How Kwasi Kwarteng's tenure compares with the shortest-serving chancellors in UK history

Chancellor occupied 11 Downing Street for just 38 days before being sacked

Kwasi Kwarteng, former UK chancellor of the exchequer, departs 11 Downing Street, after stepping down on Friday. Bloomberg.
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Despite lasting just 38 days, Kwasi Kwarteng's tenure as chancellor of the exchequer is only the third shortest in British political history.

Mr Kwarteng's time in office was ultimately cut short after financial markets became concerned by ambitious plans for tax cuts in the middle of a highly challenging global economic outlook.

Iain Macleod spent just 30 days as chancellor before he died of a heart attack in 1970. The Conservative had entered Downing Street as part of Edward Heath's government after serving as shadow chancellor for five years.

Another short-term occupant of 11 Downing Street was Lord Thomas Denman, who acted as interim chancellor for 31 days during Queen Victoria's reign from November 14, 1834 to December 15, 1834.

Iraq-born MP Nadhim Zahawi is also amongst the shortest-serving British chancellors. His time at Number 11 lasted just 63 days, from July 5, 2022 to September 6, 2022.

He was appointed by Boris Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, after the resignation of the previous chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Mr Zahawi, however, just days later urged the prime minister to stand down, ultimately triggering a new leadership election.

Sir George Canning, a long-serving Tory statesman, lasted in the role from April 27, 1827 to August 8, 1827 while concurrently serving as prime minister.

Mr Canning died in office after his health collapsed, making him also Britain's shortest-serving premier.

Kwasi Kwarteng sacked as UK Chancellor - in pictures

On Friday it was announced that Jeremy Hunt would become the UK’s fourth chancellor in just over three months, and the fifth person to hold the role in three years.

The rapid turnover in chancellors is extraordinary by modern historical standards. It is necessary to go back almost 100 years to find a period of similar upheaval.

Between 1921 and 1924 the UK had a total of six chancellors: Austen Chamberlain, whose tenure ended in April 1921; then Robert Horne (April 1921 to October 1922), Stanley Baldwin (October 1922 to August 1923), Neville Chamberlain (August 1923 to January 1924), Philip Snowden (January to November 1924), and Winston Churchill, who took up the job in November 1924.

The recent turnover of chancellors comes after a period in which, typically, one person hold the role for several years.

Just four people served as chancellor in the 22 years between 1997 and 2019: Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Philip Hammond.

This compares with the five chancellors the UK has now had since 2019.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 3:15 PM
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