1 Winston Churchill Con
2 David Lloyd George Lib
3 Clement Attlee Lab
4 Margaret Thatcher Con
5 Harold Wilson Lab
6 Stanley Baldwin Con
7 Edward Heath Con
8 Ramsay Macdonald Lab
9 Tony Blair Lab
10 James Callaghan Lab
11 Harold Macmillan Con
12 R A Butler Con
13 William Whitelaw Con
14 John Major Con
15 David Cameron Con
16 Anthony Eden Con
17 Neville Chamberlain Con
18 Gordon Brown Lab
19 Sir John Simon Lib
20 George Brown Lab

(For full list see end of this blogpost)

Back when I was running Politico’s Bookstore in 2003, I compiled a list of the most powerful politicians of the 20th century. Using a Eurovision Song Contest type points system, the list showed which politicians had wielded the most power and exerted the most influence on life in Britain in the last century. The criteria for inclusion was that the man or woman had to have held one of the major offices of state. So they had to have served as Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary, or been a leader of one of the three political parties which have existed over the last century.
Fifteen years on, I have repeated the exercise but used the end of the First World War as the starting point. Obviously trying to work out who the most powerful and influential politicians of the last one hundred years are cannot be a completely scientific exercise. I could easily argue that Nigel Farage deserves to be in this list, but he’s never been an MP. Had I included him just on the basis of having led UKIP, he would only have come in at 80th.
If a politician held one of the great Offices of State at the beginning of 1919 I have also awarded points for their previous positions. Churchill is the main beneficiary of this. Had his pre 1919 career not been included he would have dropped to fifth, one place below Margaret Thatcher
There are 12 Liberal politicians in this list, 39 Labour and 49 Conservatives. Of the top 20, 11 are Conservatives, 2 are Liberals and 7 are Labour.
There are 96 men and 4 women on the list – Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Margaret Beckett & Jacqui Smith. There is not a single openly gay or ethnic minority politician on the list.
The top ranking politician never to have become Prime Minister is R A Butler in 12th place, just ahead of William Whitelaw.
Political careers tend to burn out more quickly nowadays and politicians leave politics at a younger age. Thatcher, Major and Blair all became Prime Minister with comparatively little experience of major offices of State. James Callaghan, who was only PM for 3 years, achieves quite a high rating in the list index because he had also held all three major offices of state before reaching the top of the greasy pole. For the same reason, Ted Heath is 7th in the top list, ahead of John Major in 14th place despite Major having served as Prime Minister for twice as long.
Despite his 34 years in Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn only scrapes into the list in last place. If he wins the 2022 election and serves a full five year term, he would still only manage to climb into the mid 50s.
It’s interesting to see so many names from the early part of the century whose influence has endured longer than their reputations. Ramsay MacDonald is in 8th place, while Sir John Simon figures in 19th place.
But who could say what Sir John Gilmour did to be at 63rd place, or Sir David Somervell in 83rd place?
Other positions of interest are: David Cameron (15th), Gordon Brown (18th), Roy Jenkins (22nd), Ken Clarke (24th), Michael Heseltine (29th), William Hague (40th), Nick Clegg (51st), Neil Kinnock (55th), Jeremy Thorpe (60th), John Smith (71st), Ed Miliband (80sth) and George Osborne (88th).
Editor’s Note

The index contains a list of the 100 politicians who held senior office (Prime Minister, Party leader, Speaker, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary or Chancellor). Points are awarded as follows per annum, in a Eurovision style system…

Prime Minister 12 points
Party Leader 10 points
Chancellor, Home Secretary or Foreign Secretary 10 points
First rank Cabinet Minister (eg Defence, Environment) 8 Points
Second rank Cabinet Minister (eg Agriculture, Transport) 7 points
Minister of State 5 points
Parliamentary Under Secretary 4 points
Shadow Cabinet Senior position 3 points
Shadow Cabinet Junior position 2 points
PPS 1 point
MP 1 point


1 Winston Churchill Con 455
2 David Lloyd George Lib 368
3 Clement Attlee Lab 359
4 Margaret Thatcher Con 353
5 Harold Wilson Lab 309
6 Stanley Baldwin Con 275
7 Edward Heath Con 269
8 Ramsay Macdonald Lab 263
9 Tony Blair Lab 254
10 James Callaghan Lab 241
11 Harold Macmillan Con 239
12 R A Butler Con 225
13 William Whitelaw Con 215
14 John Major Con 212
15 David Cameron Con 211
16 Anthony Eden Con 208
17 Neville Chamberlain Con 204
18 Gordon Brown Lab 193
19 Sir John Simon Lib 193
20 George Brown Lab 193
21 Andrew Bonar Law Con 191
22 Roy Jenkins Lab 188
23 Sir Austen Chamberlain Con 183
24 Kenneth Clarke Con 176
25 Herbert Morrison Lab 175
26 Herbert Gladstone Lib 172
27 Sir Geoffrey Howe Con 169
28 Peter Thorneycroft Con 168
29 Michael Heseltine Con 167
30 Alec Douglas Home Con 167
31 Sir Archibald Sinclair Lib 164
32 Denis Healey Lab 164
33 Selwyn Lloyd Con 157
34 John Prescott Lab 156
35 Reginald Maudling Con 148
36 Jo Grimond Lib 143
37 Clement Davies Lib 143
38 Jack Straw Lab 137
39 Margaret Beckett Lab 137
40 William Hague Con 135
41 Sir Kingsley Wood Con 135
42 Michael Howard Con 134
43 Sir Malcolm Rifkind Con 134
44 Leon Brittan Con 132
45 David Steel Lib 131
46 Sir Herbert Samuel Lib 130
47 Sir Samuel Hoare Con 130
48 Iain Macleod Con 130
49 Douglas Hurd Con 129
50 Paddy Ashdown Lib 128
51 Nick Clegg Lib 127
52 Michael Stewart Lab 127
53 Lord Carrington Con 124
54 Theresa May Con 123
55 Neil Kinnock Lab 120
56 Hugh Gaitskell Lab 120
57 Anthony Barber Con 120
58 Norman Lamont Con 116
59 Michael Foot Lab 115
60 Jeremy Thorpe Lib 110
61 David Owen Lab 110
62 Kenneth Baker Con 110
63 Sir John Gilmour Con 108
64 Robin Cook Lab 107
65 Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe Con 106
66 Arthur Henderson Lab 104
67 William Bridgeman Con 103
68 Francis Pym Con 101
69 Iain Duncan Smith Con 101
70 Chuter Ede Lab 100
71 John Smith Lab 99
72 Charles Kennedy Lib 98
73 Ernest Bevin Lab 94
74 Anthony Crosland Lab 94
75 Hugh Dalton Lab 93
76 David Blunkett Lab 93
77 Nigel Lawson Con 92
78 Patrick Gordon-Walker Lab 91
79 Philip Hammond Con 90
80 Ed Miliband Lab 89
81 John Reid Lab 85
82 Sir Stafford Cripps Lab 83
83 Sir David Somervell Con 83
84 Henry Brooke Con 83
85 David Waddington Con 83
86 Alan Johnson Lab 83
87 Robert Carr Con 81
88 George Osborne Con 81
89 Merlyn Rees Lab 80
90 Gwilym Lloyd George Con 73
91 David Heathcoat Amory Con 72
92 Jacqui Smith Lab 71
93 Sir William Joynson Hicks Con 66
94 David Miliband Lab 64
95 Sir John Anderson Con 64
96 Sir Frank Soskice Lab 63
97 John Clynes Lab 63
98 Jeremy Corbyn Lab 61
99 Charles Clarke Lab 59
100 Philip Snowden Lab 49