Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (UK)

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Deputy Leader of the
Labour Party
Tom Watson - Minister and UK MP.jpg
Tom Watson MP

since 12 September 2015
Appointer Labour Party
Inaugural holder John Robert Clynes
Formation 1922

The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is a senior politician in the British Labour Party. The post is currently held by Tom Watson, who was elected as deputy on 12 September 2015.

Unlike other political party leaders, the Labour leader does not have the power to appoint or dismiss his or her deputy. The post is instead elected using the party's electoral college system; it was elected by Labour MPs before 1981.

Recently, the office of Deputy Prime Minister has been revived and held by senior politicians in the governing party. The previous Labour deputy leader, John Prescott, held this post from 1997 to 2007. However, the deputy leader is essentially a party official and there is no constitutional link between the two roles. The former Labour British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced on his formal election as Labour leader that the newly elected deputy leader, Harriet Harman, would instead become Party Chair. Brown subsequently appointed her Leader of the House of Commons in his first cabinet.

In the event of a vacancy in the office of leader when the Labour Party is in opposition, the deputy leader automatically becomes temporary leader of the Party until a new leader is elected. If a vacancy in the leadership occurs while the Labour Party is in government, then the Cabinet, in consultation with the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, chooses a new leader, who serves until a new leader is elected.[1]

To date, the only Deputy Leaders who have gone on to become the elected leader of the Labour Party are Clement Attlee and Michael Foot. Margaret Beckett briefly served as Labour leader following the unexpected death of John Smith in 1994. Harriet Harman was leader after Gordon Brown resigned in 2010 and after Ed Miliband resigned in 2015. Conversely, John Robert Clynes served as leader prior to becoming Deputy Leader.

List of Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party

Portrait Constituency Term began Term ended Concurrent Office(s)
1 John Robert Clynes
Jrclynes.jpg Manchester Platting
Lost seat 1931
22 November 1922 25 October 1932 Home Secretary
2 William Graham
(jointly with Clynes)
No image.png Edinburgh Central
Lost seat 1931
8 October 1931 8 January 1932
Died in office
President of the Board of Trade
3 Clement Attlee
Attlee BW cropped.jpg Limehouse 25 October 1932 25 October 1935
Elected Leader
4 Arthur Greenwood
120px Wakefield 26 November 1935 25 May 1945 Minister without portfolio
5 Herbert Morrison
HerbertMorrison2.jpg Lewisham East then
Lewisham South
25 May 1945 2 February 1956 Deputy Prime Minister
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Leader of the House of Commons
6 Jim Griffiths
120px Llanelli 14 December 1955 4 May 1959 None
7 Aneurin Bevan
Ebbw Vale 4 May 1959 6 July 1960
Died in office
8 George Brown
120px Belper
Lost seat 1970
15 July 1960 18 June 1970
Lost seat
First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
9 Roy Jenkins
120px Birmingham Stechford 8 July 1970 10 April 1972 Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
10 Edward Short
No image.png Newcastle upon Tyne Central 25 April 1972 21 October 1976 Leader of the House of Commons
11 Michael Foot
Michael Foot (1981).jpg Ebbw Vale 21 October 1976 4 November 1980
Elected Leader
Leader of the House of Commons
12 Denis Healey
Denis Healey.jpg Leeds East 4 November 1980 2 October 1983 Shadow Foreign Secretary
13 Roy Hattersley
(born 1932)
120px Birmingham Sparkbrook 2 October 1983 18 July 1992 Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Shadow Home Secretary
14 Margaret Beckett
(born 1943)
120px Derby South 18 July 1992 21 July 1994 Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
15 John Prescott
(born 1938)
John Prescott on his last day as Deputy Prime Minister, June 2007.jpg Hull East 21 July 1994 24 June 2007 Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
16 Harriet Harman
(born 1950)
120px Camberwell and Peckham 24 June 2007 12 September 2015 Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Privy Seal
Minister for Women and Equalities
Labour Party Chair
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Shadow Deputy Prime Minister
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Leader of the Opposition
17 Tom Watson
(born 1967)
Tom Watson - Minister and UK MP.jpg West Bromwich East 12 September 2015 Incumbent Shadow minister for the Cabinet Office
Labour Party Chair


  1. Labour Party Rule Book 2013, Chapter 4, clause II.2.E.i and iv.