1964 United Kingdom general election

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1964 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1959 15 October 1964 1966  

All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout77.1%, Decrease2.svg1.7%
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Harold Wilson.jpg Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg Jo Grimond.jpg
Leader Harold Wilson Alec Douglas-Home Jo Grimond
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader since 14 February 1963 18 October 19635 November 1956
Leader's seat Huyton Kinross and
Western Perthshire
Orkney
and Shetland
Last election258 seats, 43.8%365 seats, 49.4%6 seats, 5.9%
Seats won3173049
Seat changeIncrease2.svg59Decrease2.svg61Increase2.svg3
Popular vote12,205,80812,002,6423,099,283
Percentage44.1%43.4%11.2%
SwingIncrease2.svg0.3%Decrease2.svg6.0%Increase2.svg5.3%

UK General Election, 1964.svg
Colours denote the winning party—as shown in § Results

Composition of the Commons in 1964.svg
Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Alec Douglas-Home
Conservative

Prime Minister after election

Harold Wilson
Labour

The 1964 United Kingdom general election was held on 15 October 1964, five years after the previous election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party, first led by Winston Churchill, had entered power. It resulted in the Conservatives, led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home, narrowly losing the election to the Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, with Labour having an overall majority of four seats. It resulted in Labour ending its thirteen years in opposition and led Wilson to become, at the time, the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Rosebery in 1894.

Contents

The Labour Party achieved substantial gains in Scotland, beginning the party's political domination of that country that lasted until the rise of the SNP at the 2015 general election.

Background

Both major parties had changed leadership in 1963; after the sudden death of Hugh Gaitskell early in the year, Labour chose Harold Wilson (who was then thought of as being on the party's centre-left), while Sir Alec Douglas-Home (then the Earl of Home) had taken over as Conservative leader and Prime Minister in the autumn after Harold Macmillan announced his resignation. Douglas-Home shortly afterwards disclaimed his title under the Peerage Act 1963 in order to lead the party from the Commons.

Macmillan had led the Conservative government since January 1957. Despite initial popularity and a resounding election victory in 1959, he had become increasingly unpopular in the early-1960s, and while it was for a while thought likely that the Conservatives would win the scheduled 1964 general election, albeit with a reduced majority, the emergence of the Profumo affair in March 1963 and Macmillan's handling of the matter all but destroyed the credibility of his government. While he survived a vote of no confidence in June 1963, polling indicated that the Conservatives would lose the next election heavily if Macmillan remained in power, which, along with health issues, caused Macmillan to announce his resignation in the autumn of 1963.

Douglas-Home faced a difficult task in rebuilding the party's popularity with just a year elapsing between taking office and having to face a general election. Wilson had begun to try to tie the Labour Party to the growing confidence of Britain in the 1960s, asserting that the "white heat of revolution" would sweep away "restrictive practices ... on both sides of industry". The Liberal Party enjoyed a resurgence after a virtual wipeout in the 1950s, and doubled its share of the vote, primarily at the expense of the Conservatives. Although Labour did not increase its vote share significantly, the fall in support for the Conservatives led to Wilson securing an overall majority of four seats. [1] This proved to be unworkable, and Wilson called a snap election in 1966.

Campaign

The pre-election campaign was prolonged, as Douglas-Home delayed calling a general election to give himself as much time as possible to improve the prospects of his party. The election campaign formally began on 25 September 1964 when Douglas-Home saw the Queen and asked for a dissolution of Parliament. The campaign was dominated by some of the more voluble characters of the political scene at the time. While George Brown, deputy leader of the Labour Party, toured the country making energetic speeches (and the occasional gaffe), Quintin Hogg was a leading spokesman for the Conservatives. The image of Hogg lashing out at a Wilson poster with his walking stick was one of the most striking of the campaign.[ citation needed ]

Many party speakers, especially at televised rallies, had to deal with hecklers; in particular Douglas-Home was treated very roughly at a meeting in Birmingham. Douglas-Home's speeches dealt with the future of the nuclear deterrent, while fears of Britain's relative decline in the world, reflected in chronic balance of payment problems, helped the Labour Party's case. [2]

The election night was broadcast live by the BBC, and was presented for the fifth and final time by Richard Dimbleby, with Robin Day, Ian Trethowan, Cliff Michelmore and David Butler. [3]

Opinion polling

Results

The Conservatives made a surprising recovery from being well behind Labour when Home become prime minister, and would have won if 900 voters in eight seats had changed votes. [4] Labour won a very slim majority of four seats, forming a government for the first time since 1951. Labour achieved a swing of just over 3%, although its vote rose by only 0.3%. The main shift was the swing from the Conservatives to the Liberals of 5.7%. The Liberals won nearly twice as many votes as in 1959, partly because they had 150 more candidates. Wilson became Prime Minister, replacing Douglas-Home. The four-seat majority was not sustainable for a full Parliament, and Wilson called another general election in 1966. In particular the small majority meant the government could not implement its policy of nationalising the steel industry, due to the opposition of two of its backbenchers, Woodrow Wyatt and Desmond Donnelly.

89 female candidates stood in the election with 29 women being elected as MPs (11 for the Conservatives and 18 for Labour. [5]

This was the only election in Britain's recent history when all seats were won by the three main parties: no minor parties, independents or splinter groups won any seats. It is also the only time both Labour and the Conservatives have taken over 300 seats each and was the last election in which one party, namely the Conservative Party, contested every single seat. The Conservatives had previously held off on contesting certain Liberal-held seats as per local-level agreements to avoid vote-splitting, but ended that policy at this election. The resultant splitting of votes actually helped grant Labour a majority, by throwing two formerly Liberal-held seats in northern England to Labour; however, the outcome of the election would not have been meaningfully altered had the Liberals retained the seats, as Labour would still have had as many seats as the other two parties combined, and Liberal leader Jo Grimond was not inclined to prop up a minority Conservative government.

Home told D. R. Thorpe that the most important reason for the Conservative loss was Iain Macleod's "The Tory Leadership" article, in which the former cabinet minister claimed that an Etonian "magic circle" conspiracy had led to Home becoming prime minister. [4]

3173049
LabourConservativeLib
1964 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 1964
CandidatesVotes
PartyLeaderStoodElectedGainedUnseatedNet % of total %No.Net %
  Labour Harold Wilson 628317634+5950.344.112,205,808+0.3
  Conservative Alec Douglas-Home 6303044656148.343.412,002,6426.0
  Liberal Jo Grimond 365952+31.411.23,099,283+5.3
  Independent Republican N/A1200000.4101,628N/A
  Plaid Cymru Gwynfor Evans 2300000.369,5070.0
  SNP Arthur Donaldson 1500000.264,044+0.1
  Communist John Gollan 3600000.246,442+0.1
  Independent N/A2000000.118,677N/A
  Independent Liberal N/A400000.116,064N/A
  Republican Labour Gerry Fitt 1 00000.114,678N/A
  Ind. Conservative N/A500 1 10.06,459N/A
  British National John Bean 1 00000.03,410N/A
  Anti-Common Market League John Paul & Michael Shay200000.03,083N/A
  Ind. Nuclear Disarmament Pat Arrowsmith 200000.01,534N/A
  Fellowship Ronald Mallone 1 00000.01,1120.0
  Patriotic Party Richard Hilton200000.01,108N/A
  League of Empire Loyalists Arthur K. Chesterton 300000.01,046N/A
  Communist Anti-Revisionist Michael McCreery 1 00000.0899N/A
 Christian ProgressiveN/A 1 00000.0865N/A
  Taxpayers' Coalition Party John E. Dayton 1 00000.0709N/A
  Agriculturalist N/A100000.0534N/A
  Independent Labour N/A 1 00000.0458N/A
  National Democratic David Brown 1 00000.0349N/A
  Socialist (GB) N/A200000.03220.0
  World Government Gilbert Young 1 00000.0318N/A
 British and CommonwealthMiles Blair 1 00000.0310N/A
  Social Credit Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland John Hargrave 1 00000.0304N/A
  Christian Socialist N/A100000.0265N/A
All parties shown. [lower-alpha 2]
Government's new majority4
Total votes cast27,657,148
Turnout77%

Votes summary

Popular vote
Labour
44.13%
Conservative
43.41%
Liberal
11.21%
Others
1.25%

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Labour
50.32%
Conservative
48.25%
Liberal
1.43%

Regional results

Great Britain

PartyVotes% of voteCandidatesSeats% of seats+/–
Labour 12,103,04944.8618317
Conservative & Unionist 11,600,74542.9618292
Conservative 10,292,97438.1599286
Unionist 981,6413.66524
National Liberal 326,1301.2196
Liberal 3,081,92911.43619
Plaid Cymru 69,5070.32300.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
SNP 64,0440.21500.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Communist 46,4420.23600.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Other parties and independents53,1160.24700.0
Total (turnout: 77.2%)27,018,832100.01,718618100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Did not vote 7,984,670
Registered voters 35,003,502
British population 52,608,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
England
PartyVotes% of voteCandidatesSeats% of seats+/–
Conservative & Unionist 10,106,02844.151126251.3
Conservative 9,894,01443.150025650.1
National Liberal 212,0140.91161.1
Labour 9,982,36043.551124648.1
Liberal 2,775,75212.132330.6
Communist 24,8240.12200.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Other parties and independents48,2870.24200.0
Total (turnout: 77.0%)22,937,251100.01,409511100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Did not vote 6,867,376
Registered voters 29,804,627
English population 44,610,500
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
Scotland
PartyVotes% of voteCandidatesSeats% of seats+/–
Labour 1,283,66748.7714360.6+5
Conservative & Unionist 1,069,69540.6712433.87
Unionist 981,64137.3652433.81
National Liberal 88,0543.3600.06
Liberal 200,0637.62645.6+3
SNP 64,0442.41500.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Communist 12,2410.5900.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Other parties and independents4,8290.2500.0
Total (turnout: 77.6%)2,634,539100.019771100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Did not vote 759,352
Registered voters 3,393,891
Scottish population 5,209,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
Wales
PartyVotes% of voteCandidatesSeats% of seats+/–
Labour 837,02257.8362877.8
Conservative & Unionist 425,02229.436616.7
Conservative 398,96027.634616.7
National Liberal 26,0621.8200.0
Liberal 106,1147.31225.6
Plaid Cymru 69,5074.82300.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Communist 9,3770.6500.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Total (turnout: 80.1%)1,447,042100.011236100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Did not vote 358,453
Registered voters 1,805,495
Voting age population1,805,925
Welsh population 2,676,400
Source: Rallings & Thrasher

Northern Ireland

PartyVotes% of voteCandidatesSeats% of seats+/–
Conservative & Unionist 401,89763.01212100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Ulster Unionist Party
Labour 102,75916.11000.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Independent Republican 101,62815.91200.0
Ulster Liberal 17,3542.7400.0
Republican Labour 14,6782.3100.0
Total (turnout: 71.7%)638,316100.012100.0Equals-sign-blue.gif
Did not vote 252,236
Registered voters 890,552
Voting age population891,043
Northern Irish population 1,458,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher

Transfers of seats

FromToNo.Seats
Labour Labour (HOLD) Aberavon, Aberdare, Aberdeen North, Abertillery, Accrington, Anglesey, Ashton-under-Lyne, Ayrshire Central, Ayrshire South, Barking, Barrow-in-Furness, Bedwellty, Belper, Birkenhead, Bishop Auckland, Blackburn, Blaydon, Bolsover, Bootle, Bosworth, Bothwell, Brecon and Radnor, Brigg, Bristol Central, Bristol South, Bristol South East 4, Burnley, Caernarfon, Caerphilly, Cardiff South East, Cardiff West, Carmarthen, Chester-le-Street, Chesterfield, Chorley, Coatbridge and Airdrie, Consett, Crewe, Dagenham, Dartford, Derby North, Derby South, Derbyshire North East, Dudley, Dunbartonshire East, Dunbartonshire West, Dundee East, Dundee West, Dunfermline Burghs, Durham, Durham North West, Easington, East Ham N, East Ham S, Ebbw Vale, Eccles, Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh East, Edinburgh Leith, Erith and Crayford, Falmouth and Camborne, Farnworth, Faversham, Fife West, Flintshire East, Gateshead East, Gateshead West, Glasgow Bridgeton, Glasgow Central, Glasgow Craigton, Glasgow Gorbals, Glasgow Govan, Glasgow Maryhill, Glasgow Provan, Glasgow Scotstoun, Glasgow Shettleston, Glasgow Springburn, Gloucester, Gloucestershire West, Goole, Gower, Greenock, Grimsby, Hamilton, Houghton-le-Spring, Huyton, Ilkeston, Ince, Jarrow, Kilmarnock, Kingston upon Hull East, Kingston upon Hull West, Kirkcaldy Burghs, Lanark, Lanarkshire North, Leicester NE, Leicester NW, Leicester SW, Leigh, Leyton, Lincoln, Liverpool Edge Hill, Liverpool Exchange, Liverpool Scotland, Llanelli, Loughborough, Manchester Ardwick, Manchester Cheetham, Manchester Exchange, Manchester Gorton, Manchester Openshaw, Merionethshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Midlothian, Motherwell, Neath, Nelson and Colne, Newport (Monmouthshire), Newton, Ogmore, Oldbury and Halesowen, Oldham East, Oldham West, Paisley, Pembrokeshire, Pontypool, Pontypridd, Rhondda East, Rhondda West, Rochdale, Romford, Rossendale, Rowley Regis and Tipton, St Helens, Salford East, Salford West, Sedgefield, South Shields, Southampton Itchen, Stalybridge and Hyde, Stirling and Falkirk, Stirlingshire East and Clackmannan, Stirlingshire West, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland North, Swansea East, Thurrock, Walthamstow W, Warrington, West Ham North, West Ham South, West Lothian, Western Isles, Westhoughton, Whitehaven, Widnes, Wigan, Workington, Wrexham
Liberal National
Conservative Eton and Slough
Liberal Labour Bolton West, Huddersfield West
Liberal (HOLD) Cardiganshire, Devon North, Montgomeryshire, Orkney and Shetland
Liberal National Labour Luton†, Renfrewshire West
Liberal Ross and Cromarty
Liberal National (HOLD) Bristol North East, Harwich, Holland with Boston, Huntingdonshire, St Ives
Conservative Angus North and Mearns, Angus South, Bedfordshire South*, Dumfries†, Fife East†, Plymouth Devonport*
Conservative Labour Bolton East, Buckingham, Bury and Radcliffe, Carlisle, Derbyshire South East, Dover, Epping, Glasgow Kelvingrove, Glasgow Pollok, Glasgow Woodside†, Gravesend, The Hartlepools, Heywood and Royton, Hitchin, Kingston upon Hull North, Liverpool Kirkdale, Liverpool Toxteth, Liverpool Walton, Liverpool West Derby, Manchester Blackley, Manchester Wythenshawe, Preston South, Rochester and Chatham, Rutherglen†, Stockport North, Stockport South, Sunderland South, Swansea West, Watford
Liberal Bodmin, Inverness, Orpington
Conservative (HOLD) Aberdeen South, Aberdeenshire East, Aberdeenshire West, Abingdon, Aldershot, Altrincham and Sale, Argyll, Ashford, Aylesbury, Ayr, Ayrshire North and Bute, Banff, Barnet, Barry, Basingstoke, Bebington, Beckenham, Bedford, Bedfordshire Mid, Berwick and East Lothian, Bexley, Billericay, Blackpool North, Blackpool South, Bournemouth East & Christchurch, Bournemouth West, Bridlington, Bristol North West, Bristol West, Bromley, Bromsgrove, Buckinghamshire South, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Canterbury, Cardiff North, Cheadle, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Chester, Chigwell, Chislehurst, Cirencester and Tewkesbury, Clitheroe, Colchester, Conway, Cornwall North, Crosby, Darlington, Darwen, Denbigh, West Derbyshire, Dorset North, Dorset South 3, Dorset West, Eastleigh, Edinburgh North, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh West, Essex SE, Exeter, Flintshire West, Folkestone and Hythe, Fylde North, Fylde South, Gainsborough, Galloway, Gillingham, Glasgow Cathcart, Glasgow Hillhead, Gloucestershire South, Gosport and Fareham, Grantham, Haltemprice, Harborough, Hemel Hempstead, Hereford, Hertford, Hertfordshire E, Hertfordshire SW, High Peak, Honiton, Horncastle, Hornchurch, Howden, Ilford North, Ilford South, Isle of Ely, Isle of Thanet, Isle of Wight, Kidderminster, Kinross and West Perthshire, Knutsford, Lancaster, Leicester South East, Leominster, Liverpool Garston, Liverpool Wavertree, Louth, Macclesfield, Maidstone, Maldon, Manchester Moss Side, Manchester Withington, Melton, Middleton and Prestwich, Monmouth, Moray and Nairn, Morecambe and Lonsdale, Nantwich, New Forest, Newbury, Northwich, Ormskirk, Plymouth Sutton, Penrith and the Border, Perth and East Perthshire, Petersfield, Poole, Portsmouth Langstone, Portsmouth South, Portsmouth West, Preston North, Reading, Renfrewshire East, Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, Runcorn, Rutland and Stamford, Saffron Walden, St Albans, Sevenoaks, Southampton Test, Southend East, Southend West, Southport, Stretford, Stroud, Tavistock, Tiverton, Tonbridge, Torquay, Torrington, Totnes, Truro, Wallasey, Walthamstow East, Wanstead and Woodford, Westmorland, Winchester, Windsor, Wirral, Wokingham, Worcester, Worcestershire South, Wycombe
Ind. Conservative
Ind. Conservative Liberal Caithness and Sutherland
UUP UUP North Antrim, South Antrim, Armagh, Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South, Belfast West, Down North, Down South, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Londonderry, Mid Ulster
Conservative Speaker Cities of London and Westminster

Incumbents defeated

Conservative

Labour

Liberal

Televised results programmes

Both BBC and ITV provided live televised coverage of the results and provided commentary.

Televised declarations

These declarations were covered live by the BBC where the returning officer was heard to say "duly elected".

ConstituencyWinning party 1959Constituency result 1964 by partyWinning party 1964
ConLabLibOthers
Cheltenham Conservative 19,79714,5577,568 Conservative hold
Salford West Labour 16,44620,490 Labour hold
Billericay Conservative 35,34733,75510,706 Conservative hold
Exeter Conservative 18,03516,6738,815 Conservative hold
Battersea South Conservative 10,61512,2633,294 Labour gain
Liverpool Exchange Labour 7,23916,985 Labour hold
Holborn and St Pancras South Conservative 13,11715,823226 Labour gain
North Devon Liberal 13,9854,30619,031 Liberal hold
Stockport South Conservative 13,71816,7557,107 Labour gain
Barons Court Conservative 14,80015,9662,821 Labour gain
Bolton West Liberal 13,52216,51910,086 Labour gain
Smethwick Labour 16,69014,916262 Conservative gain
Huyton Labour 22,94042,213899 Labour hold
Orpington Conservative 19,5654,60922,637 Liberal win
Torrington Conservative 16,8895,86714,831 Conservative hold
Kinross and Western Perthshire Conservative 16,6594,6873,649 Conservative hold

See also

Notes

  1. This summary of opinion poll findings from the last few days of the campaign is given early in the BBC's election night coverage.
  2. Conservative total includes Scottish Unionists, Ulster Unionists, and National Liberals.

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References

  1. "1964: Labour scrapes through", BBC News, 5 April 2005, retrieved 21 May 2018
  2. John W. Young, "International Factors and the 1964 Election." Contemporary British History (2007) 21#3 pp 351-371.
  3. UK General Election 1964 – Results Round-up on YouTube
  4. 1 2 Vernon Bogdanor (18 January 2014). "The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government". The Spectator. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  5. Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1966. Epsom, Surrey: Business Directories Limited. 1966. pp. 574–575.

Further reading

Manifestos