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New leaders please!

Today’s newspapers don’t make pleasant reading for Ed Miliband.  The Telegraph claims he has been given two years to prove himself. The Mail puts the figure at 15 months. The Sun gives him just a year.

Miliband is not the only leader to find himself under pressure: there is also discussion at Westminster about Nick Clegg’s political future, and whether he is likely to be Lib Dem leader by the time of the next election.

Based on the historical record at least, the chances are that at least one of the main party leaders will not make it to the next election. Leaders can get forced out, they can get voted out, they can decide they’ve had enough, or they can die. A clear majority of post-war parliaments have seen changes in the leadership of one or more of the three main parties, even once the electoral cycle was one year in.

At this point in the last parliament, for example, the main three parties were led by Tony Blair, David Cameron, and Ming Campbell. Of those, only one remained by the time of the next contest. Go back to the Parliament before, and one year in you had Blair, Duncan Smith and Kennedy. Two of those made it to the general election. Before that, one year in, it was Blair, Hague, Ashdown; two of them made it to the election. You have to go back until the Parliament of 1983 to find a parliament when all the incumbent leaders one year in remained in situ come the next election. Of the 14 full-ish length parliaments going back to 1945 – that is, excluding 1950, 1964 and February 1974 – a full ten have seen changes in leadership, even after we were one year into a Parliament.

So based on what we’ve seen since 1945, the probability that it will be Cameron, Miliband and Clegg taking part in any TV debates at the next election is about 30%.

Philip Cowley

Published inBritish PoliticsParty Politics


  1. Do your calculations take into account the extraordinary youthfulness of our current party leaders, I wonder? I did some related number-crunching after Ed Miliband’s victory over his brother, which prompted a bit more in the comments section at

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