Professor Kevin Theakston co-authors article ranking post-war Prime Ministers

The piece published in The Conversation is entitled 'Theresa May joint worst post-war prime minister, say historians and politics professors in new survey'.

Professor Kevin Theakston, Professor of British Government at the University of Leeds, co-authored the article with Mark Gill, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London.

The article in The Conversation summarises the findings of a survey conducted between 1 to 16 June 2021 where respondents rated the performance of post-war Prime Ministers on a scale of zero to ten. The survey was completed by 93 academics from across 44 UK universities. 

According to the survey results, “Labour’s Clement Attlee was rated as the most successful post-war prime minister, with Margaret Thatcher in second place, just ahead of Tony Blair”. While at the opposite end of the scale Theresa May and Anthony Eden placed joint last. The article states “more than a third of academics (37%) rated [Theresa May’s] performance as either zero or one out of ten”.

Three previous surveys were conducted in 2004, 2010 and 2016. The article shows how rankings have altered over this 17-year period. It states, “the failures and successes of later prime ministers – and the passage of time and the later development of events – can change perspectives and evaluations”.

The article proceeds to question whether implicit bias was present from those taking part within the survey and analyses the political views of the respondents. The piece claims “surveys like this one can reveal as much about the academics as about the prime ministers”.

The piece concludes that though opinions may alter in the future, at present the consensus about Theresa May’s premiership is not favourable.

Professor Theakston and Mark Gill have also featured on the London School of Economics British Politics and Policy blog. The piece entitled ‘The league table of post-war leaders of the opposition according to academics: Corbyn not the worst and Starmer trending below Kinnock’, presents the results of a survey where academics gave their individual ratings of each UK leader of the opposition since 1945.