The election saw the Labour Party return 319 MPs, giving them the ability to form a majority government, albeit with a mere 3 seats. The Conservatives and the Liberals each saw their vote share fall, and Conservative leader Edward Heath, who had lost three of the four elections he contested, was ousted as party leader in February 1975 and replaced with future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Scottish National Party won 11 of Scotland's 71 seats and 30% of the Scottish popular vote, their best Westminster representation until 2015. Labour's narrow parliamentary majority had eroded by 1977, through a series of by-election losses and defections, which required deals with the Liberals, the Ulster Unionists, the Scottish nationalists and the Welsh nationalists.
This was the last general election to be won by Labour until 1997, as the next four elections all produced an outright Conservative victory.
The brief period between the elections gave Wilson the opportunity to demonstrate reasonable progress. Despite high inflation, the miners' strike that had dogged Heath was over and some stability had been restored. Following the February election Heath had remained largely out of the public eye. As was expected, the campaign was not as exciting or as close as the one in February, and overall coverage by broadcasters was significantly scaled back. The Conservatives campaigned on a manifesto of national unity, in response to the mood of the public. Labour campaigned on its recent successes in government, and although the party was divided over Europe, their strengths outweighed that of Heath, who knew his future relied on an election victory. As for the Liberals and the SNP Devolution was a key issue, and was now also one the two main parties also felt the need to address. As for the Liberal manifesto, they simply reissued the one they had created for the last election.
The Prime MinisterHarold Wilson made a ministerial broadcast on television on 18 September to announce that the election would be held on 10 October, less than eight months since the previous election. The key dates were as follows:
Labour achieved a swing of 2% against the Conservatives. This was the first time since 1922 that a government had won an overall majority with less than 40% of the vote, albeit with only a small majority of 3. The Conservatives won just 36% of the vote, their worst share since 1945, and as for the Liberals a slight drop in the vote saw them make a net loss of 1 seat.