The 1990 Labour Party leadership election was held following the resignation of Denis Healey. This was the last leadership contest held under the old rules.


Denis Healey had suceeded Callaghan as labour party leader in 1983, he was already 66 years old and was seen as an interim leader who would meerly lead labour to an election victory then step down for a younger figure. After leading labour to reelection in 1987 - but with a significantly reduced majority - Healey's leadership was challenged by those on both the left and right of the party.

Neil Kinnock - Defence Secretary, a figure on the soft left of the party

David Owen - Foreign Secretary, a leader of the hard right of the party

John Smith - Chancellor of the Exchequer, although a figure of the Gaitskellite Right he positioned himself as a centrist figure

Roy Hattersley - Home Secretary, considered the candidate most closely associated with the views of Healey

John Prescott - Transport Secretary, the candidate most associated with the Trade Unions, considered nominally on the left

Michael Meacher -Social Security Secretary, the most left wing candidate

Name Votes %
Neil Kinnock 83 23.4%
David Owen 68 19.2%
John Smith 67 18.9%
Roy Hattersley 62 17.5%
John Prescott 44 12.4%
Michael Meacher 26 7.3%
Majority 15 4.2%
Turnout 350

Meacher was eliminated.

Name Votes %
Neil Kinnock 95 26.9%
David Owen 70 19.8%
John Smith 69 19.5%
John Prescott 60 17.0%
Roy Hattersley 59 16.7%
Majority 25 7.1%
Turnout 353

Hattersley was eliminated.

Name Votes %
John Smith 105 29.7%
Neil Kinnock 96 27.2%
David Owen 93 26.3%
John Prescott 59 16.7%
Majority 9 2.5%
Turnout 353

Prescott was eliminated. Smith overtook Kinnock as the frontrunner.

Name Votes %
Neil Kinnock 145 41.1%
John Smith 117 33.1%
David Owen 91 25.8%
Majority 28 7.9%
Turnout 353

John Smith

Owen was eliminated, he endorsed Smith for the leadership.
Name Votes %
John Smith 214 60.6%
Neil Kinnock 139 39.4%
Majority 75 21.2%
Turnout 353

Smith won on the fifth ballot, with a convincing majority.

Kinnock hoped to become Chancellor under Smith, but was passed over in favour of his own campaign manager Bryan Gould. Smith offered cabinet posts to all of his leadership rivals, Owen and Hattersley refused and returned to the backbenches, Kinnock, Prescott and Meacher accepted.

Immideiatly after Smith's election as leader Labour gained a significant poll bounce, and by November they had overtaken the Tories.

Smith's death in 1994 precipitated another leadership election.

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