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British Prime Ministers and the Weather

Nick H

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  • Location: South Pole
  • Location: South Pole


    After all those years waiting, it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib for Gordon Brown.

    The weather, that is.

    In 1997, Tony and Cherie Blair walked past cheering crowds, lapping up the May sunshine following Labour's election victory.

    Outgoing prime minister John Major even spent the afternoon watching cricket at the Oval.

    In fact, the nearest thing to inclemency seen across the UK that day was the ITV show Eye of the Storm, in which Richard Madeley presented "amazing camcorder footage" of tornadoes and hurricanes.

    As the improbably named Texas sheriff Randy Stubblefield told viewers about the destruction wrought by such phenomena, Mr Blair was busy finalising his Cabinet, possibly with a G&T in hand in the garden of Number 10.


    Ten years is a long time in politics - and weather.

    Although much of northern England is suffering from flooding, Mr Brown only had to contend with mild temperatures and spots of drizzle in London.

    Polite well-wishers, wielding umbrellas, gathered outside Buckingham Palace to wave at his ministerial car.

    It was all (dare one say it?) rather dour, the sort of day that makes believers in global warming scratch their heads.

    So, how have other recent premierships got under way, weather-wise?

    Most leaders have had the good fortune to come into power in spring or early summer.

    John Major, unlike his successors, entered Downing Street in November, following the bitter ousting and tearful resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

    According to the Met Office, conditions in London were cloudy and drizzly and the temperature reached 7C (45F) - not bad for the time of year.

    Chilly reception

    Margaret Thatcher might have expected better when she assumed office in May 1979, but all she got was intermittent thunderstorms.

    Added to that, the top temperature was an unseasonably cold 8C (46F).

    Her predecessor James Callaghan, nicknamed "Sunny Jim", may have departed office after the Winter of Discontent, but his first day in power in April 1976 represented a decent start.

    Downing Street, though covered in cloud, was a peak of 14C (57F).

    Harold Wilson, who came to power on two occasions, had the worst meteorological beginnings of any recent PM - more grey sleet than "white heat".

    The first time, in October 1964, saw a top temperature of 10C (50F).

    But his second Downing Street entrance, in March 1974, saw icy showers, with the thermometer reaching a chilly "high" of just 5C (41F).

    When he came to power in 1970, Mr Wilson's great rival Edward Heath would have been a man unbothered by bad weather, given his experience as an ocean-going yachtsman.

    Yet he is the only recent incumbent to enter Downing Street under anything like the conditions Mr Blair enjoyed.

    It was a gorgeous June day, when the temperature reached a sunbathing-friendly 25C (77F).

    So, in the last 43 years, only Mr Heath and Mr Blair have had good weather to usher them into power.

    Mr Brown's dull start is not, it seems, unusual.

    Edited by Nick H
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