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The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (informally abbreviated to PM), until 1801 known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is the head of government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister directs both the executive and the legislature, and, together with the Prime Minister's Cabinet, (consisting of all the most senior ministers, most of whom are government department heads), is accountable to the Monarch, to Parliament, to the Prime Minister's political party and, ultimately, to the electorate for the policies and actions of the executive and the legislature.

The office is not established by any statute or constitutional document but exists only by long-established convention, whereby the monarch appoints as Prime Minister the person most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons;[19] this individual is typically the leader of the political party or coalition of parties that holds the largest number of seats in that chamber. The position of Prime Minister was not created; it evolved slowly and erratically over three hundred years due to numerous acts of Parliament, political developments, and accidents of history. The office is therefore best understood from a historical perspective. The origins of the position are found in constitutional changes that occurred during the Revolutionary Settlement (1688–1720) and the resulting shift of political power from the Sovereign to Parliament.[20] Although the Sovereign was not stripped of the ancient prerogative powers and legally remained the head of government, politically it gradually became necessary for him or her to govern through a Prime Minister who could command a majority in Parliament.

By the 1830s the Westminster system of government (or cabinet government) had emerged; the Prime Minister had become primus inter pares or the first among equals in the Cabinet and the head of government in the United Kingdom. The political position of Prime Minister was enhanced by the development of modern political parties, the introduction of mass communication and photography. By the start of the 20th century the modern premiership had emerged; the office had become the pre-eminent position in the constitutional hierarchy vis-à-vis the Sovereign, Parliament and Cabinet.

Prior to 1902, the Prime Minister sometimes came from the House of Lords, provided that his government could form a majority in the Commons. However as the power of the aristocracy waned during the 19th century the convention developed that the Prime Minister should always sit in the lower house. As leader of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister's authority was further enhanced by the Parliament Act 1911 which marginalised the influence of the House of Lords in the law-making process.

The Prime Minister is ex officio also First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Minister for the Union. Certain privileges, such as residency of 10 Downing Street, are accorded to Prime Ministers by virtue of their position as First Lord of the Treasury. The status of the position as Prime Minister means that the incumbent is consistently ranked as one of the most powerful and influential people in the world.


The Prime Minister is the head of the United Kingdom government.[21] As such, the modern Prime Minister leads the Cabinet (the Executive). In addition, the Prime Minister leads a major political party and generally commands a majority in the House of Commons (the lower House of the legislature). The incumbent wields both significant legislative and executive powers. Under the British system, there is a unity of powers rather than separation.[22] In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister guides the law-making process with the goal of enacting the legislative agenda of their political party. In an executive capacity, the Prime Minister appoints (and may dismiss) all other Cabinet members and ministers, and co-ordinates the policies and activities of all government departments, and the staff of the Civil Service. The Prime Minister also acts as the public "face" and "voice" of Her Majesty's Government, both at home and abroad. Solely upon the advice of the Prime Minister, the Sovereign exercises many statutory and prerogative powers, including high judicial, political, official and Church of England ecclesiastical appointments; the conferral of peerages and some knighthoods, decorations and other important honours.[23]

Constitutional background

The British system of government is based on an uncodified constitution, meaning that it is not set out in any single document.[24] The British constitution consists of many documents and most importantly for the evolution of the Office of the Prime Minister, it is based on customs known as constitutional conventions that became accepted practice. In 1928, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith described this characteristic of the British constitution in his memoirs:

The relationships between the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, Parliament and Cabinet are defined largely by these unwritten conventions of the constitution.

Under this arrangement, Britain might appear to have two executives: the Prime Minister and the Sovereign.

Although many of the Sovereign's prerogative powers are still legally intact,[1] constitutional conventions have removed the monarch from day-to-day governance, with ministers exercising the royal prerogatives, leaving the monarch in practice with three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn.[28][29]


Because the Premiership was not intentionally created, there is no exact date when its evolution began.

The Revolutionary Settlement gave the Commons control over finances and legislation and changed the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

Treasury officials and other department heads were drawn into Parliament serving as liaisons between it and the Sovereign.

After the Revolution, there was a constant threat that non-government members of Parliament would ruin the country's finances by proposing ill-considered money bills.

Empowering Ministers with sole financial initiative had an immediate and lasting impact.

The power of financial initiative was not, however, absolute.

The term "Prime Minister" appears at this time as an unofficial title for the leader of the government, usually the Head of the Treasury.[36] Jonathan Swift, for example, wrote in 1713 about "those who are now commonly called Prime Minister among us", referring to Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin and Robert Harley, Queen Anne's Lord Treasurers and chief ministers.[37] Since 1721, every head of the Sovereign's government – with one exception in the 18th century (William Pitt the Elder) and one in the 19th (Lord Salisbury) – has been First Lord of the Treasury.

Political parties first appeared during the Exclusion Crisis of 1678–1681. The Whigs, who believed in limited monarchy, wanted to exclude James, Duke of York, from succeeding to the throne because he was a Roman Catholic. The Tories, who believed in the "Divine Right of Kings", defended James's hereditary claim.

Political parties were not well organised or disciplined in the 17th century.

The modern Prime Minister is also the leader of the Cabinet. A convention of the constitution, the modern Cabinet is a group of ministers who formulate policies.[38] As the political heads of government departments Cabinet Ministers ensure that policies are carried out by permanent civil servants. Although the modern Prime Minister selects Ministers, appointment still rests with the Sovereign.[39] With the Prime Minister as its leader, the Cabinet forms the executive branch of government.[2]

The term "Cabinet" first appears after the Revolutionary Settlement to describe those ministers who conferred privately with the Sovereign.

Both William and Anne appointed and dismissed Cabinet members, attended meetings, made decisions, and followed up on actions.

Although the first three Hanoverians rarely attended Cabinet meetings they insisted on their prerogatives to appoint and dismiss ministers and to direct policy even if from outside the Cabinet.

British governments (or Ministries) are generally formed by one party.

Early in his reign, William III (1689–1702) preferred "Mixed Ministries" (or coalitions) consisting of both Tories and Whigs. William thought this composition would dilute the power of any one party and also give him the benefit of differing points of view. However, this approach did not work well because the members could not agree on a leader or on policies, and often worked at odds with each other.

In 1697, William formed a homogeneous Whig ministry.

Anne (1702–1714) followed this pattern but preferred Tory Cabinets.

William's and Anne's experiments with the political composition of the Cabinet illustrated the strengths of one party government and the weaknesses of coalition and minority governments.

Despite the "one party" convention, prime ministers may still be called upon to lead either minority or coalition governments.

A hung parliament may also lead to the formation of a coalition government in which two or more parties negotiate a joint programme to command a majority in the Commons. Coalitions have also been formed during times of national crisis such as war. Under such circumstances, the parties agree to temporarily set aside their political differences and to unite to face the national crisis. Coalitions are rare: since 1721, there have been fewer than a dozen.

When the general election of 2010 produced a hung parliament, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties agreed to form the Cameron–Clegg coalition, the first coalition in seventy years. The previous coalition in the UK before 2010 was led by Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill during most of the Second World War, from May 1940 to May 1945. Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, served as deputy Prime Minister.[47] After the general election of 2015, the nation returned to one party government after the Tories won an outright majority.

The Premiership is still largely a convention of the constitution; its legal authority is derived primarily from the fact that the Prime Minister is also First Lord of the Treasury.

When George I succeeded to the British throne in 1714, his German ministers advised him to leave the office of Lord High Treasurer vacant because those who had held it in recent years had grown overly powerful, in effect, replacing the Sovereign as head of the government. They also feared that a Lord High Treasurer would undermine their own influence with the new King. They therefore suggested that he place the office in "commission", meaning that a committee of five ministers would perform its functions together. Theoretically, this dilution of authority would prevent any one of them from presuming to be the head of the government. The King agreed and created the Treasury Commission consisting of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Second Lord, and three Junior Lords.

No one has been appointed Lord High Treasurer since 1714; it has remained in commission for three hundred years.

Early prime ministers

Since the office evolved rather than being instantly created, it may not be totally clear-cut who the first prime minister was.

In 1720, the South Sea Company, created to trade in cotton, agricultural goods and slaves, collapsed, causing the financial ruin of thousands of investors and heavy losses for many others, including members of the royal family. King George I called on Robert Walpole, well known for his political and financial acumen, to handle the emergency. With considerable skill and some luck, Walpole acted quickly to restore public credit and confidence, and led the country out of the crisis. A year later, the king appointed him First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House of Commons – making him the most powerful minister in the government. Ruthless, crude, and hard-working, he had a "sagacious business sense" and was a superb manager of men.[49] At the head of affairs for the next two decades, Walpole stabilised the nation's finances, kept it at peace, made it prosperous, and secured the Hanoverian Succession.[50][51]

Walpole demonstrated for the first time how a chief minister – a prime minister – could be the actual head of the government under the new constitutional framework.

For all his contributions, Walpole was not a prime minister in the modern sense.

For these reasons, there was a reluctance to use the title.

Denials of the premiership's legal existence continued throughout the 19th century.

By the turn of the 20th century the premiership had become, by convention, the most important position in the constitutional hierarchy.

In 1905 the position was given some official recognition when the "Prime Minister" was named in the order of precedence, outranked, among non-royals, only by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Lord Chancellor.[66]

The first Act of Parliament to mention the premiership – albeit in a schedule – was the Chequers Estate Act on 20 December 1917.[67] This law conferred the Chequers Estate owned by Sir Arthur and Lady Lee, as a gift to the Crown for use as a country home for future prime ministers.

Unequivocal legal recognition was given in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937, which made provision for payment of a salary to the person who is both "the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister". Explicitly recognising two hundred years' of ambivalence, the Act states that it intended "To give statutory recognition to the existence of the position of prime minister, and to the historic link between the premiership and the office of First Lord of the Treasury, by providing in respect to that position and office a salary of..." The Act made a distinction between the "position" (prime minister) and the "office" (First Lord of the Treasury), emphasising the unique political character of the former. Nevertheless, the brass plate on the door of the prime minister's home, 10 Downing Street, still bears the title of "First Lord of the Treasury", as it has since the 18th century as it is officially the home of the First Lord and not the Prime Minister.[68][69]

Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 1801

Following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the British prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, believed the solution to rising Irish nationalism was a union of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. Britain then included England and Wales and Scotland, but Ireland had its own parliament and government, which were firmly Anglo-Irish and did not represent the aspirations of most Irishmen. For this and other reasons, Pitt advanced his policy, and after some difficulty in persuading the Irish political class to surrender its control of Ireland under the Constitution of 1782, the new union was created by the Acts of Union 1800. With effect from 1 January 1801, Great Britain and Ireland were united into a single kingdom, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Parliament of Ireland came to an end, and until 1922 British ministers were responsible for all three kingdoms of the British Isles.[70]

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, which was to be put into effect within one year, the enactment of the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 was concluded on 5 December 1922, creating the Irish Free State. Bonar Law, who had been in office as prime minister of Great Britain and Ireland for only six weeks, and who had just won the general election of November 1922, thus became the last prime minister whose responsibilities covered both Britain and the whole of Ireland. Most of a parliamentary session beginning on 20 November was devoted to the Act, and Bonar Law pushed through the creation of the Free State in the face of opposition from the "die hards".[71][72]

"First among equals"

Despite the reluctance to legally recognise the Premiership, ambivalence toward it waned in the 1780s.

From this time, there was a growing acceptance of the position of Prime Minister and the title was more commonly used, if only unofficially.[45][73] Associated initially with the Whigs, the Tories started to accept it. Lord North, for example, who had said the office was "unknown to the constitution", reversed himself in 1783 when he said, "In this country some one man or some body of men like a Cabinet should govern the whole and direct every measure."[74][75] In 1803, William Pitt the Younger, also a Tory, suggested to a friend that "this person generally called the first minister" was an absolute necessity for a government to function, and expressed his belief that this person should be the minister in charge of the finances.[56]

The Tories' wholesale conversion started when Pitt was confirmed as Prime Minister in the election of 1784.

Their conversion was reinforced after 1810.

The Tories were in power for almost 50 years, except for a Whig ministry from 1806 to 1807.

Under this form of government, called the Westminster system, the Sovereign is head of state and titular head of Her Majesty's Government. She selects as her Prime Minister the person who is able to command a working majority in the House of Commons, and invites him or her to form a government. As the actual Head of Government, the Prime Minister selects his Cabinet, choosing its members from among those in Parliament who agree or generally agree with his intended policies. He then recommends them to the Sovereign who confirms his selections by formally appointing them to their offices. Led by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is collectively responsible for whatever the government does. The Sovereign does not confer with members privately about policy, nor attend Cabinet meetings. With respect to actual governance, the monarch has only three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn.[78] In practice this means that the Sovereign reviews state papers and meets regularly with the Prime Minister, usually weekly, when she may advise and warn him or her regarding the proposed decisions and actions of Her Government.[79]

The modern British system includes not only a government formed by the majority party (or coalition of parties) in the House of Commons but also an organised and open opposition formed by those who are not members of the governing party.[60] Called Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, they occupy the benches to the Speaker's left. Seated in the front, directly across from the ministers on the Treasury Bench, the leaders of the opposition form a "Shadow Government", complete with a salaried "Shadow Prime Minister", the Leader of the Opposition, ready to assume office if the government falls or loses the next election.

Opposing the King's government was considered disloyal, even treasonous, at the end of the 17th century.

Informally recognized for over a century as a convention of the constitution, the position of Leader of the Opposition was given statutory recognition in 1937 by the Ministers of the Crown Act.

British prime ministers have never been elected directly by the public.

Since 1722, most prime ministers have been members of the Commons; since 1902, all have had a seat there.[6] Like other members, they are elected initially to represent only a constituency.

Neither the Sovereign nor the House of Lords had any meaningful influence over who was elected to the Commons in 1997 or in deciding whether or not Blair would become Prime Minister. Their detachment from the electoral process and the selection of the Prime Minister has been a convention of the constitution for almost 200 years.

Prior to the 19th century, however, they had significant influence, using to their advantage the fact that most citizens were disenfranchised and seats in the Commons were allocated disproportionately.

In 1830, Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and a life-long Whig, became Prime Minister and was determined to reform the electoral system. For two years, he and his Cabinet fought to pass what has come to be known as the Great Reform Bill of 1832.[84][85] The greatness of the Great Reform Bill lay less in substance than in symbolism. As John Bright, a liberal statesman of the next generation, said, "It was not a good Bill, but it was a great Bill when it passed."[86] Substantively, it increased the franchise by 65% to 717,000; with the middle class receiving most of the new votes. The representation of 56 rotten boroughs was eliminated completely, together with half the representation of 30 others; the freed up seats were distributed to boroughs created for previously disenfranchised areas. However, many rotten boroughs remained and it still excluded millions of working-class men and all women.[87][88]

Symbolically, however, the Reform Act exceeded expectations.

First, the Act removed the sovereign from the election process and the choice of prime minister.

Second, the Bill reduced the Lords' power by eliminating many of their pocket boroughs and creating new boroughs in which they had no influence.

Ultimately, this erosion of power led to the Parliament Act 1911, which marginalised the Lords' role in the legislative process and gave further weight to the convention that had developed over the previous century[7] that a Prime Minister cannot sit in the House of Lords. The last to do so was Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, from 1895 to 1902.[8] Throughout the 19th century, governments led from the Lords had often suffered difficulties governing alongside ministers who sat in the Commons.[90]

Grey set an example and a precedent for his successors.

The Loyal Opposition acquiesced too.

The premiership was a reclusive office prior to 1832.

After the passage of the Great Reform Bill, the nature of the position changed: Prime ministers had to go out among the people. The Bill increased the electorate to 717,000. Subsequent legislation (and population growth) raised it to 2 million in 1867, 5.5 million in 1884 and 21.4 million in 1918. As the franchise increased, power shifted to the people and prime ministers assumed more responsibilities with respect to party leadership. It naturally fell on them to motivate and organise their followers, explain party policies, and deliver its "message". Successful leaders had to have a new set of skills: to give a good speech, present a favourable image, and interact with a crowd. They became the "voice", the "face" and the "image" of the party and ministry.

Robert Peel, often called the "model Prime Minister",[92] was the first to recognise this new role.

Benjamin Disraeli and William Ewart Gladstone developed this new role further by projecting "images" of themselves to the public. Known by their nicknames "Dizzy" and the "Grand Old Man", their colourful, sometimes bitter, personal and political rivalry over the issues of their time – Imperialism vs. Anti-Imperialism, expansion of the franchise, labour reform, and Irish Home Rule – spanned almost twenty years until Disraeli's death in 1881.[9] Documented by the penny press, photographs and political cartoons, their rivalry linked specific personalities with the Premiership in the public mind and further enhanced its status.

Each created a different public image of himself and his party.

Gladstone went beyond image by appealing directly to the people.

Campaigning directly to the people became commonplace.

Modern premiership

In addition to being the leader of a great political party and the head of Her Majesty's Government, the modern Prime Minister directs the law-making process, enacting into law his or her party's programme.

From its appearance in the fourteenth century Parliament has been a bicameral legislature consisting of the Commons and the Lords.

For most of the history of the Upper House, Lords Temporal were landowners who held their estates, titles and seats as a hereditary right passed down from one generation to the next – in some cases for centuries.

Until 1911, Prime Ministers had to guide legislation through the Commons and the Lords and obtain majority approval in both houses for it to become law.

In 1906, the Liberal party, led by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, won an overwhelming victory on a platform that promised social reforms for the working class. With 379 seats compared to the Conservatives' 132, the Liberals could confidently expect to pass their legislative programme through the Commons.[100][101] At the same time, however, the Conservative Party had a huge majority in the Lords; it could easily veto any legislation passed by the Commons that was against their interests.[102]

For five years, the Commons and the Lords fought over one bill after another.

In 1910, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith[11] introduced a bill "for regulating the relations between the Houses of Parliament" which would eliminate the Lords' veto power over legislation. Passed by the Commons, the Lords rejected it. In a general election fought on this issue, the Liberals were weakened but still had a comfortable majority. At Asquith's request, King George V then threatened to create a sufficient number of new Liberal Peers to ensure the bill's passage. Rather than accept a permanent Liberal majority, the Conservative Lords yielded, and the bill became law.[104]

The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the Commons. It provided that the Lords could not delay for more than one month any bill certified by the Speaker of the Commons as a money bill. Furthermore, the Act provided that any bill rejected by the Lords would nevertheless become law if passed by the Commons in three successive sessions provided that two years had elapsed since its original passage. The Lords could still delay or suspend the enactment of legislation but could no longer veto it.[105][106] Subsequently the Lords "suspending" power was reduced to one year by the Parliament Act 1949.

Indirectly, the Act enhanced the already dominant position of Prime Minister in the constitutional hierarchy.

The presidentialisation thesis rests on the Prime Minister becoming more detached from Cabinet, party and Parliament and operating as if the occupant of the office is elected directly by the people.[107] The thesis is usually presented with comparisons to the American Presidency. Thomas Poguntke and Paul Webb define it as: "the development of increasing leadership power resources and autonomy within the party and the political executive respectively, and increasingly leadership-centered electoral processes".[108]

The classic view of Cabinet Government was laid out by Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution (1867) in which he described the Prime Minister as the primus‐inter‐pares ("first among equals").[109] This view was challenged in The British Cabinet by John P. Mackintosh, who instead used the terminology of Prime Ministerial Government to describe the British government.[110] This transformation, according to Mackintosh primarily resulted because of the diminishing role of the Cabinet Ministers and because of centralisation of the party machine and the bureaucracy.[110] Richard Crossman also alluded to the presidentialisation of British politics in the Introduction to the 1963 version of Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution.[111] Crossman mentions the World War II, and its immediate aftermath as a water-shed moment for Britain that led to immense accumulation of power in the hands of the British Prime Minister[111] These powers, according to Crossman, are so immense that their study require the use of presidential parallels.[111]

The thesis has been most popularised by Michael Foley, who wrote two books, namely, The Rise of the British Presidency, and The British Presidency: Tony Blair and the Politics of Public Leadership that are solely dedicated to the subject of presidentialisation in Britain.[112]The%20Rise%20of%20the%20British%20Pr]][113] Foley writes:

The thesis has been widely applied to the premiership of Tony Blair as many sources such as former ministers have suggested that decision-making was controlled by him and Gordon Brown, and the Cabinet was no longer used for decision-making.[114] Former ministers such as Clare Short and Chris Smith have criticised the lack of decision-making power in Cabinet. When she resigned, Short denounced "the centralisation of power into the hands of the Prime Minister and an increasingly small number of advisers".[115] Graham Allen (a Government Whip during Tony Blair's first government) made the case in The Last Prime Minister: Being Honest About the UK Presidency (2003) that in fact the office of prime minister has presidential powers.[116]

However, the presidentialisation thesis has been extensively criticised as well.

Other academics who have criticised the thesis have pointed to the structural and constitutional differences between Britain and the United States.

Moreover, it should also be noted that the power that a Prime Minister has over his or her Cabinet colleagues is directly proportional to the amount of support that they have with their political parties and this is often related to whether the party considers them to be an electoral asset or liability.

When commissioned by the Sovereign, a potential Prime Minister's first requisite is to "form a Government" – to create a cabinet of ministers that has the support of the House of Commons, of which they are expected to be a member.

The Prime Minister will appoint all other cabinet members (who then become active Privy Counsellors) and ministers, although consulting senior ministers on their junior ministers, without any Parliamentary or other control or process over these powers.

Although the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is legally the Sovereign, under constitutional practice the Prime Minister can declare war, and through the Secretary of State for Defence (a position which the PM may appoint, dismiss or even appoint themselves to), as chair of the Defence Council, exert power over the deployment and disposition of the UK's forces.

The Prime Minister makes all the most senior Crown appointments, and most others are made by Ministers over whom the PM has the power of appointment and dismissal.

Peerages, knighthoods, and most other honours are bestowed by the Sovereign only on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister appoints officials known as the "Government Whips", who negotiate for the support of MPs and to discipline dissenters.

However, even a government with a healthy majority can on occasion find itself unable to pass legislation.

Formerly, a Prime Minister whose government lost a Commons vote would be regarded as fatally weakened, and the whole government would resign, usually precipitating a general election.

Likewise, a Prime Minister is no longer just "first amongst equals" in HM Government; although theoretically the Cabinet might still outvote the PM, in practice the PM progressively entrenches his or her position by retaining only personal supporters in the Cabinet.

Precedence, privileges and form of address

By tradition, before a new Prime Minister can occupy 10 Downing Street, they are required to announce to the country and the world that they have "kissed hands" with the reigning monarch, and have thus become Prime Minister. This is usually done by saying words to the effect of:

Throughout the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister outranks all other dignitaries except members of the Royal Family, the Lord Chancellor, and senior ecclesiastical figures.[12]

In 2010 the Prime Minister received £142,500 including a salary of £65,737 as a member of parliament.[127] Until 2006, the Lord Chancellor was the highest paid member of the government, ahead of the Prime Minister. This reflected the Lord Chancellor's position at the head of the judicial pay scale. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 eliminated the Lord Chancellor's judicial functions and also reduced the office's salary to below that of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is customarily a member of the Privy Council and thus entitled to the appellation "The Right Honourable". Membership of the Council is retained for life. It is a constitutional convention that only a Privy Counsellor can be appointed Prime Minister. Most potential candidates have already attained this status. The only case when a non-Privy Counsellor was the natural appointment was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. The issue was resolved by appointing him to the Council immediately prior to his appointment as Prime Minister.

According to the now defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Prime Minister is made a Privy Counsellor as a result of taking office and should be addressed by the official title prefixed by "The Right Honourable" and not by a personal name. Although this form of address is employed on formal occasions, it is rarely used by the media. As "Prime Minister" is a position, not a title, the incumbent should be referred to as "the Prime Minister". The title "Prime Minister" (e.g. "Prime Minister Boris Johnson") is technically incorrect but is sometimes used erroneously outside the United Kingdom, and has more recently become acceptable within it.[128] Within the UK, the expression "Prime Minister Johnson" is never used, although it, too, is sometimes used by foreign dignitaries and news sources.

10 Downing Street, in London, has been the official place of residence of the Prime Minister since 1732; they are entitled to use its staff and facilities, including extensive offices. Chequers, a country house in Buckinghamshire, gifted to the government in 1917, may be used as a country retreat for the Prime Minister.

Living former prime ministers

There are five living former British prime ministers:

Upon retirement, it is customary for the Sovereign to grant a Prime Minister some honour or dignity.

Historically it has also been common to grant prime ministers a peerage upon retirement from the Commons, elevating the individual to the Lords. Formerly, the peerage bestowed was usually an earldom.[14] The last such creation was for Harold Macmillan, who resigned in 1963. Unusually, he became Earl of Stockton only in 1984, over twenty years after leaving office.

Macmillan's successors, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher all accepted life peerages (although Douglas-Home had previously disclaimed his hereditary title as Earl of Home). Edward Heath did not accept a peerage of any kind and nor have any of the prime ministers to retire since 1990; although Heath and Major were later appointed as Knights of the Garter.

The most recent former Prime Minister to die was Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990) on 8 April 2013.

See also

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