Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1983

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Labour Party (UK) leadership election
United Kingdom
1980 ←
2 October 1983 (1983-10-02) → 1988

  Neil Kinnock Roy Hattersley
Candidate Neil Kinnock Roy Hattersley
Affiliated 29.0% 10.9%
Constituency 27.5% 0.6%
Parliamentary 14.8% 7.8%
Total 71.3% 19.3%

Candidate Eric Heffer Peter Shore
Affiliated 0.0% 0.0%
Constituency 2.0% 0.0%
Parliamentary 4.3% 3.1%
Total 6.3% 3.1%

Leader before election

Michael Foot

Elected Leader

Neil Kinnock

The Labour Party leadership election of 1983 was an election in the United Kingdom for the leadership of the Labour Party. It occurred when former leader Michael Foot resigned after winning only 209 seats at the 1983 general election – a loss of 60 seats compared to their performance at the previous election four years earlier. This was the worst showing for Labour since 1931.


Soon after the 1983 election defeat it became clear that there was pressure on Foot to resign, with David Basnett, chairman of Trade Unions for Labour Victory which funded the campaign, arguing for a quick announcement on the future of the leadership saying "the sooner it is done the better". On 12 June 1983, three days after the general election, Clive Jenkins announced, on behalf of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs, that his union had nominated Foot for re-election. This allowed Foot to refuse and declared his intention to stand down.

Early speculation days after the election saw the possible candidates as Denis Healey, Neil Kinnock, Roy Hattersley, Gerald Kaufman and Peter Shore. However, almost immediately after Foot announced his intention to resign, Clive Jenkins announced that his union had switched its nomination to Kinnock, which he accepted. Other unions leaders also contributed support for Kinnock and Hattersley. Basnett stated on Channel 4 "I will tell you who I think ought to be the leadership team – it ought to be Kinnock and Hattersley" while Gavin Laird, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, backed Hattersley as leader, Kinnock as his deputy.



Of the four contenders who stood to replace Foot, Kinnock was favoured to win. The results of the election, held at Labour Party Conference, were:

First round
Candidate Affiliated block votes
CLP block votes
PLP votes
Votes  % Votes  % Votes  %  %
Neil Kinnock 4,389 29.04% 571 27.45% 100 14.79% 71.28%
Roy Hattersley 1,644 10.88% 12 0.57% 53 7.83% 19.28%
Eric Heffer 7 0.04% 41 1.98% 29 4.29% 6.31%
Peter Shore 5 0.04% 0 0.0% 21 3.09% 3.13%

Neil Kinnock won the election with an outright majority and Roy Hattersley became his deputy, beating Michael Meacher. Kinnock remained leader until 1992. Kinnock fought in two further elections, both unsuccessfully. He failed to beat Margaret Thatcher in the 1987 general election despite gaining some seats. Kinnock resigned as leader after a fourth successive Labour defeat at the hands of John Major in the 1992 election. He resigned as leader shortly afterwards, paving the way for John Smith.


  1. ^ Under the rules at the time of the contest, block votes were cast by delegates and the Parliamentary Party at Labour Party Conference. Affiliated Unions held 40% of the votes, CLPs 30% and the PLP 30%.