Margaret Thatcher named worst prime minister in 100 years

David Cameron trails close behind in poll, with his decision to call an EU referendum securing him second place

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Tuesday 18 October 2016 14:02 BST
Margaret Thatcher when she was still alive and in power
Margaret Thatcher when she was still alive and in power

Margaret Thatcher has been named the worst Prime Minister of the last 100 years, closely beating fellow Conservative David Cameron in a new survey of leading historical writers.

The Historical Writers’ Association (HWA) asked its members to give their views on the last 19 Prime Ministers, in a survey released to mark Theresa May’s 100th day in office on 22 October.

Baroness Thatcher, who died in 2013, came first with 24% of the vote, closely followed by Mr Cameron (22%) and Neville Chamberlain (17%).

Tony Blair took 11% to leave him in fourth spot, while Gordon Brown and Sir Edward Heath were tied for fifth place with 8%.

However, former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown disagreed with the poll, claiming Baroness Thatcher was a “great and necessary destroyer”.

“I disagreed with Mrs Thatcher, I fought her all the way. But I thought she was a great and necessary destroyer, some of those old structures she pulled down had to be pulled down, but what she wasn't was a builder,” he said.

“Oddly enough this will offend some, I put her down as one of the most successful PM's of all time, not because I agreed with her, but because she laid out her stall and she achieved it, and Britain in many ways was stronger afterwards although in many ways it was also weaker, particularly our sense of communities.“

However, voters said Baroness Thatcher’s attitude towards community and society made her eligible for the top spot.

“She destroyed too many good things in society, and created too many bad ones, then left a social and moral vacuum in which the selfishly rich and unimaginatively fortunate could too easily destroy still more of what they don't need and can't see that everyone else does need,” said author Emma Darwin.

Mr Cameron was also heavily criticised by those who took part in the poll, with his decision to call June’s historic EU referendum guaranteeing him second place.

“David Cameron is a mediocrity who's single-handedly brought on the UK's biggest crisis in 75 years,” argued Tom Harper, author and programming chair of the Harrogate International Festival's History Festival, which begins this week.

“Neville Chamberlain had to contend with Hitler, Eden with Nasser: Cameron couldn't see off Nigel Farage.”

Lord Ashdown agreed, saying he believed Mr Cameron was one of the “most dangerous Prime Ministers we’ve had”.

While the Conservatives took a hammering in the poll, members also hit out at Mr Blair for his role in the Iraq war.

“I used to quite like Tony Blair until he told lies about those fictitious ‘weapons of mass destruction' that Saddam was, according to Blair, ready to fire at the west,” says author Sally Zigmond.

“I am against war but Blair's convincing rhetoric made a fool of me and killed thousands of innocent people. Now I don't believe any politicians - left of right.”

HWA chair Imogen Robertson told The Independent: "It's easy to feel overwhelmed by breaking news and instant analysis these days, but the members of the HWA spend their lives studying the ripples that spread out from our leaders and the decisions they make over a much longer period of time.

"We wanted to get their perspective on modern politics, and I think it's clear from the responses that our members see the current divisions in society, political and economic, as growing from deep roots."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in