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Harold Wilson, Parliament Street, Whitehall, Sign, House of Commons, HM Revenue and Customs, Cabinet, Gordon Brown

How to Become Prime Minister


The Prime Minister is the highest position you can hold in the British Government.

To become Prime Minister there are a number of steps to go through….

  • Get selected as a parliamentary candidate for your chosen political party
  • Fight a General Election and win the most votes, becoming a Member of Parliament for a constituency (area) of voters. Although, there has been one exception, Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
  • Usually, become a member of the ‘backbenches’ in the House of Commons and with the approval of the Leader of your political party work through junior ministerial or ‘shadow’ ministerial positions if your party is not in power. Being a member of the Cabinet, preferably Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary or Home Secretary helps but is not essential, the Westminster bubble throws out all sorts of surprises.
  • Wait for the ‘opportunity’ of a leadership contest. These can be through retirements, death or resignations following scandals, votes of no confidence or election/referendum defeats. If the Prime Minister resigns then this doesn’t automatically mean a new General Election for the country as in Great Britain you elect the party and not the Prime Minister. This was the case when Tony Blair stepped down as PM and Gordon Brown, his Chancellor of the Exchequer took over.
  • Stand in the contest to become the leader of your party and get enough votes based on your parties way of selecting leaders. This could be a vote of party members, current members of parliament and even trade union members. In 2016 Theresa May was selected by Conservative MP’s to become the next leader of the party and therefore PM. The procedure would have seen a vote of party members but after a matter of days she became the only candidate still standing.
  • Run an effective campaign (usually giving a good speech) set out your vision and plans for the party and the country and win!
  • At this point, you will become Prime Minister if your political party is already in Government.
  • If your party is not in power then you become a leader but have to wait for the next General Election, held every five years thanks to the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act. However, as Theresa May discovered in 2017, an election can be held sooner if Parliament votes through with a two-thirds majority. Achieving an election outside the five year period is not a given (just ask Boris Johnson)

You must then run an effective campaign from a position of opposition and aim to win more votes than the current Prime Minister’s political party. This way you can become Prime Minister.


If you don’t achieve this outright i.e. form a majority (but nor do your opponents) then you can club together with other political parties and agree that you will become Prime Minister of a coalition or minority government.

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