Monday 24 October 2016

Labour candidate has historic beard

Published 21/06/2015 | 06:21

Bearded Jeremy Corbyn is standing for the Labour leadership
Bearded Jeremy Corbyn is standing for the Labour leadership

Jeremy Corbyn may not be the bookies' favourite to succeed Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour party but he has already made British political history - by virtue of his beard.

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Mr Corbyn is the first person with a beard to ever stand in a contest for the Labour leadership. Were he to win, he would be only the second bearded person to lead his party. The first was Keir Hardie, who led Labour from 1906-08 but who was not elected to the post.

There have been other Labour leaders with facial hair but none has boasted a full beard of the kind worn by Mr Corbyn and Mr Hardie.

George Lansbury, Labour leader between 1932-5, possessed a bushy moustache and sideburns but never went for a complete beard. Two Labour prime ministers have sported moustaches - Ramsay MacDonald, leader from 1922-31, and Clement Attlee, leader from 1935-55.

In total, only one of the 16 men - and they have all been men - to formally lead Labour has had a beard.

None of the last 16 leaders of the Conservative party has had a beard. The most recent was Lord Salisbury, who was Tory leader from 1885 to 1902 and served as prime minister on three occasions.

Lord Salisbury is also the most recent PM to have a beard, meaning there has not been a bearded resident of 10 Downing Street for 113 years.

Looking further back, only three prime ministers in the past 200 years have had full beards - Lord Salisbury, Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Palmerston. This represents a total of three out of the 40 people to serve as British prime minister since the start of the 19th century.

Moustaches have been far more popular. Seven prime ministers of the past 100 years have had moustaches, the most recent being Harold Macmillan (PM from 1957-63).

Sideburns - or whiskers - were also popular, particularly during the late 1800s, as typified by long-serving Liberal prime minister William Gladstone.

But none of the last 13 leaders of the Liberal party (including the Lib Dems) have had beards. The most recent example is Sir William Vernon Harcourt, who led the Liberals from 1896-8.

In short, of the three main UK political parties of modern times, it has been 107 years since Labour had a leader with a beard, 113 years for the Conservatives, and 117 years for the Liberals.

Were Mr Corbyn to be successful in the Labour leadership election, it would bring to an end over 100 years of clean-chinned party chiefs in parliament.

Press Association

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