Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1976

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Labour Party (UK) leadership election
United Kingdom
1963 ←
25 March 1976 (1976-03-25)-5 April 1976 (1976-04-05) → 1980

  James Callaghan.JPG Michael Foot (1981).jpg
Candidate James Callaghan Michael Foot
Percentage 56.2 43.8

Leader before election

Harold Wilson

Elected Leader

James Callaghan

Tony Benn

The Labour Party leadership election of 1976 occurred when former leader Harold Wilson resigned as Party Leader and Prime Minister.

In the first ballot, held on 25 March, six candidates vied for the leadership: Employment Secretary Michael Foot; Foreign Secretary Jim Callaghan; Home Secretary Roy Jenkins; the Chancellor Denis Healey; Energy Secretary Tony Benn and the Environment Secretary Tony Crosland .

First Ballot: 25 March 1976
Candidate Votes %
Michael Foot 90 28.7%
Jim Callaghan 84 26.8%
Roy Jenkins 56 17.8%
Tony Benn 37 11.8%
Denis Healey 30 9.6%
Tony Crosland 17 5.3%
Majority 6 1.9%
Turnout 314
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 %
Jim Callaghan 141 45.2%
Michael Foot 133 42.6%
Denis Healey 38 12.2%
Majority 8 2.6%
Turnout 312
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 %
Jim Callaghan 176 56.2%
Michael Foot 137 43.8%
Majority 39 12.4%
Turnout 313
Callaghan elected leader

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


  • Tony Benn, The Benn Diaries (Arrow, 1995).