1966 United Kingdom general election

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1966 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1964 31 March 1966 1970  

All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout75.8%, Decrease2.svg1.3%
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Harold Wilson (1967).jpg Heathdod (cropped).JPG Jo Grimond in 1963 (3x4 crop).jpg
Leader Harold Wilson Edward Heath Jo Grimond
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader since 14 February 1963 28 July 1965 5 November 1956
Leader's seat Huyton Bexley Orkney and Shetland
Last election317 seats, 44.1%304 seats, 43.4%9 seats, 11.2%
Seats won364 [note 1] 25312
Seat changeIncrease2.svg47Decrease2.svg51Increase2.svg3
Popular vote13,096,95111,418,4332,327,533
Percentage48.0%41.9%8.5%
SwingIncrease2.svg3.9%Decrease2.svg1.5%Decrease2.svg2.7%

UK General Election, 1966.svg
Colours denote the winning party—as shown in § Results

Composition of the Commons in 1966.svg
Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Harold Wilson
Labour

Prime Minister after election

Harold Wilson
Labour

The 1966 United Kingdom general election was held on 31 March 1966. The result was a landslide victory for the Labour Party led by incumbent Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Contents

Wilson decided to call a snap election since his government, elected a mere 17 months previously, in 1964, had an unworkably small majority of only four MPs. The Labour government was returned following this snap election with a much larger majority of 98 seats. This was the last general election in which the voting age was 21; Wilson's government passed an amendment to the Representation of the People Act in 1969 to include eligibility to vote at age 18, which was in place for the next general election in 1970.

Background

Prior to the 1966 general election, Labour had performed poorly in local elections in 1965, and lost a by-election, cutting their majority to just two. Shortly after the local elections, the leader of the Conservative Party Alec Douglas-Home was replaced by Edward Heath in the 1965 leadership election.

Despite setbacks and a small majority, Labour believed it had an advantage due to the disorientation from the change of leadership at the Conservative Party, the improvement of economic conditions under its brief government, and a victory at the 1966 Kingston upon Hull North by-election. [1] The Conservatives had not had much time to prepare their campaign, although it was more professional than previously. There had been little time for Heath to become well known among the British public, having led the party for just eight months before the election. For the Liberal Party, money was an issue: two elections in the space of just two years had left the party in a tight financial position and had to field less candidates. [2] Labour ran its campaign with the slogan "You know Labour government works" and avoided commenting on controversial issues such as European integration, trade unions, and nationalization. [1]

The election night was broadcast live on the BBC, was presented by Cliff Michelmore, Ian Trethowan, Robin Day, Robert McKenzie and David Butler. The election was replayed on the BBC Parliament channel on the 40th anniversary of the event, [3] and again in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the election. [4]

Although the BBC's telecast was in black and white, a couple of colour television cameras were placed in the BBC election studio at Television Centre to allow CBS's Charles Collingwood and NBC's David Brinkley to file live reports from that studio by satellite and in colour for their respective networks' evening news programmes (which were transmitted at 11:30 pm British time, 6:30 pm Eastern Standard Time).

Timeline

The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, announced on 28 February that Parliament would be dissolved on 10 March, for an election to be held on 31 March. The key dates were as follows:

Thursday 10 MarchDissolution of the 43rd Parliament and campaigning officially begins
Monday 21 MarchLast day to file nomination papers; 1,707 candidates enter to contest 630 seats
Wednesday 30 MarchCampaigning officially ends
Thursday 31 MarchPolling day
Friday 1 AprilThe Labour Party wins with an improved majority of 98
Monday 18 April 44th Parliament assembles
Thursday 21 April State Opening of Parliament

Opinion polling

Results

The Labour Party performed very well in the election and expanded its previously slim majority against the Conservative opposition to 97 seats, accomplishing a net gain of 48 seats. It won 364 seats from 48 percent of the vote, against 253 seats from 41.4 percent for the Conservatives and 12 seats from 8 percent for the Liberals. A major reason for the Labour victory was the revitalization of the party's working-class support in the 1960s. It captured its highest support yet from manual laborers at 69 percent, as well as its best performance for non-manual laborers since 1945. The government also appealed to both the right wing of the party with its cabinet dominated by junior ministers of the Attlee ministry as well as the left wing by the presence of officials such as Prime Minister Wilson, Richard Crossman, Barbara Castle, and Frank Cousins. [1]

364253121
LabourConservativeLibO
1966 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 1966
CandidatesVotes
PartyLeaderStoodElectedGainedUnseatedNet % of total %No.Net %
  Labour Harold Wilson 622364 [note 1] 48 1 +4757.848.013,096,629+3.9
  Conservative Edward Heath 6292530515140.241.911,418,4551.5
  Liberal Jo Grimond 3111252+31.98.52,327,4572.7
  SNP Arthur Donaldson 2300000.5128,474+0.3
  Independent Republican N/A500000.262,782N/A
  Communist John Gollan 5700000.262,0920.0
  Plaid Cymru Gwynfor Evans 2000000.261,0710.1
  Independent N/A1500000.135,039N/A
  Republican Labour Gerry Fitt 1 1 1 0+10.20.126,2920.0
  Nationalist Eddie McAteer 1 00000.122,167N/A
  Independent Liberal N/A300000.05,689N/A
  British National John Bean 300000.05,1820.0
  Ind. Conservative N/A400000.04,089N/A
  Union Movement Oswald Mosley 400000.04,075N/A
  Independent Labour N/A 1 00000.01,031N/A
  Fellowship Ronald Mallone 1 00000.09060.0
  National Democratic David Brown 1 00000.0769N/A
  National Teenage Screaming Lord Sutch 1 00000.0585N/A
  Ind. Labour Party Emrys Thomas 1 00000.04410.0
  Socialist (GB) N/A200000.03330.0
  Radical Alliance Pat Arrowsmith 1 00000.0163N/A
  Patriotic Party Richard Hilton 1 00000.01260.0
All parties shown. [note 2]
Government's new majority98
Total votes cast27,264,747
Turnout75.8%

Votes summary

Popular vote
Labour
48.04%
Conservative
41.88%
Liberal
8.54%
Others
1.55%

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Labour
57.78%
Conservative
40.16%
Liberal
1.90%
Others
0.16%

Incumbents defeated

Conservative

Labour

Liberal

Televised declarations

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

From BBC Parliament Replay
ConstituencyWinning party 1964Constituency result 1966 by partyWinning party 1966
ConLabLibPCSNPOthers
Cheltenham Conservative 22,68319,768 Conservative hold
Wolverhampton North East Labour 12,96521,067 Labour hold
Wolverhampton South West Conservative 21,46614,881 Conservative hold
Salford West Labour 13,25719,237 Labour hold
Salford East Labour 9,00018,409 Labour hold
Exeter Conservative 18,61322,1894,869 Labour gain
Devon North Liberal 15,6316,12716,797 Liberal hold
Smethwick Conservative 14,55018,440508 Labour gain
Nelson and Colne Labour 13,82918,4065,117 Labour hold
Leyton Labour 18,15726,8033,851441 Labour recovery
Huyton Labour 20,18241,132585 Labour hold
Billericay Conservative 38,37140,0137,587 Labour gain
Preston South Labour 17,93120,720 Labour hold
Bexley Conservative 26,37724,0444,405 Conservative hold
Brentford and Chiswick Conservative 14,03114,6382,063 Labour gain
Aberdeenshire West Conservative 13,9566,00815,151 Liberal gain
Taunton Conservative 22,35919,2165,460 Conservative hold
Monmouth Conservative 25,65428,619 Labour gain

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 The seat and vote count figures for Labour given here include the Speaker of the House of Commons
  2. The Conservative figure includes Ulster Unionists and National Liberals.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Thorpe, Andrew (1997). A History of the British Labour Party. London: Macmillan Education UK. p. 157. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-25305-0. ISBN   978-0-333-56081-5.
  2. "1966: Wilson gains mandate", BBC News, 5 April 2005, retrieved 26 May 2018
  3. "Election replay 1966", BBC News, 29 March 2006, retrieved 26 May 2018
  4. 1966 General Election, BBC Parliament, retrieved 26 May 2018

Further reading

Manifestos