Labour Leaders

Saturday 28 June 2014

UEA London, 102 Middlesex St, London E1 7EZ

(UEA London is a 5 minute walk from Liverpool Street train station)

Who was the most successful Labour party leader of all time? And who was the worst? If we were to just count general election victories Harold Wilson comes top with four victories. But does this tell the whole story?

The University of East Anglia, Queen Mary University of London and the Political Studies Association Political Leadership group are hosting an event to address these questions. The project will involve leading biographers and experts on each of the Labour party leaders speaking at an event held at the University of East Anglia's London Campus near Liverpool Street on Saturday 28th June 2014. Contributions from these talks will then form part of an edited collection with a leading publisher.

To kick-off the discussion Toby James will give an introductory talk setting out a framework for evaluating leaders. This suggests that we can assess leaders by looking at how successful they were in winning office, or moving their party towards the goal of winning of office during their tenure. It also suggests that it is helpful to think about five key tasks that leaders need to achieve to win elections: developing a winning electoral strategy, a sense of governing competence amongst the electorate, party management, winning the battle of ideas on key policy issues and constitutional management. Rt. Hon Charles Clarke has undertaken a simple statistical analysis of general election performance of the Labour leaders since Keir Hardie and he will present the conclusions in the form of a ‘league table'.

The biographers and experts (listed below) will then present their analysis on all of the Labour leaders to have fought a general election.

The Speakers

Gordon Brown - Steve Richards. Columnist for The Independent, presenter of BBC's Week in Westminster and author of Whatever it takes The definitive account of New Labour's rise and fall.

Tony Blair - John Rentoul. Chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, and author of Tony Blair: Prime Minister.

Neil Kinnock - Martin Westlake. Visiting Fellow, European Institute, London School of Economics and author of Kinnock.

Michael Foot - Ken Morgan. Historian and broadcaster. Author of Michael Foot: A Life.

Jim Callaghan - Peter Kellner. President of YouGov and co-author of Callaghan: The Road to Number Ten.

Harold Wilson - Thomas Hennessy. Professor of Modern British and Irish History at Canterbury Christ Church University, and author of Optimist in a Raincoat: Harold Wilson, 1964-70.

Hugh Gaitskell - Brian Brivati. Professor of contemporary history at Kingston University and author of Hugh Gaitskell.

Clement Attlee - Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds. Author of Attlee: A Life in Politics.

Arthur Henderson – Chris Wrigley. Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Nottingham and author of Arthur Henderson.

Ramsey MacDonald – David Howell. Professor of Politics at the University of York and author of MacDonald's Party.

John Clynes - Phil Woolas. Former Home Office Minister, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and author of J.R. Clynes in The Prime Ministers that Never Were.

William Adamson - Bill Knox. Senior Lecturer, University of St. Andrews and author of many works including Scottish Labour Leaders 1918-1939.

George Barnes - Bill Knox. Senior Lecturer, University of St. Andrews and author of many works including Scottish Labour Leaders 1918-1939.

Keir Hardie - Ken Morgan. Historian and broadcaster. Author of Keir Hardie: Radical and Socialist.


A second event on Conservative Leaders will follow later in the year.



Registration is now closed.

Registration includes a light buffet lunch, refreshments during the day and a drinks reception.

The provisional start time: 9am, end time: 6pm.

The short drinks reception will follow the conclusion of the event.


The conference programme

Download: Programme [PDF]. Please note, this is a draft programme and is subject to change.