UK Prime Ministers with the Shortest Term Length
After six weeks that many have described as “chaotic”, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has resigned. In stepping out of the PM role, Truss is stepping into the history books as the shortest-serving PM in UK history.
While Truss’s term is noteworthy for its briefness, she is not the only politician to have a whirlwind tour of Number 10 Downing Street. Of the 56 people who have held the PM position, eight have served less than a year:
|Prime Minister||Length of Term||Party||Start of Tenure||Reason for Exit|
|Liz Truss||44 days||Conservative||2022||Resigned|
|George Canning||119 days||Tory (Canningite)||1827||Died|
|F. J. Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich||144 days||Tory (Canningite)||1827||Replaced|
|Andrew Bonar Law||211 days||Conservative (Scot. Unionist)||1922||Illness|
|W. Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire||225 days||Whig||1756||Replaced|
|W. Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne||266 days||Whig (Chathamite)||1782||Replaced|
|J. Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute||317 days||Tory||1762||Resigned|
|Sir Alec Douglas-Home||363 days||Conservative (Scot. Unionist)||1963||Election|
The next shortest term in the post-war period goes to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who served just a hair under one year.
Why So Short?
There are a variety of reasons why leaders have served such short terms.
Much like Liz Truss’s situation, PMs like John Stuart, third Earl of Bute, and Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton, ended up resigning during turbulent political situations.
Others, such as George Canning and Andrew Bonar Law, had their terms cut short after succumbing to illness. (Thankfully, this is less common in the modern era.)
Some leaders were merely keeping the seat warm until a more permanent leader stepped into the role, as was the case with William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire.
A Global Look at Brevity in Office
Of course, short tenures are not unique to the UK. Truss’s departure is drawing comparisons to Kim Campbell and John Turner, who were Canadian PMs for 132 and 72 days, respectively.
In 2007, Kevin Rudd’s second stint as Australia’s PM lasted just 83 days. Australia even has a 7 day term in its history, as Frank Forde served as PM in a caretaker capacity after the death of John Curtin in 1945.
Japan is a country that has notably short tenures in office as well. Over the past three decades, the average length of a Japanese prime minister’s tenure has been under two years.