School of Politics and International Studies

Professor Kevin Theakston

Professor of British Government; Head of School

Photo of Professor Kevin Theakston

I am the Head of School of Politics and International Studies.

I am a specialist in British government and politics. I have a long-standing interest in Whitehall, the civil service and government ministers, and have written several books on those subjects. British prime ministers are a major focus of my current research and teaching. My latest single-authored book was on the lives and careers of former prime ministers from the 18th century to the present.

I am also interested in constitutional issues and constitutional reform, and in the life and career of Sir Winston Churchill, and have written on those subjects too. Some of my work has a strongly historical character and I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. But I am also regularly interviewed by the mass media about contemporary political issues and developments, appearing on or being quoted by BBC radio programmes, Sky News and many newspapers.

Research Interests

I am currently working on various projects, including: theories of leadership and British prime ministers; the record of the 1945-51 Labour Government; the oratory of Winston Churchill.


My teaching interests cover institutional, constitutional and historical aspects of British government. I teach on undergraduate modules on 'British Politics', 'British Central Government', and 'Prime Ministers and British Politics'. I also teach on the postgraduate module 'Developments in British Politics'.

PhD Supervision

I am currently supervising postgraduate research on the leadership of John Major as prime minister 1990-97; Decentring decision making: Sure Start and New Labour; and the Conservative Party in Opposition 2005-10.

I welcome research applications and proposals on projects relating to British politics and government, political leadership, constitutional issues, and political biography.

Key Publications


Chapters in Books

  • Theakston, K. (2012) ‘David Cameron as Prime Minister’, in Tim Heppell and David Seawright (eds) Cameron and the Conservatives: The Transition to Coalition Government. Palgrave.
  • Theakston, K. (2012) ‘Winston Churchill, 1945-51’, in Tim Heppell (ed) Leaders of the Opposition: from Churchill to Cameron. Palgrave.
  • Theakston, K. (2012) ‘Introduction’, ‘Former Prime Ministers in Britain since 1945’, and ‘Conclusion’, in Kevin Theakston and Jouke de Vries (eds) Former Leaders in Modern Democracies. Palgrave
  • Theakston, K. (2011) ‘Walter Bagehot The English Constitution’, in Kevin Theakston (ed) (2011) Volumes of Influence. Manchester University Press.
  • Theakston, K. (2008) ‘The Whitehall Model Ministers and Civil Servants in 20th century Britain’, in Anna Gianna Manca and Fabio Rugge (eds) Governo rappresentativo e dirigenze amministrative (secoli XIX-XX), Bologna, Italy, Societa editriceil Mulino.
  • Theakston, K. (2006) ‘Whitehall Reform’, in Peter Dorey (ed), The 1964-70 Labour Governments London, Routledge.
  • Theakston, K. (2013) ‘ Evaluating Prime-Ministerial Performance: The British Experience’, in: Paul Strangio, Paul t'Hart and James Walter (eds.) Prime Ministerial Leadership: Power, Party and Performance in Westminster Systems, Oxford University Press
  • Theakston, K. and Crowcroft, R.. (2013), ‘The Fall of the Attlee Government 1951’, in Timothy Heppell and Kevin Theakston (eds.), How Labour Governments Fall: From Ramsay MacDonald to Gordon Brown,  Palgrave.
  • Theakston, K. (2012) ‘Life After Political Death: Former Leaders in Western Democracies’,Representation, vol. 48, no. 2.
  • Theakston, K. (2012) ‘John Major as prime minister and political leader’, British Politics Review, vol. 7, no. 2.
  • 'The Ministerial Foothills: Labour Government Junior Ministers 1997-2010’ (co-authored with Mark Gill and Judi Atkins), Parliamentary Affairs (advance access Sept. 2012).
  • Theakston, K. and Gill, M. (2011) ‘The Postwar Premiership League’, Political Quarterly, vol. 82, no. 1.
  • Theakston, K. (2011) ‘Gordon Brown as prime minister political skills and leadership style’, British Politics, vol. 6, no.1.
  • Theakston, K. (2007) 'What Makes for an Effective British Prime Minister?'. Quaderni di scienza politica, 14, pp.39-61.
  • Theakston, K. (2006) 'After Number Ten: What Do Former Prime Ministers Do?' The Political Quarterly, 77(4), pp.448-456.
  • Theakston, K.; Gill, M. (2006) 'Rating 20th-Century British Prime Ministers'. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 8(2), pp.193-213.
  • Atkins, J. Heppell, T. and Theakston, K. (2014), ‘The Rise of the Novice Cabinet Minister: The Career Trajectories of Cabinet Ministers in British Government from Attlee to Cameron’, Political Quarterly, forthcoming.

Media Contact Areas

  • British politics and government
  • Political leadership
  • Constitutional issues

Contact Details

  • Room: 2.08, Botany House
  • Tel: 0113 343 4391
  • Fax:0113 343 4400
  • Email:
  • Office hours: By appointment; please email Jenny Blackburn at

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