United Kingdom general election, October 1974

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United Kingdom general election, October 1974
United Kingdom
February 1974 ←
members
10 October 1974
Members elected
→ 1979
members

All 635 seats in the House of Commons
318 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 72.8%
  First party Second party Third party
  Harold Wilson Number 10 official.jpg Edward Heath No image.svg
Leader Harold Wilson Edward Heath Jeremy Thorpe
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader since 14 February 1963 28 July 1965 18 January 1967
Leader's seat Huyton Sidcup North Devon
Last election 301 seats, 37.2% 297 seats, 37.9% 14 seats, 19.3%
Seats won 319 277 13
Seat change Increase 18 Decrease 20 Decrease 1
Popular vote 11,457,079 10,462,565 5,346,704
Percentage 39.2% 35.8% 18.3%
Swing Increase 2% Decrease 2.1% Decrease 1%

UK election, Oct 1974.svg

Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.
(Map excludes Northern Ireland)

PM before election

Harold Wilson
Labour

Subsequent PM

Harold Wilson
Labour

1970 election MPs
February 1974 election MPs
October 1974 election MPs
1979 election MPs
1983 election MPs

The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. It was the second general election of that year and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson, winning by a tiny majority of 3 seats.

The election of February that year had produced an unexpected hung parliament. Coalition talks between the Conservatives and the Liberals failed, allowing Labour leader Harold Wilson to form a minority government. The October campaign was not as vigorous or exciting as the one in February. Despite continuing high inflation, Labour was able to boast that it had ended the miners' strike which had dogged Heath's premiership and had returned some stability. The Conservative Party, still led by Edward Heath released a manifesto promoting national unity, however their chances of forming government were hindered by the Ulster Unionist Party refusing to take their whip at Westminster in response to the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973.

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 was ousted as party leader in February 1975 and replaced with future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Scottish National Party achieved their best ever Westminster representation at this election, winning 11 of Scotland's 71 seats and 30% of the Scottish popular vote. Labour's parliamentary majority eroded in the 1974-1979 parliament, through a series of by-election losses and defections, which led to deals with the Liberals, the Ulster Unionists, the Scottish nationalists and the Welsh nationalists having to be carried out.

This was the last general election to be won by Labour until 1997.

The election was broadcast live on the BBC, and was presented by David Butler, Alastair Burnet, Robert McKenzie and Robin Day.[1][2]

Campaign[edit]

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.[3]

Timeline[edit]

The Prime Minister Harold 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:

Friday 20 September Dissolution of the 46th parliament and campaigning officially begins
Monday 30 September Last day to file nomination papers
Wednesday 9 October Campaigning officially ends
Thursday 10 October Polling day
Friday 11 October The Labour Party wins control with a majority of 3
Tuesday 22 October 47th parliament assembles
Tuesday 29 October State Opening of Parliament

Results[edit]

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.

319 277 13 26
Labour Conservative Lib O
UK general election October 1974
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Labour 623 319 20 2 + 18 50.236 39.2 11,457,079 + 2.0
  Conservative 622 277 2 22 - 20 43.622 35.8 10,462,565 - 2.1
  Liberal 619 13 1 2 - 1 2.047 18.3 5,346,704 - 1.0
  SNP 71 11 4 0 + 4 1.732 2.9 839,617 + 0.9
  UUP 7 6 0 1 - 1 0.944 0.9 256,065 + 0.1
  Plaid Cymru 36 3 1 0 + 1 0.472 0.6 166,321 + 0.1
  SDLP 9 1 0 0 0 0.6 154,193 + 0.1
  National Front 90 0 0 0 0 0.4 113,843 + 0.2
  Vanguard 3 3 0 0 0 0.3 92,262 + 0.1
  DUP 2 1 0 0 0 0.3 59,451 + 0.1
  Alliance 5 0 0 0 0 0.2 44,644 + 0.1
  Independent Labour 7 0 0 1 -1 0.2 33,317 + 0.1
  Independent Republican 1 1 1 0 + 1 0.2 32,795 + 0.2
  Republican Clubs 5 0 0 0 0 0.1 21,633 + 0.1
  Unionist Party NI 2 0 0 0 0 0.1 20,454 N/A
  Communist 29 0 0 0 0 0.1 17,426 0.0
  Democratic Labour 1 0 0 1 - 1 0.1 13,714 + 0.1
  Labour (NI) 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 11,539 0.0
  Independent 32 0 0 0 0 0.0 8,812 - 0.1
  Independent Ulster Unionist 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 4,982 N/A
  United Democratic 13 0 0 0 0 0.0 4,810 N/A
  Independent Conservative 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 4,559 0.0
  More Prosperous Britain 25 0 0 0 0 0.0 4,301 0.0
  Workers Revolutionary 10 0 0 0 0 0.0 3,404 0.0
  Independent Liberal 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 3,277 - 0.2
  Volunteer Political 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,690 N/A
  Irish Civil Rights 7 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,381 N/A
  People Movement 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,996 0.0
  Marxist-Leninist (England) 8 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,320 0.0
  English National 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,115 N/A
  United English National 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 793 N/A
  Marxist-Leninist (Ireland) 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 540 N/A
  Mebyon Kernow 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 384 N/A
  Socialist (GB) 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 118 N/A

All parties shown.

Government's new majority 3
Total votes cast 29,189,104
Turnout 72.8%

Votes summary[edit]

Popular vote
Labour
  
39.25%
Conservative
  
35.8%
Liberal
  
18.32%
Scottish National
  
2.88%
Ulster Unionist
  
0.88%
Plaid Cymru
  
0.57%
Social Democratic and Labour
  
0.53%
National Front
  
0.39%
Independent
  
0.3%
Others
  
1.08%

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Labour
  
50.24%
Conservative
  
43.62%
Liberal
  
2.05%
Scottish National
  
1.73%
Ulster Unionist
  
0.94%
Plaid Cymru
  
0.47%
Vanguard
  
0.47%
Others
  
0.47%

Incumbents defeated[edit]

Conservative[edit]

Liberal[edit]

Ulster Unionist Party[edit]

Democratic Labour[edit]

Independent Labour[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Manifestos[edit]