How Keir Starmer’s vote share compares to past results

James Calmus

We now know that Keir Starmer has been elected as leader of the Labour Party by winning 56.2% of the vote in the first round.

He received a whopping 275,780 votes from members, registered supporters and affiliated members under the same one-person-one-vote system used to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader in 2015 and 2016.

16 contests have been held to elect the leader since the first official contest in 1922, where future Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald won with 52% of the vote. In that time, four different systems have been used to elect them:

  • For contests held between 1922-1980, the Parliamentary Labour Party alone elected the leader;
  • For the three contests in 1983, 1988 and 1992, an electoral college gave the PLP, constituency labour parties (CLPs) and trade unions 30%, 30% and 40% of the vote respectively;
  • For the 1994 and 2010 contests, the electoral college was adjusted to give each group a third of the total vote;
  • Since 2015, the leader of the Labour Party has been elected using a one-person-one-vote system made up of full members, registered supporters and affiliated members.

If assessed according to percentage, Starmer’s vote share puts him in the bottom five of the list, tied with James Callaghan who was elected by the PLP in 1976 with 56.2% of the vote.

If we look at the 2020 result according to raw number of votes, Starmer’s success is the third biggest after Tony Blair in 1994 (508,148 votes – including lots of affiliates) and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 (313,209 votes).

Leader Year Vote share Voting system
John Smith 1992 91% (5,648 votes) Electoral college
Neil Kinnock 1988 88.6% (6,277 votes) Electoral college
Hugh Gaitskell 1961 74.4% (171 votes) PLP
Neil Kinnock 1983 71.3% (5,060 votes) Electoral college
Hugh Gaitskell 1960 67.2% (166 votes) PLP
Clement Attlee 1935 64.7% (88 votes, 2nd round) PLP
Jeremy Corbyn 2016 61.8% (313,209 votes) One person, one vote
Jeremy Corbyn 2015 59.5% (251,417 votes) One person, one vote
Hugh Gaitskell 1955 58.8% (157 votes) PLP
Harold Wilson 1963 58.3% (144 votes, 2nd round) PLP
Tony Blair 1994 57% (508,148 votes) Electoral college, OMOV
Keir Starmer 2020 56.2% (275,780 votes) One person, one vote
James Callaghan 1976 56.2% (176 votes, 3rd round) PLP
Ramsay MacDonald 1922 52.1% (61 votes) PLP
Michael Foot 1980 51.9% (139 votes, 2nd round) PLP
Ed Miliband 2010 50.7% (175,519 votes, 4th round) Electoral college, OMOV
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