour to three consecutive election victories, all with working parliamentary majorities – an electoral achievement unparalleled in the party’s history. He was Prime Minister for 10 years, and the 13 years Labour spent in power is the longest unbroken stretch the party has enjoyed in office.

In joint third place is Harold Wilson and John Smith, both on 11%. In total, Wilson spent eight years as Prime Minister, guiding Labour through five general elections. Like Blair, he spent 13 years as Labour leader.


Smith was only leader for two years, before dying from a heart attack in 1994. He did not contest any general elections as leader, but many believe he would have won in 1997 – perhaps accounting for his strong showing here.

Next is Keir Hardie, the party’s first leader, on 8%, followed by Michael Foot, whom 4% of readers selected as their favourite leader.

Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband were both chosen as the best leader ever by 3% of those surveyed, while Gordon Brown came in with 2% – the same as 1930s leader George Lansbury, and 1950s leader Hugh Gaitskell.

Jim Callaghan won over 1% of readers, while Ramsay MacDonald did surprisingly well at 1% too.

Arthur Henderson, JR Clynes, George Nicoll Barnes and William Adamson – all leaders during Labour’s formative years before it became a party of government – won a handful of votes each.

2,151 people voted in this week’s survey. Thanks to everyone who took part.

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