United Kingdom general election, 1983

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
United Kingdom general election, 1983
United Kingdom
1979 ←
members
9 June 1983
Members elected
→ 1987
members

All 650 seats in the House of Commons
326 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 72.7%
  First party Second party Third party
  Margaret Thatcher cropped2.png Michael Foot (1981).jpg DavidSteel1987 cropped.jpg
Leader Margaret Thatcher Michael Foot David Steel
(Liberal, above)
Roy Jenkins (SDP)
Party Conservative Labour SDP–Liberal Alliance
Leader since 11 February 1975 4 November 1980 7 July 1976 (Steel)
2 July 1982 (Jenkins)
Leader's seat Finchley Blaenau Gwent Tweeddale (Steel)
Glasgow Hillhead (Jenkins)
Last election 339 seats, 43.9% 269 seats, 36.9% 11 seats, 13.8%
(as Liberal party only)
Seats won 397 209 23
(6 SDP, 17 Liberal)
Seat change Increase 58 Decrease60 Increase12
Popular vote 13,012,316 8,456,934 7,780,949
Percentage 42.4% 27.6% 25.4%
Swing Decrease 1.5% Decrease 9.3% Increase 11.6%

PM before election

Margaret Thatcher
Conservative

Subsequent PM

Margaret Thatcher
Conservative

The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945.

The opposition vote split almost evenly between the SDP/Liberal Alliance and Labour. With its worst performance since 1918, the Labour vote fell by over 3 million from 1979 and this accounted for both a national swing of almost 4% towards the Conservatives and their larger parliamentary majority of 144, even though the Conservatives' total vote fell by almost 700,000. This is the most recent election where a party in government increased its majority.

Thatcher's first four years as prime minister had not been an easy time. Unemployment had rocketed in the first three years of her term as she battled to control inflation that had ravaged Britain for most of the 1970s. By the start of 1982, unemployment had passed the 3,000,000 mark - for the first time since before the Second World War - and the economy had been in recession for nearly two years. However, British victory in the Falklands War later that year sparked a dramatic rise in Tory popularity, and as Mrs Thatcher's newfound popularity continued in 1983 the Tories were most people's firm favourites to win the election.[1]

The SDP-Liberal Alliance polled only a few hundred thousand votes behind the Labour Party but received considerably fewer seats. The Alliance gained over 25% of the popular vote, the largest such percentage for any third party since the 1923 general election. The Liberals argued that a proportional electoral system would have given them a more representative number of MPs. Changing the electoral system had been a long-running Liberal Party campaign plank and would later be adopted by the Liberal Democrats.

Labour leader Michael Foot, who had been at the helm since the resignation of James Callaghan (prime minister from 1976 to 1979) in late 1980, resigned soon after the election and was succeeded by Neil Kinnock. Although the election was one of the party's worst, the new crop of MPs included two future Labour Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The election night was broadcast live on the BBC, and was presented by Peter Snow, David Dimbleby and Robin Day.[2]

Background and campaign[edit]

Michael Foot was elected leader of the Labour party in 1980, replacing James Callaghan. The election of Foot signalled that the core of the party was swinging to the left and the move exacerbated divisions within the party. In 1981 a group of senior figures including Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams left Labour to found the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP agreed to a pact with the Liberals for the 1983 elections and stood as The Alliance.

The campaign displayed the huge divisions between the two major parties. Thatcher had been extremely unpopular during her first two years in office until the swift and decisive victory in the Falklands War, coupled with an improving economy, considerably raised her standings in the polls. The Conservatives' key issues included employment, economic growth, and defence. Labour's campaign manifesto involved leaving the European Economic Community, abolishing the House of Lords, abandoning the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent by cancelling Trident and removing cruise missiles — a policy programme dubbed by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman as "the longest suicide note in history". "Although, at barely 37 pages, it only seemed interminable", noted Roy Hattersley. Pro-Labour political journalist Michael White, writing in The Guardian, commented, "There was something magnificently brave about Michael Foot's campaign — but it was like the Battle of the Somme."[3]

National election, 1979[edit]

Following boundary changes in 1983, the BBC and ITN (Independent Television News) co-produced a calculation of how the 1979 general election would have gone if fought on the new 1983 boundaries. The following table shows the effects of the boundary changes on the House of Commons:

UK General Election 1979
Party Seats Gains Losses Net gain/loss Seats % Votes % Votes +/−
  Conservative 359 +20 55 44.9 13,703,429
  Labour 261 -8 40 37.7 11,512,877
  Liberal 9 -2 1 14.2 4,324,936
  SNP 2 0 0 1.6 497,128
  Plaid Cymru 2 0 0 0.4 135,241
  Others 17 +5 3 3.4 1,063,263

Timeline[edit]

October 1974 election MPs
1979 election MPs
1983 election MPs
1987 election MPs
1992 election MPs

The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Buckingham Palace on the afternoon of 9 May and asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament on 13 May, announcing that the election would be held on 9 June. The key dates were as follows:

Friday 13 May Dissolution of the 48th parliament and campaigning officially begins
Monday 23 May Last day to file nomination papers; 2,579 candidates enter
Wednesday 8 June Campaigning officially ends
Thursday 9 June Polling day
Friday 10 June The Conservative Party wins with a majority of 144 to retain power
Wednesday 15 June 49th parliament assembles
Wednesday 22 June State Opening of Parliament


Results[edit]

The election saw a landslide victory for the Conservatives, achieving their best results since 1959. Although there was a slight drop in their share of the vote, they made significant gains at the expense of Labour. The night was a disaster for the Labour party, their share of the vote fell by over 9%, which meant they were only 700,000 votes ahead of the newly formed 3rd party the SDP-Liberal Alliance. The massive increase of support for the Alliance at the expense of Labour meant that, in many seats, the collapse in the Labour vote allowed the Conservatives to win. Despite winning over 25% of the national vote, however, the Alliance got less than 4% of seats - 186 fewer than Labour.

The most notable loss of the night was Tony Benn, who lost his seat in Bristol East. SDP President Shirley Williams, a prominent leader of the Social Democratic party, lost her Crosby seat which she had won in a by-election in 1981. Bill Rodgers, another leader of the Alliance (One of the "Gang of Four") also failed to win his old seat that he held as a Labour MP. The 1983 election was also notable as the first time Trotskyist candidates have been elected to parliament, the Labour MPs Terry Fields and Dave Nellist, both supporters of the Militant tendency.

397 209 23 21
Conservative Labour Alliance O
United Kingdom General Election 1983
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Conservative 633 397 47 10 + 37 61.1 42.4 13,012,316 - 1.5
  Labour 633 209 4 55 - 51 32.2 27.6 8,456,934 - 9.3
  Liberal 326 17 6 0 + 6 3.5 13.9 4,259,403 + 11.6
  Social Democrat 307 6 6 0 + 6 1.0 11.5 3,521,624 N/A
  SNP 72 2 0 0 0 0.3 1.1 331,975 - 0.5
  UUP 16 11 3 1 + 2 1.7 0.8 259,952 0.0
  DUP 14 3 2 1 + 1 0.5 0.5 152,749 + 0.3
  SDLP 17 1 0 1 - 1 0.2 0.4 137,012 0.0
  Plaid Cymru 38 2 0 0 0 0.3 0.4 125,309 0.0
  Sinn Féin 14 1 1 1 0 0.2 0.3 102,701 N/A
  Alliance 12 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 61,275 - 0.1
  Ecology 109 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 54,299 + 0.1
  Independent 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 30,422 N/A
  National Front 60 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 27,065 - 0.5
  Ulster Popular Unionist 1 1 1 0 + 1 0.2 0.1 22,861 N/A
  Independent Labour 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 16,447 0.0
  Workers' Party 14 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 14,650 - 0.1
  BNP 54 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 14,621 N/A
  Independent Liberal 3[4] 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 13,743 0.0
  Communist 35 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 11,606 - 0.1
  Independent Socialist 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 10,326 N/A
  Independent Conservative 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 9,442 0.0
  Independent Communist 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 4,760 N/A
  Workers Revolutionary 21 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 3,798 - 0.1
  Monster Raving Loony 11 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 3,015 N/A
  Wessex Regionalist 10 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,750 0.0
  Mebyon Kernow 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,151 N/A
  Independent DUP 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,134 N/A
  Licensees 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 934 N/A
  Nationalist Party 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 874 N/A
  Labour and Trade Union 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 584 N/A
  Revolutionary Communist 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 581 N/A
  Freedom Party 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 508 N/A

All parties with more than 500 votes shown.

Government's new majority 144
Total votes cast 30,661,309
Turnout 72.7%

N.B. The SDP-Liberal Alliance vote is compared with the Liberal Party vote in the 1979 election.

The Independent Unionist elected in the 1979 election defended and held his seat for the Ulster Popular Unionist Party. The United Ulster Unionist Party dissolved and its sole MP did not re-stand.

The Independent Republican elected in the 1979 election died in 1981. In the ensuring by-election the seat was won by Bobby Sands, an Anti-H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner who then died and was succeeded by an Anti-H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner candidate Owen Carron. He defended and lost his seat standing for Sinn Féin who contested seats in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1959.

This election was fought under revised boundaries. The changes reflect those comparing to the notional results on the new boundaries. One significant change was the increase in the number of seats allocated to Northern Ireland from 12 to 17.

Votes summary[edit]

Ring charts of the election results showing popular vote against seats won, coloured in party colours
Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).


Popular vote
Conservative
  
42.4%
Labour
  
27.6%
SDP/Liberal
  
25.4%
Scottish National
  
1.1%
Ulster Unionist
  
0.9%
Independent
  
0.3%
Others
  
2.4%

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Conservative
  
61.1%
Labour
  
32.2%
SDP/Liberal
  
3.5%
Ulster Unionist
  
1.7%
Others
  
1.5%
Data from Guardian daily polls published in The Guardian between May and June 1983
Colour Key: BLUE Conservative, RED Labour, ORANGE Alliance, BLACK Others
The disproportionality of the house of parliament in the 1983 election was 20.69 according to the Gallagher Index, mainly between the Conservatives and SDP-Liberal Alliance.

Incumbents defeated[edit]

Labour[edit]

Social Democratic Party[edit]

Independent Labour[edit]

Sinn Féin[edit]

Social Democratic and Labour Party[edit]

Liberal Party[edit]

Conservative[edit]

Target tables[edit]

Conservative targets[edit]

Rank Constituency 1983 winner
1 Isle of Wight SDP-Liberal Alliance
2 Oxford East Con
3 Cunninghame North Con
4 Corby Con
5 Nottingham East Con
6 Hertfordshire West Con
7 Mitcham and Morden Con
8 Derbyshire South Con
9 Leicestershire North West Con
10 Southampton Itchen Con
11 Halifax Con
12 Stockton South SDP Liberal Alliance
13 Lewisham West Con
14 Edmonton Con
15 Stevenage Con
16 York Con
17 Darlington Con
18 Ceredigion and Pembroke North SDP-Liberal Alliance
19 Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber SDP-Liberal Alliance
20 Bridgend Con

Labour targets[edit]

In order to regain an overall majority, Labour needed to make at least 65 gains.

Rank Constituency 1983 winner
1 Birmingham Northfield Con
2 Bury South Con
3 Dulwich Con
4 Liverpool Broadgreen Labour
5 Nottingham South Con
6 Aberdeen South Con
7 Stirling Con
8 Hornchurch Con
9 Luton South Con
10 Calder Valley Con
11 Pendle Con
12 Bolton North East Con
13 Cardiff Central Con
14 Croydon North West Con
15 Fulham Con
16 Cambridge Con
17 Birmingham Erdington Labour
18 Dudley West Con
19 Welwyn Hatfield Con
20 Glasgow Cathcart Labour

SDP-Liberal Alliance targets[edit]

Rank Constituency 1983 winner
1 Roxburgh and Berwickshire SDP-Liberal Alliance
2 Richmond and Barnes Con
3 Montgomeryshire SDP-Liberal Alliance
4 Chelmsford Con
5 Wiltshire North Con
6 Cornwall North Con
7 Hereford Con
8 Colne Valley SDP-Liberal Alliance
9 Gordon SDP-Liberal Alliance
10 Southport Con
11 Salisbury Con
12 Devon North Con
13 Gainsborough and Horncastle Con
14 Cornwall South East Con
15 Clwyd South West Con
16 Liverpool Broadgreen Labour
17 Newbury Con
18 Yeovil SDP-Liberal Alliance
19 Pudsey Con
20 Ross, Cromarty and Skye SDP-Liberal Alliance

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1983: Thatcher triumphs again - BBC News, 5 April 2005
  2. ^ BBC election 83
  3. ^ White, Michael (11 April 2005). "Michael White on 35 years of covering elections". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ In addition, rebel Liberal associations fielded candidates against official SDP/Alliance nominees in three constituencies: Liverpool Broadgreen, Hackney South and Shoreditch, and Hammersmith.

Further reading[edit]

  • Butler, David E. et al. The British General Election of 1983 (1984), the standard scholarly study
  • F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832–1987

Manifestos[edit]