Labour Party (UK) deputy leadership election, 1981

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The 1981 Labour Party deputy leadership election took place on 27 September 1981 when Tony Benn unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent deputy leader Denis Healey at the party conference. Healey had been elected as deputy leader in the previous year.

As well as Healey and Benn, John Silkin also stood in the election. It was the first election to take place using the party's electoral college. At this time 40% of the votes were given to affiliated unions and societies, and 30% each to the Parliamentary Labour Party and the individual members and activists of the party. When this plurality in favour of the unions was first introduced, it received considerable criticism from the more social democratic wing of the party. Ironically it transpired that if the unions had had an equal share to the PLP and the membership then Healey's narrow majority would have been wiped out and the more left-wing Benn won the contest.


First round
Candidate Votes
Denis Healey 45.4%
Tony Benn 36.6%
John Silkin 18.0%
John Silkin eliminated
Second round
Candidate Votes
Denis Healey 50.4%
Tony Benn 49.6%
Denis Healey re-elected