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Getting a UK prime minister to lose their seat


Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Nu Yawk
Granted, as a filthy ignorant Yankee, it's totally out of my depth, but I'm curious: Is it possible, and if so how hard, to get a sitting UK prime minister to personally lose their seat in a general election with a POD after World War II? Ideally, it should also be as "clean" as possible, in the sense of not having to rely on a personal scandal/party split that divides what should be their vote/other gimmick.

The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
I think if you somehow managed an SNP surge in a 2010-12 election Gordon Brown becomes a possibility,
That feels too unlikely without breaking the rules about cleanliness. He was just too popular with the sort of people the SNP would need to turn, both locally and nationally. I'd wager he would have held on in 2015 if he'd opted to stand again.

Wasn't Heath's constituency relatively marginal? Maybe have him stagger on as PM after Feb '74 only for the government to collapse around the time of the IMF loan and for him to get up caught up in the resulting Labour landslide?

Alex Richards

She needs an artificial Mountain, not AV
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Wasn't Heath's constituency relatively marginal? Maybe have him stagger on as PM after Feb '74 only for the government to collapse around the time of the IMF loan and for him to get up caught up in the resulting Labour landslide?
Bexley was close in '66. Sidcup was a 23% majority in Feb '74.

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
How many PM seats have ever been held by another party since 1945?

Blair and Brown's seats are currently non labour, of course. Eden's seat fell under Blair and Douglas Home's seat is currently snp territory. Is that it?

I think you have to go for a non otl seat, really.


And, they are racist
A Brown or Greenwood ministry in the ‘60s could fit this, if they did badly enough, but @Alex Richards is right that you essentially do have to cherry-pick a new leader - I think Boris last year is the closest any of the post-war PMs have come and, bluntly, was not close.

Heath that becomes PM-before-he-was-PM could qualify, although I dunno if Macmillan or Douglas-Home holding on a bit longer really sets that up as a possibility.


Abbot of Unreason
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It feels as though there are so many things that must align as to make it far too convenient for any ATL. Just thinking of general scenarios, unpopular coalition holds on to the last moment with the leader of the smaller party as PM as the prospective leaders of the larger party don't want the poisoned chalice and the current PM CBA anymore (Clegg post Yes in indyref?) or how about a Brian Cowen type situation but I'm not sure how 'clean' that is for the purposes of the thread.


Finally grown up
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Amber Rudd takes over in a handwavium-fueled 'the 1922 actually get rid of May' December 2018 scenario where, a la Thatcher Remorse in 1990, MPs accept her as the May successor and she faces off with a non-Boris candidate (Javid) in the final two because the Boris whipping machine that bulldozed everybody else in June 2019 isn't in gear/has been wrongfooted by the ERG actually pulling the trigger when he didn't expect them to, and his star isn't exactly where it was six months later (because, IIRC, it was not - he had a meteoric rise again come January-June and overtook Javid again). It's hard to do, probably impossible – she campaigned so hard and publicly for Remain that she'd be such a tone-deaf choice on that backdrop.

Anyway, she then tries to pass May's Deal But With Go-Faster Stripes Idk, predictably fails, goes to the country and loses Hastings and Rye in the messy three-cornered election people expected to happen before Johnson and Cummings took over. This part seems like it might actually be more plausible than her getting the leadership.

@Coiler, as others have said, this partly demonstrates that you can't really do it without a fair few changes in advance – you have to pick someone, make them PM, and then make them lose their seat. It's just so rare for a PM to become party leader/PM while not already representing a safe seat.


Nicht mein Zirkus, nicht meine Affen.
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It was a good bit of work on Labour's behalf to spunk resorces up the wall on it last year.
To be fair, there weren't that many targets for them in West London. It's a land of quite safe seats.

Having a better candidate might have helped.


Rootless Rōnin
Or else for what wasn't a safe seat to become one once the PM represents it.
I'm reminded of the Crazy Land of Canada, where sitting PM Mackenzie King lost his seat for the Ontario riding of York North in 1925. Still, being the leader of the Liberals, he needn't worry, Charles McDonald who enjoyed a 28.7% majority in the riding of Prince Albert in Saskatchewan duly resigned to allow Mackenzie King to get back into the House of Commons. He won no less than 77.5% in the resulting by-election.

In the federal election that followed in 1926, that dropped to 64.9%.

In the federal election of 1930 it was down to 53.4%.

In 1935, as the Liberals' support increased dramatically across Canada due to anger with how the Conservatives were handling the Depression and the Liberals won a landslide, Mackenzie King's voteshare in his own riding only increased from 53.4% to 54.7%.

In 1940, as the Liberals obtained nationally what was then their best result ever, in Prince Albert, the Liberal vote actually fell further to 46.0%.

And in 1945, as Mackenzie King was emerging from World War 2 as the leader of one of the victorious nations... The Liberal vote in Prince Albert fell to 40.3%, and Mackenzie King actually lost the seat to the CCF.

Mackenzie King managed the remarkable feat of getting a safe seat, and somehow during his time as Prime Minister was able to wear it down to a marginal. In fact, since 1953, no Liberal in Prince Albert has managed better than to come in third. (Well, except for the year 2000.)


Britain expects that every man will do his duty...
My house, in the middle of the street
My first thought seeing this thread on the frontpage (without the post-war caveat) was Herbert Asquith, and he probably is the easiest answer for this. Alternatively, there's Ramsay MacDonald who did lose his seat shortly after standing down, and his son Malcolm who lost his seat at the same election.

Post-war, Harold Macmillan is a possibility if Eden is gotten out of the way and Churchill stands down following the war. Patrick Gordon-Walker is an option too, and I'm sure there are a few more that I'm forgetting.

Ed Costello

Bird of peace with sarcastic overtones
Sea Lion Press staff
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The Pool of Life
Depending how creative one wanted to be, Harold Wilson was initially elected as an MP for Ormskirk, a seat which had long periods of being a Lab-Con (or Lab-NatLab) marginal. Huyton, his second seat, was also a pretty marginal constituency pretty much up until he became Labour leader.

Wilson as MP for Ormskirk does show up in a handful of TLs (Thaxted springs to mind, as it often does with me), so having him suffer an Unpleasant Surprise at some point would be plausible (also I can neither confirm nor deny knowing this stuff for reasons related to a long-forgotten project involving the National Teenage Party)


nec minute
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Published by SLP
On similar lines, a scenario where Gordon Brown wins an upset in Edinburgh South in 1979, holds on as an incumbent in '83, only to lose as PM in 2010 (or possibly 2005). A million butterflies get murdered along the way of course.

For a clean scenario that is probably more plausible on paper than in actuality - Roy Jenkins succeeds Wilson as Labour leader in government c.1972/1973 (following a 1970/1971 election win). Seventies fun and games ensue and Birmingham Stechford is among the seats that turn blue in the next election's wipeout.

If Thatcher goes on, and on, and on... how dicey does Finchley look in 1992? Assume not very, minus the boundary changes of 1997.

Doncaster North just fell to a Redkip-"Chris Grayling's Conservatives" electoral pact in the Dark Miliverse (True Chaos, No You Can't Have Nice Things, Edition).

All of these require a bit of fudge and handwave, because marginal seat MPs generally don't get near party leadership roles (being out of Parliament during opposition years), and if they do then said party has a pretty strong motivation for targeting seat-specific defences. Hence you need a landslide scenario, a deliberately engineered pick of PM, or else something weird of a realignment/hyper-local issue nature to achieve the goal.