Roy Jenkins is elected the first leader of the SDP

Following the return of Jenkins and Shirley Williams to the House of Commons the party agreed to bring forward the timetable for electing a leader. The election saw a division in the ‘Gang of Four’ with Jenkins supported by William Rodgers being challenged by David Owen supported by Shirley Williams. In what was a sometimes tense campaign the major difference was over relations with the Liberal Party, with Owen, less tolerant of the Liberals, wanting the SDP to go it alone while Jenkins favoured continued and closer co-operation between the two parties. The vote was relatively close – 26,256 votes for Jenkins against 20,864 for Owen. Jenkins breathed a sigh of relief while Owen who had entertained hopes that he would win went into what Bill Rodgers described as ‘a prolonged sulk’.