United Kingdom general election, 1979


United Kingdom general election, 1979

Infobox Election
election_name = United Kingdom general election, 1979
country = United Kingdom
type = parliamentary
ongoing = no
previous_election = United Kingdom general election, October 1974
previous_year = 1974
previous_mps = MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, October 1974
next_election = United Kingdom general election, 1983
next_year = 1983
next_mps = MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1983
seats_for_election = All 635 seats to the House of Commons
election_date = 3 May 1979



leader1 = Margaret Thatcher
leader_since1 = 11 February 1975
party1 = Conservative Party (UK)
leaders_seat1 = Finchley
last_election1 = 277 seats, 35.8%
seats1 = 339
seat_change1 = +62
popular_vote1 = 13,697,923
percentage1 = 43.9%
swing1 = %



leader2 = James Callaghan
leader_since2 = 5 April 1976
party2 = Labour Party (UK)
leaders_seat2 = Cardiff South East
last_election2 = 319 seats, 39.2%
seats2 = 269
seat_change2 = -50
popular_vote2 = 11,532,218
percentage2 = 36.9%
swing2 = %



leader3 = David Steel
leader_since3 = 7 July 1976
party3 = Liberal Party (UK)
leaders_seat3 = Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale
last_election3 = 13 seats, 18.3%
seats3 = 11
seat_change3 = -2
popular_vote3 = 4,313,804
percentage3 = 13.8%
swing3 = %
title = PM
before_election = James Callaghan
before_party = Labour Party (UK)
after_election = Margaret Thatcher
after_party = Conservative Party (UK)

The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 and is regarded as a pivotal point in 20th century British politics. The Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher defeated James Callaghan's incumbent Labour government in what would prove to be the first of four consecutive general election victories for the Conservative Party.

Background

Callaghan had succeeded Harold Wilson as Labour Prime Minister after the latter's surprise resignation in April 1976. By March 1977 Labour's small 1974 majority had become a minority government after several by-election defeats, and from March 1977 to August 1978 Callaghan governed by an agreement with the Liberal Party through the Lib-Lab pact. Callaghan then considered calling an election in the late 1978 but ultimately decided that a possible economic upturn in 1979 could favour his party at the polls. However, events would soon overtake the Labour government. A series of industrial disputes in the winter of 1978-79, dubbed the "Winter of Discontent", led to widespread strikes across the country and seriously hurt Labour's standings in the polls. When the Scottish National Party (SNP) withdrew support for the Scotland Act 1978, a vote of no confidence was held and passed by one vote on 28 March 1979, forcing a general election. As the previous election had been held in October 1974, Labour could have held on until the autumn of 1979 if it had not been for the lost confidence vote.

Margaret Thatcher had won her party's 1975 leadership election over former leader Edward Heath.

David Steel had replaced Jeremy Thorpe as leader of the Liberal Party in 1976, after accusations of homosexuality and allegations of a conspiracy to commit murder forced Thorpe to resign (see Rinkagate). The scandals led to a fall in the Liberal vote after what was thought to be a breakthrough in the February 1974 election.

Campaign

The three main parties all advocated cutting income tax. Labour and the Conservatives did not specify the exact thresholds of income tax they would implement but the Liberals did, claiming they would have income tax starting at 20% with a top rate of 50%. [ [http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/man/lib79.htm] ]

The Labour campaign reiterated their support for the National Health Service and full employment and focused on the damage they believed the Conservatives would do to the country. In an early campaign broadcast, Callaghan asked: "The question you will have to consider is whether we risk tearing everything up by the roots". Towards the end of Labour's campaign Callaghan claimed a Conservative government "would sit back and just allow firms to go bankrupt and jobs to be lost in the middle of a world recession" and that the Conservatives were "too big a gamble to take". [Hugo Young, "One of Us" (Pan, 1990), p. 131.]

The Conservatives campaigned on economic issues, pledging to control inflation and to reduce the increasing power of the unions who supported the mass strikes. They also employed the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The Conservative campaign was focused on gaining support from traditional Labour voters who had never voted Conservative before, first-time voters and people who had voted Liberal in 1974. [John Campbell, "Margaret Thatcher: The Grocer's Daughter" (Jonathan Cape, 2000), p. 432.] Mrs. Thatcher's advisers, Gordon Reece and Timothy Bell, co-ordinated their presentation with the editor of "The Sun", Larry Lamb. "The Sun" printed a series of articles by disillusioned former Labour ministers (Reginald Prentice, Richard Marsh, Lord George-Brown, Alfred Robens and Lord Chalfont) detailing why they had switched their support to Mrs. Thatcher. Mrs. Thatcher explicitly asked Labour voters for her support when she launched her campaign in Cardiff, claiming that Labour was now extreme. [ [http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=104011] ] An analysis of the election claimed that the Conservatives gained an 11% swing among the skilled working-class (the C2s) and a 9% swing amongst the unskilled working class (the C1s). [David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh, "The British General Election of 1979" (Macmillan, 1980), p. 343]

Results

In the end, the overall swing of 5.2% was the largest since 1945 and gave the Conservatives a workable majority of 43 for the country's first female Prime Minister. The Conservative victory in 1979 also marked a change in government which would continue for 18 years until the Labour victory in 1997.

Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Conservative Party (UK)
candidates = 622
seats = 339
gain = 63
loss = 1
net = + 62
votes = 13,697,923
votes % = 43.9
seats % = 53.4%
plus/minus = + 8.1
government = yes
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Labour Party (UK)
candidates = 623
seats = 269
gain = 4
loss = 54
net = - 50
votes = 11,532,218
votes % = 36.9
seats % = 42.4%
plus/minus = - 2.3
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Liberal Party (UK)
candidates = 577
seats = 11
gain = 1
loss = 3
net = - 2
votes = 4,313,804
votes % = 13.8
seats % = 1.7%
plus/minus = - 4.5
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Scottish National Party
candidates = 71
seats = 2
gain = 0
loss = 9
net = - 9
votes = 504,259
votes % = 1.6
seats % = 0.31%
plus/minus = - 1.3
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Ulster Unionist Party
candidates = 11
seats = 5
gain = 1
loss = 2
net = - 1
votes = 254,578
votes % = 0.8
seats % = 0.79%
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = National Front (UK)
candidates = 303
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 191,719
votes % = 0.6
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = + 0.2
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Plaid Cymru
candidates = 36
seats = 2
gain = 0
loss = 1
net = - 1
votes = 132,544
votes % = 0.4
seats % = 0.31%
plus/minus = - 0.2
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Social Democratic and Labour Party
candidates = 9
seats = 1
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 126,325
votes % = 0.4
seats % = 0.16%
plus/minus = - 0.2
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
candidates = 12
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 82,892
votes % = 0.3
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = + 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Democratic Unionist Party
candidates = 5
seats = 3
gain = 2
loss = 0
net = + 2
votes = 70,795
votes % = 0.2
seats % = 0.47%
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Ecology Party
candidates = 53
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 39,918
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = + 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = United Ulster Unionist Party
candidates = 2
seats = 1
gain = 1
loss = 0
net = + 1
votes = 39,856
votes % = 0.1
seats % = 0.16%
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Independent Ulster Unionist
candidates = 1
seats = 1
gain = 1
loss = 0
net = + 1
votes = 36,989
votes % = 0.1
seats % = 0.16%
plus/minus = + 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Independent Labour
candidates = 12
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 27,953
votes % = 0.1
seats % = 0.16%
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Irish Independence Party
candidates = 4
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 23,086
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Independent Republican (Ireland)
candidates = 1
seats = 1
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 22,398
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Independent (politician)
candidates = 62
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 19,531
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = + 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Communist Party of Great Britain
candidates = 38
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 16,858
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Scottish Labour
candidates = 3
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 13,737
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Workers Revolutionary Party (UK)
candidates = 60
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 12,631
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = + 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Workers Party (Ireland)
candidates = 7
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 12,098
votes % = 0.1
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Independent SDLP
candidates = 1
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 10,785
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Unionist Party of Northern Ireland
candidates = 3
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 8,021
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Independent Conservative
candidates = 7
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 4,841
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Northern Ireland Labour Party
candidates = 3
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 4,441
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Mebyon Kernow
candidates = 3
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 4,164
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Lincoln Democratic Labour Association
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 3,785
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = - 0.1
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Wessex Regionalist Party
candidates = 7
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 3,090
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Socialist Unity (UK)
candidates = 10
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 2,834
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Independent Democratic
candidates = 5
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 1,087
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary with Candidates
party = United Country
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 1,033
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Independent Liberal
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 1,023
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Independent Socialist
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 770
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Workers (Leninist)
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 767
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = New Britain Party
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 717
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Fellowship Party
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 531
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = More Prosperous Britain
candidates = 6
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 518
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = United English National
candidates = 2
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 238
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Cornish Nationalist
candidates = 1
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 227
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = "N/A"
Election Summary with Candidates
party = Social Democrat
candidates = 1
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 144
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary with Candidates
party = English National
candidates = 1
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 142
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0
Election Summary Party with Candidates
party = Socialist Party of Great Britain
candidates = 1
seats = 0
gain = 0
loss = 0
net = 0
votes = 78
votes % = 0.0
seats % = N/A
plus/minus = 0.0

"Total number of votes cast: 31,221,362. All parties shown."

"N.B. The Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party had folded in 1978. Of its three MPs, two joined the Ulster Unionist Party (one held his seat, the other lost to the Democratic Unionist Party) and the third defended and held his seat for the United Ulster Unionist Party."

"James Kilfedder had been previously elected as an Ulster Unionist MP, but left the party, defending and holding his seat as an Independent Ulster Unionist. He subsequently founded the Ulster Popular Unionist Party but did not use that label in this election."

Votes summary

bar box
title=Popular vote
titlebar=#ddd
width=600px
barwidth=360px
bars=

eats summary

bar box
title=Parliamentary seats
titlebar=#ddd
width=600px
barwidth=360px
bars=

ee also

* MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1979.

References

*F. W. S. Craig, "British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987"
* [http://www.election.demon.co.uk/geresults.html United Kingdom election results - summary results 1885-1979]

Manifestos

* [http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/man/con79.htm Conservative manifesto, 1979] - 1979 Conservative manifesto.
* [http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/man/lab79.htm The Labour Way is the Better Way] - 1979 Labour Party manifesto.
* [http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/man/lib79.htm The Real Fight is for Britain] - 1979 Liberal Party manifesto.


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