1976 Labour Party (UK) leadership election

The 1976 Labour Party leadership election occurred when Harold Wilson resigned as Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. It is the only occasion the Labour Party has had a leadership election with more than one candidate whilst in government.

Labour Party leadership election, 1976
25 March – 5 April 1976
  James Callaghan and James Chichester-Clark 1970 (cropped) Michael Foot (1981) Roy Jenkins 1977b
Candidate James Callaghan Michael Foot Roy Jenkins
First ballot 84 (26.8%) 90 (28.7%) 56 (17.8%)
Final ballot 176 (56.2%) 137 (43.8%) Withdrew

  11.12.67 Présentation officielle du Concorde (1967) - 53Fi1748 (Tony Benn) Denis Healey
Candidate Tony Benn Denis Healey Anthony Crosland
First ballot 37 (11.8%) 30 (9.6%) 17 (5.3%)
Final ballot Withdrew Eliminated Eliminated

Leader before election

Harold Wilson

Elected Leader

James Callaghan


In the first ballot, held on 25 March, six candidates vied for the leadership:


First ballot: 25 March 1976[1]
Candidate Votes %
Michael Foot 90 28.7
James Callaghan 84 26.8
Roy Jenkins 56 17.8
Tony Benn 37 11.8
Denis Healey 30 9.6
Anthony Crosland 17 5.3
Majority 6 1.9
Turnout 314 100
Second ballot required

As a result of the first ballot, Crosland was eliminated, while Jenkins and Benn withdrew from the contest. The remaining three candidates would face each other in a second ballot, five days later.

Second ballot: 30 March 1976
Candidate Votes %
James Callaghan 141 45.2
Michael Foot 133 42.6
Denis Healey 38 12.2
Majority 8 2.6
Turnout 312 99.4
Third ballot required

Because no candidate achieved an absolute majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated (in this case Healey). A final run-off ballot was held six days later.

Third ballot: 5 April 1976
Candidate Votes %
James Callaghan 176 56.2
Michael Foot 137 43.8
Majority 39 12.4
Turnout 313 99.7
James Callaghan elected

Immediately upon his election as Labour leader, Callaghan succeeded Wilson as Prime Minister.


  1. ^ Quinn, Tom. "Labour Party Leadership Elections 1922–2016". University of Essex.


  • Benn, Tony (1995), The Benn Diaries, Arrow
Leadership election

A leadership election is a political contest held in various countries by which the members of a political party determine who will be the leader of their party.

Generally, any political party can determine its own rules governing how and when a leadership election is to be held for that party. In the United Kingdom, for example:

Leadership elections are generally caused by the death or resignation of the incumbent (that is, the person already holding the post), although there are also formal and informal methods to remove a party's leader and thus trigger an election contest to find a replacement. There is, however, no common procedure whereby the main parties choose their leader.

A leadership election may be required at intervals set by party rules, or it may be held in response to a certain proportion of those eligible to vote expressing a lack of confidence in the current leadership. In the UK Conservative Party, for example, "a leadership election can be triggered by a vote of no confidence by Conservative MPs in their current leader".

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