Thatcher and Attlee voted best PMs

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Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and Clement Attlee, whose post-war government presided over the partition of the sub-continent and India's independence, have been named the best British prime ministers of the 20th century.

Sir Winston Churchill, who led Britain to victory in the second World War, only merits a fourth place in the list of 20 and the current incumbent Tony Blair struggles to finish mid-table. Thatcher's dramatic victory in her battle with the trade unions and her transformation of post-war Britain secured her top spot in the list produced by historian and journalist Francis Beckett. Attlee, the Labour premier who led Britain from 1945 to 1951 and created the National Health Service and the modern welfare state ranked alongside her at the top. Beckett produced his list by ranking Prime Ministers who led the country in the last century on a score of one to five. Thatcher and Atlee were the only two to get full marks, while Churchill was awarded four points. Writing in this month's BBC History Magazine, Beckett said Blair's initial success in pushing through reforms of the public services had been derailed by the collapse in public support in the aftermath of the Iraq war. He got three points. Perhaps most controversially, Beckett puts Churchill in fourth place in his list behind Edward Heath, who took Britain into the European Union. Beckett hails Churchill's achievement during World War II, but stresses that he then proceeded to lose the 1945 election. He also questions his domestic achievements when he was returned to office in 1951.

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