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Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1980: Wikis


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The British Labour Party leadership election of 1980 was held following the resignation of James Callaghan. Callaghan had been Prime Minister 1976—1979 and had stayed on as leader of the Labour Party for eighteen months in order to oversee an orderly transition to his favoured successor, Denis Healey. However, during this period the party had become bogged down in internal arguments about its procedures and future direction.

Initially, the candidates were thought likely to be Denis Healey, Peter Shore and John Silkin, but Michael Foot was persuaded to stand by left-wingers who believed that only he could defeat Healey.

The result of the first ballot of Labour MPs on 4 November was as follows:

First Ballot: 4 November 1980
Candidate Votes %
Denis Healey 112 42.3%
Michael Foot 83 31.3%
John Silkin 38 14.3%
Peter Shore 32 12.1%
Majority 29 11.0%
Turnout 265
Second Ballot required

In the second ballot, held six days later, there was a run-off between Healey and Foot.

Second Ballot: 10 November 1980
Candidate Votes %
Michael Foot 139 51.9%
Denis Healey 129 48.1%
Majority 10 3.8%
Turnout 268
Foot elected

This was the last leadership election to be conducted amongst Members of Parliament only, an electoral college was subsequently introduced for future contests.


  • Twentieth-Century British Political Facts 1900-2000, by David Butler and Gareth Butler (Macmillan Press, 8th edition 2000)


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