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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Longest-serving chancellors

Appointed on 2 May 1997, Gordon Brown has become the longest-serving chancellor since the Liberal, William Gladstone in the 19th Century, but who holds the record for the longest-serving chancellor of all?

These chancellors were all reluctant to let go of the nation's purse strings.

  • William Gladstone 1852-82 (not continuous)

    In the 19th Century, William Gladstone was chancellor for a total of 12 years and four months between 1852 and 1882.

    Mr Gladstone, who combined the office with that of Prime Minister, was also famous for giving the longest-ever Budget speech, at over four hours.

    As the leading Liberal of his day, Mr Gladstone emphasised the virtues of balanced budgets and free trade.

    He laid down the foundations of the modern Treasury with an efficient civil service and a centralised tax system.

  • David Lloyd George 1908-15

    David Lloyd George was in office for a total of seven years and 43 days between 1908 and 1915.

    He was also a Liberal - but of a very different sort.

    Lloyd George's campaign to tax the wealthy through a land tax enraged the House of Lords.

    But he helped lay the foundations of the welfare state through his system of old-age pensions and introduced other limited benefits, such as health care, for the working class.

    Under Lloyd George, the state also expanded its role greatly during World War I.

  • Winston Churchill 1924-29

    Winston Churchill served as chancellor from 1924-1929, after he changed parties from the Liberals to the Conservatives.

    His reign as chancellor was not judged a success, however, and damaged his political career.

    Taking a lead from the Bank of England, he put Britain back on the gold standard, which had been abandoned during the First World War.

    But the high rate of exchange for the pound against the dollar damaged British industry and undermined the UK's economic recovery.

    Mr Churchill was severely criticised for his decision by John Maynard Keynes, the leading economist of the time.

    After the Wall Street crash in 1929, Britain left the gold standard for good in 1931.

    Neville Chamberlain 1931-37

    Neville Chamberlain served as Chancellor in the National Government set up after the financial crisis in 1931 which led to the resignation of the Labour government.

    The Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, set up a government of national unity which implemented a series of public spending cuts after Britain was forced to leave the gold standard.

    Mr Chamberlain was a central figure in that National Government, which gradually - and especially after Ramsay MacDonald was replaced by Stanley Baldwin in 1936 - became a Conservative government.

    Mr Chamberlain implemented cuts in means-tested unemployment benefits, and reductions in the salaries of public servants like teachers, which caused much bitterness.

    Another key decision taken by the chancellor was the creation of a system of Imperial Trade Preferences, essentially abandoning Britain's commitment to free trade in favour of protectionism - which added to the problems of the Depression.

    However, he also lowered long-term interest rates, which led to a housing boom in Southern England, and supported slum clearance plans.

  • Denis Healey 1974-79

    Denis Healey, served from 5 March 1974 to 4 May 1979, a stewardship of 5 years, 2 months.

    He was the longest serving Labour Chancellor before Mr Brown.

    But unlike Mr Brown, his term of office corresponded with a series of international economic crises that rocked the British economy, mostly caused by the sudden increase in the price of oil in 1973 and 1979.

    In 1976, Britain was forced to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund to prevent the pound from collapsing on international currency markets.

    The cuts in public spending that were demanded in return for support from the IMF enraged Labour supporters, and signalled the beginning of the end of the "tax and spend" era.

  • Nigel Lawson 1983-89

    Nigel Lawson was appointed on 11 June 1983 and resigned on 26 October 1989, a stewardship of 6 years, 4 months.

    Mr Lawson led Conservative efforts to reform and simplify the tax system, reducing the high rate of tax on the wealthy to just 40% and reducing the basic rate of tax for ordinary citizens.

    His tax cuts in 1987 helped Mrs Thatcher win an unprecedented third term in office.

    But he eventually fell out with her over the issue of whether Britain should join the ERM, the precursor of the euro, which he strongly backed.

    His resignation was one of the key events that eventually led to Mrs Thatcher's fall from power.


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