Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1961

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Labour Party (UK) leadership election
United Kingdom
← 1960
1963 →
  Hugh Gaitskell 1958.jpg
Candidate Hugh Gaitskell Anthony Greenwood
First preferences 74.35% 25.65%

Leader before election

Hugh Gaitskell

Elected Leader

Hugh Gaitskell

Hugh Gaitskell

The British Labour Party leadership election of 1961 was held when, for the second year in succession, the incumbent leader was challenged for re-election. Normally the annual re-election of the leader had been a formality.

The challenge followed factional in-fighting over issues like nuclear disarmament. The leader favoured the retention of nuclear weapons by the UK, whereas the left wing of the party supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.


Two candidates were nominated.

  1. The left-wing candidate the previous year had been Harold Wilson. In 1961 the candidate was a less well-known political figure, Anthony Greenwood (1911– 1982), then MP for the Lancashire constituency of Rossendale. He had been an MP since 1946 and was the son of Arthur Greenwood (1880–1954), who had been a Labour leadership candidate in 1935.
  2. The incumbent right-wing leader of the party was Hugh Gaitskell (1906–1963), who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1950–51. Gaitskell had been MP for Leeds South since 1945 and party leader since 1955.


The result of the only ballot of Labour MPs on 2 November was as follows:

Only Ballot: 2 November 1961
Candidate Votes %
Hugh Gaitskell 171 74.35
Anthony Greenwood 59 25.65
Majority 112 48.70
Turnout 230


  • Twentieth-Century British Political Facts 1900-2000, by David Butler and Gareth Butler (Macmillan Press, 8th edition 2000)
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, Volume IV 1945-1979, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1981)