Flag of the United Kingdom
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 1984
1975 ←               October 31 1984 - November 7 1984               1988
Michael Heseltine
Candidate Michael Heseltine Keith Joseph Douglas Hurd
Seat Henley Leeds North East Witney
First round 192 141 62
Percentage 48 35 61
Second round 232 146 Eliminated
Percentage 58 42 Eliminated
Incumbent Leader

Margaret Thatcher

Subsequent Leader

Michael Heseltine

The 1984 leadership election within the British Conservative Party was held on October 31 and November 7 1984.


Shortly after Margaret Thatcher's assassination a leadership election was announced for October 31 1984. Because she had been the Prime Minister, the election was held promptly.


The candidates were-

Michael Heseltine was the Defense Secretary at the time. He was known for being a consistent critic of Thatcher, although he did support the Right to Buy scheme and had recently overseen Britain's nuclear weapons programme. He announced his intention to stand on October 19. Although he held Pro-European views, against the common stance of the party, his campaign emphasised his popularity with Anti-Thatcher voters

  • Keith Joseph

Keith Joseph was Education and Science Secretary and had been seen as a leadership candidate in the previous leadership election in 1975 but had ruled himself out after controversial remarks on poor people. He announced his candidacy on October 21, and ran on a Pro-Thatcher platform.

Douglas Hurd was Northern Irish Secretary and had experienced recent diplomatic success in the troubled region. He decided to stand on October 23. Like Heseltine, he was also Pro-European but less critical of Thatcher.

  • Others

Other high-profile figures such as Geoffrey Howe and Ian Gilmour were seen as potential candidates but declined to stand.


The election was held on an exhaustive ballot. Because there were three candidates, there would be two ballots and more if there was not a majority of at least 15% on the second one. Only Conservative MPs could vote.


First round

First round: October 31 1984
Candidate Votes %
Michael Heseltine 192 48
Keith Joseph 141 35
Douglas Hurd 61 15
Absentions 2 0.5
Majority 51 12
Douglas Hurd eliminated

Douglas Hurd was eliminated. He then backed Michael Heseltine.

Second round

Second round: November 7 1984
Candidate Votes %
Michael Heseltine 232 58
Keith Joseph 146 42
Absentions 18 4
Majority 86 21
Michael Heseltine elected

Subsequent Events

William Whitelaw, who had been temporary Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher's assassination resigned shortly after the election. Michael Heseltine was then sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II as the new Prime Minister.

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