Alternate History

Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1983 (The Found Order)

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The British Labour Party leadership election of 1983 was held following the resignation of James Callaghan. Callaghan had served as Labour leader (1975 - 1983) and Prime Minister (1979 - 1983).

As with the 1973 leadership contest there was a widespread expectation that the frontrunner (in this case Healey) would win convincingley on the first or second ballot, only to go on to a long and pertruded contest.

Healey had the support (in private) of Prime Minister James Callaghan and was initially seen as the only right wing candidate.

Tony Benn - who had resigned from the cabinet following the 1983 election - entered the race as the Anti EEC left wing candidate, but his canididacy was initially seen as symbolic rather than real.

Name Votes %
Denis Healey 123 33.2%
Tony Benn 75 20.3%
Shirley Williams 70 18.9%
David Owen 69 18.6%
Michael Foot 33 8.9%
Majority 48 12.9%
Turnout 370
Healey led on the first ballot, Foot was eliminated
Michael Mackintosh Foot 1980-1983

Michael Foot

Name Votes %
Denis Healey 150 41.4%
Tony Benn 90 24.9%
Shirley Williams 68 18.8%
David Owen 54 14.9%
Majority 60 16.6%
Turnout 362
Owen was eliminated and Williams withdrew, both endorsed Healey.
David Owen

David Owen

Foot refused to endorse either Healey or Benn, but pledged his support to whoever the new leader was. This was interpreted as a call for party unity, and a vote for the clear frontrunner - Healey - rather than the insurgent Benn.
Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams

Name Votes %
Denis Healey 229 70.9%
Tony Benn 94 29.1%
Majority 135 41.8%
Turnout 323
Tony benn

Tony Benn

Healey won the third ballot runoff by a large majority, largely attributed to the Healey camp downplaying their candidates numbers, in an attempt to woo soft left wing MP's who didn't want the more hardline Benn to become leader but who also did not like Healey. This gave Healey a large majority and a better mandate amongst MP's.
Denis Healey

Denis Healey

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