Five party leaders who never were

With David Miliband, the man once tipped to lead the Labour Party, resigning from frontline politics to take up a job in America, Left Foot Forward has looked at five leaders who came close but never quite made it to the top.

With David Miliband, the man once tipped to lead the Labour Party, resigning from frontline politics to take up a job in America, Left Foot Forward has looked at five leaders who came close but never quite made it to the top.

DAVID MILIBAND

The other Miliband was a sure fire winner in the 2010 Labour leadership contest. The general view was that his greater experience and slick appearance would fend off his brothers’ challenge for the Labour crown.

He won 577 seats compared to his brothers’ tiny 67 when it was put to Labour members across the country. In Parliament he gained the support of 10 per cent more MP’s than Ed. We all thought the elder of the Milibands had it in the bag. How wrong we were.

KEN CLARKE

Ken Clarke ran three leadership campaigns. The first he lost to William Hague in an election that wasn’t extended to ordinary Conservative party members. Thatcher also chose to endorse Hague rather than the ex-chancellor.

In his second leadership challenge in 2001 he narrowly lost to Ian Duncan Smith in the final round of voting. More recently, in the 2005 campaign he was beaten by a clear margin by David Cameron.

Clarke has always been popular with the electorate, but has ultimately failed to take the Tory crown due to his pro-Europe views, which would likely split the Conservative party if he was ever ordained as leader.

Leadership contenders

MARK OATEN

The ex-Liberal Democrat frontbencher ran for the leadership of the party after the resignation of Charles Kennedy in 2006, but ultimately failed to gain support from within the party. Several days after his withdrawal from the contest allegations surfaced that he had hired a male prostitute. He stepped down as MP for Winchester in 2010.

MICHAEL HESELTINE

Perhaps the most famous leadership challenge in modern British history. After Heseltine had forced the resignation of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990, many thought he would be the natural heir apparent. But it wasn’t to be. John Major won by a very clear margin and Heseltine had to make do with a frontbench position.

TONY BENN

Losing the Labour leadership contest in 1976 to James Callaghan, Benn ran for deputy leader in 1981 only to suffer an extraordinarily narrow defeat to Denis Healey. Benn lost by a wafer-thin margin of 0.8 per cent. He ran for leader again in 1988 but was flattened by Neil Kinnock.

Although Benn was (and remains) a popular figure on the Left of the Labour Party, as the 1980s progressed his socialism was seen as a busted flush, and the chance of him ever becoming leader of the Labour Party faded.

One Response to “Five party leaders who never were”

  1. robertcp

    The Tories made a terrible mistake when they rejected Kenneth Clarke. The relevant parties were right to reject the other four people mentioned above.

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