Monday 12 September 2022

What is the collective noun for Prime Ministers?



My favourite Harold Macmillan story is of when the Queen, Mrs. Thatcher and the five living former Prime Ministers had dinner at No. 10 in around 1986 to celebrate its 300th anniversary. As the photograph was being taken James Callaghan said: I wonder what is the collective noun for Prime Ministers. To which Lord Stockton, who was 91, instantly replied: a lack of principals.


  1. Readers who are not native English speakers might not get this or know that there are lots of strange collective nouns in English, for example 'a pride of lions', 'a parliament of crows'. Lord Stockton made a pun - is it 'lack of principals' or lack of principles'?

    1. An unprincipled principal is today called the President of the European Commission.

  2. Nobody educated since about 1980 would have understood this joke, because the difference between principles and principals is a matter of profound ignorance these days.

  3. That is the first picture of all the living former Prime Ministers that I've seen in a long time, and it is a good one. Their characters seem to be readable of their faces.
    Gordon Brown looks like he stepped out of a Dickens novel.