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Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 23:13 UK

Churchill tops PM choice

Newsnight asked you to help decide the UK's greatest and worst post-war prime minister.

We received more than 27,000 votes and below are the results. Click on the name of each former prime minister to find out more about them.

1. Winston Churchill
2. Clement Attlee
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. Harold Macmillan
5. Harold Wilson
6. Tony Blair
7. Edward Heath
8. John Major
9. James Callaghan
10. Alec Douglas-Home
11. Anthony Eden
12. Gordon Brown

1: WINSTON CHURCHILL 1951-55

War leader Winston Churchill returned to power in 1951.

Britain's great war Prime Minister, and exception to almost every rule: he served five years as Prime Minister before leading his party at an election; he lost his first election as party leader in a landslide; and only "won" at his third attempt where he gained more MPs but fewer votes than Labour. Few of his successors have such poor electoral records; few have such iconic achievements to their name.

First elected as a Conservative in 1900, he switched sides and served under Liberal leaders Asquith and Lloyd George, before switching back to the Conservative Party where he was regarded as a gloomy eccentric for his warnings about Nazi Germany and support for rearmament.

Clement Attlee, Labour's post-war Prime Minister is credited with the welfare state

The 1945-1951 Government is revered by the Labour Party, and along with Thatcher's Government did more to shape modern Britain than any other (the welfare state, social housing, the NHS etc). Clement Attlee was admired for his quiet, determined style.

"A modest man with much to be modest about," was Churchill's damning judgement, although in three head-to-head contests he never got more votes than the modest man. Attlee saw his role as balancing the different factions within the party and managing his Cabinet, particularly the so-called "big five" (Morrison, Dalton, Cripps, Bevin and Attlee himself).

Margaret Thatcher ended the post-war consensus and reformed Britain from the right.

Britain's only female Prime Minister is, along with Churchill, the most iconic of all post-war Prime Ministers. Her unbroken 11 years in office were the longest for any prime minister in the 20th century.

She is credited with transforming the British economy and society, and reasserting British power through the Falklands war and her strong alliance with the USA; she is also reviled in many areas for dividing the country into "us" and "them" and abandoning communities struggling with huge economic changes to their fate.

Margaret Thatcher began as much as an insurgent against her party establishment (which she saw as wedded to consensus, compromise and decline) as against Britain's post-war settlement, but it was that party establishment that eventually caught up with her after she lost her Chancellor (Lawson) and Deputy PM (Howe) in quick succession over European policy and found herself dangerously isolated in Cabinet.

She remains the only post-war Prime Minister to be publicly forced from office by their party (although others went seeing the writing on the wall), something which haunted her party long after she had gone.

Harold Macmillan took the Conservatives to a 100 seat majority at the 1959 election.

Epitome of the "you've never had it so good" (from a 1957 speech) 1950s "Supermac" cultivated an aristocratic, country squire image, although he himself was from newish money.

He is politically remembered for the "night of the long knives" when a desire to move a troublesome Chancellor and reassert his authority ended with him sacking a third (seven) of his cabinet.

Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe memorably reacted by saying: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his friends for his life."

He left office in 1963 after being badly damaged by the Profumo affairs and being (incorrectly) diagnosed with inoperable cancer. In the event he lived until 1986 and took over his family publishing company upon leaving politics.

Harold Wilson won four out of five elections and oversaw many social reforms.

Just as Tony Blair would 33 years later, Harold Wilson entered Downing Street promising to modernise Britain and make it a less stuffy, less class-obsessed country.

In the event his first Government is most widely remembered for social reforms such as legalising homosexuality and abortion, abolishing capital punishment and making divorce easier.

Originally a "Bevanite" from the left of the party (he resigned from Attlee's Government along with Bevan), Wilson moved to the centre without ever becoming part of the party establishment.

His conspiratorial style did manage his party, although critics charge it was at the expense of having the leading figures at each others' throats. At his lowest moment in 1969 he famously said: "I know what is going on; I am going on."

The Iraq war came to dominate the term of Labour's longest serving prime minister.

Labour's longest serving Prime Minister, and along with Macmillan and Thatcher he left office undefeated at a General Election.

He was the culmination of a long period of change in the Labour Party as it slowly re-orientated itself following the traumas of the 1980s, and he symbolically re-wrote the Party's constitution to end its commitment to public ownership.

However from the start of his second term it was his decision to staunchly back the war in Iraq that came to dominate his premiership and deeply divided his party and the country.

Weakened by the 2005 General Election which many Labour MPs saw as being won because of Gordon Brown's economy and despite Tony Blair's foreign wars, he was forced to name a leaving date following a series of resignations by junior government members in September 2006.

However in the end he almost did manage to leave, in the words of a much-mocked memo, "like a rock star, with the crowds wanting more".

Edward Heath took Britain into the Common Market and faced industrial unrest.

Heath won the Conservative leadership after Sir Alec Douglas-Home changed the rules to allow Conservative MPs for the first time a vote on their leader (prior to that the leader "emerged" from soundings).

Despite leading the party to a decisive defeat in 1966 he remained party leader and won in 1970 despite trailing in the polls. In response to a miners' strike in 1974 he called an election on "who governs Britain" and lost, despite gaining more votes than Labour.

Best known for sacking Enoch Powell following his "Rivers of Blood" speech in 1968 and taking Britain into the European Union (for which some modern Conservatives have not forgiven him), he resigned after failing to defeat a challenge by Margaret Thatcher on the first round in 1975 (just as she would 15 years later).

He remained politically active until retiring from the Commons in 2001. His bad relations with Thatcher were known as "the longest sulk in history".

John Major's government was undermined by scandal and economic problems.

Despite serving longer than all post-war Prime Ministers except Thatcher, Blair and Wilson (although longer in one stretch than Wilson) and the Conservative Party receiving more votes in 1992 than any other party has achieved before or since, John Major has not generally been kindly dealt with by historians.

He had a gentler, more collegiate style than his predecessor, but his Government was wracked by deep divisions over Europe, a series of scandals and he faced an opposition invigorated under a young leader.

James Callaghan is often remembered for the election he never called in 1978 and might have won.

"Gentleman Jim" had done all three major jobs in Government (Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor) before becoming Prime Minister in 1976 by defeating three more modernising candidates (Healey, Jenkins and Crosland) and two left-wingers (Foot and Benn).

Always personally popular (his personal polling figures were always higher than Margaret Thatcher's) he is now widely thought to have made a fatal error in delaying an election in autumn 1978 (singing "waiting at the church" to the TUC conference) and so allowing the "winter of discontent" to undermine Labour's main argument that they were better placed to manage the unions.

Alec Douglas-Home served as Prime Minister at the end of the Tories' 13 years of rule.

Britain's shortest serving Prime Minister since the war, he was related distantly to the royal family and educated at Eton and Oxford.

His defeat at the hands of the self-proclaimed "man of the people" Harold Wilson so scarred the Tories that it was not until Iain Duncan Smith 38 years later that they chose another privately educated leader, and not until David Cameron 42 years later that they repeated the pattern.

Unlike Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, both of whom proved a thorn in the side of their successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home was widely praised for serving in Ted Heath's Shadow Cabinet and then as his Foreign Secretary without rancour.

Anthony Eden had 'waited in the wings' for a long time to become prime minister.

Churchill's longstanding heir apparent and Foreign Secretary, he called a snap election upon becoming PM which he won. He then launched a disastrous military intervention in Egypt, lost the confidence of his party, suffered from ill health (retreating to Ian Fleming's Jamaican estate in November 1956) and resigned after serving only 21 months.

Eden was described by rival Rab Butler as "half mad baronet; half beautiful woman". His initial Cabinet is primarily remembered for the fact that ten of its 18 members were educated at Eton.

Gordon Brown originally stood aside to allow Tony Blair to lead the Labour party.

Gordon Brown's place entry is not yet written, although if he wins the next election it will rank as the greatest comeback in this list. He has already served longer than Sir Alec Douglas-Home and next Spring he will just pip Anthony Eden.

His 11 years as Chancellor or Prime Minister (16 years if you include his time as Shadow Chancellor) is a remarkable period at the top of the political tree, but he took power too late to help the Labour Party avoid the backlash to the Iraq war, and many now think he was the wrong man for the party to transform itself fundamentally, Sarkozy-style, while in power.



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