On Friday 23rd July 1965, Sir Alec Douglas-Home resigned as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. The Shadow Chancellor Edward Heath and Shadow Foreign Secretary Reginald Maudling were the obvious contenders with a number of ‘possibles’ hovering in the background. In the end only the Shadow Transport Minister Enoch Powell stood.
Reginald Maudling was the most experienced and publicly known of the candidates and was generally considered to be the favourite although Edward Heath was thought to be a reasonable outsider.
It was on today – Tuesday 27th July 1965 – that the vote was announced: was as follows:
Enoch Powell – 15 votes; Reginald Maudling – 133 votes; Edward Heath – 150 votes
The actual rules in place required the victor to have both an absolute majority (which Heath had narrowly achieved) and, in the first ballot, at least a 15% lead of votes actually cast. As Heath had not achieved the latter hurdle, the election could have gone to further rounds but Reginald Maudling conceded defeat and Heath was duly declared leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament – a position he held until Friday 19th June 1970 when he became the Prime Minister of Great Britain.