1966 United Kingdom general election

Last updated

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

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

Prime Minister after election

Harold Wilson

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.


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.


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).


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


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]

1966 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 1966
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

Votes summary

Popular vote

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats

Incumbents defeated




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
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


  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.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1997 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 1997 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 1 May 1997. The governing Conservative Party led by Prime Minister John Major was defeated in a landslide by the Labour Party led by Tony Blair, achieving a 179 seat majority.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1979 United Kingdom general election</span> UK general election 1979

The 1979 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1983 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of the Labour Party in 1945, with a majority of 144 seats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1970 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 1970 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 18 June 1970. It resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, which defeated the governing Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The Liberal Party, under its new leader Jeremy Thorpe, lost half its seats. The Conservatives, including the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), secured a majority of 30 seats. This general election was the first in which people could vote from the age of 18, after passage of the Representation of the People Act the previous year, and the first UK election where party, and not just candidate names were allowed to be put on the ballots.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">February 1974 United Kingdom general election</span>

The February 1974 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 28 February 1974. The Labour Party, led by Leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, gained 14 seats, but was seventeen short of an overall majority. The Conservative Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister Edward Heath, lost 28 seats; but achieved a higher share of the vote than Labour. This resulted in a hung parliament, the first since 1929. Heath sought a coalition with the Liberals, but the two parties failed to come to an agreement and then Wilson became Prime Minister for a second time, his first under a minority government. Because Labour was unable to form a majority coalition with another party, Wilson called another early election in September, which was held in October and resulted in a Labour majority. This was also the first general election to be held with the United Kingdom as a member state of the European Communities (EC)—widely known as the "Common Market".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">October 1974 United Kingdom general election</span> UK general election 1974 (October)

The October 1974 United Kingdom general election took place on Thursday 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members of the British House of Commons. It was the second general election held that year, the first year that two general elections were held in the same year since 1910, and the first time that two general elections were held less than a year apart from each other since the 1923 and 1924 elections, which took place 10 months apart. The election resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson winning a bare majority of just 3 seats. This enabled the remainder of the Labour government, 1974–1979 to take place, which saw a gradual loss of its majority.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1945 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 1945 United Kingdom general election was a national election held on 5 July 1945, but polling in some constituencies was delayed by some days, and the counting of votes was delayed until 26 July to provide time for overseas votes to be brought to Britain. The governing Conservative Party sought to maintain its position in Parliament but faced challenges from public opinion about the future of the United Kingdom in the post-war period. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proposed to call for a general election in Parliament, which passed with a majority vote less than two months after the conclusion of the Second World War in Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1964 United Kingdom general election</span>

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 regained power. It resulted in the Conservatives, led by the incumbent Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, narrowly losing to the Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson; Labour secured a parliamentary majority of four seats and ended its thirteen years in opposition. Wilson became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Rosebery in 1894. To date, this is also the most narrow majority obtained in the House of Commons with just 1 seat clearing labour for Majority Government.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1950 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 1950 United Kingdom general election was the first ever to be held after a full term of Labour government. The election was held on Thursday 23 February 1950, and was the first held following the abolition of plural voting and university constituencies. The government's 1945 lead over the Conservative Party shrank dramatically, and Labour was returned to power but with an overall majority reduced from 146 to just 5. There was a 2.8% national swing towards the Conservatives, who gained 90 seats. Labour called another general election in 1951, which the Conservative Party won.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1951 United Kingdom general election</span> October 1951 general election

The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held twenty months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats. The Labour government called a snap election for Thursday 25 October 1951 in the hope of increasing its parliamentary majority. However, despite winning the popular vote and achieving both the highest-ever total vote and highest percentage vote share, Labour won fewer seats than the Conservative Party. This election marked the return of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, and the beginning of Labour's thirteen-year spell in opposition. This was the third and final general election to be held during the reign of King George VI, for he died the following year on 6 February and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II. It is also the most recent election in which the Conservatives have done better in Scotland than in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1959 United Kingdom general election</span> 8th October 1959

The 1959 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 8 October 1959. It marked a third consecutive victory for the ruling Conservative Party, now led by Harold Macmillan. For the second time in a row, the Conservatives increased their overall majority in Parliament, this time to a landslide majority of 100 seats, having gained 20 seats for a return of 365. The Labour Party, led by Hugh Gaitskell, lost 19 seats and returned 258. The Liberal Party, led by Jo Grimond, again returned only six MPs to the House of Commons, but managed to increase its overall share of the vote to 5.9%, compared to just 2.7% four years earlier.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2005 United Kingdom general election</span>

The 2005 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 5 May 2005, to elect 646 members to the House of Commons. The Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, won its third consecutive victory, with Blair becoming the second Labour leader after Harold Wilson to form three majority governments. However, its majority fell to 66 seats compared to the 167-seat majority it had won four years before. This was the first time the Labour Party had won a third consecutive election, and remains the party's most recent general election victory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010 United Kingdom general election</span> General election held in the United Kingdom

The 2010 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 6 May 2010, with 45,597,461 registered voters entitled to vote to elect members to the House of Commons. The election took place in 650 constituencies across the United Kingdom under the first-past-the-post system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2006 United Kingdom local elections</span>

Local government elections took place in England (only) on Thursday 4 May 2006. Polling stations were open between 7:00 and 22:00.

Welsh Labour is the branch of the United Kingdom Labour Party in Wales and the largest party in modern Welsh politics. Welsh Labour and its forebears won a plurality of the Welsh vote at every UK general election since 1922, Senedd election since 1999, and European Parliament election in 1979–2004 and 2014. Welsh Labour holds 22 of the 40 Welsh seats in the UK Parliament, 30 of the 60 seats in the Welsh Senedd and 576 of the 1,264 councillors in principal local authorities, including overall control of 10 of the 22 principal local authorities.

In the run-up to the general election of 2010, several polling organisations carried out opinion polling in regards to voting intention in Great Britain. Results of such polls are displayed below.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2015 United Kingdom general election</span> General election held in the United Kingdom

The 2015 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 7 May 2015 to elect 650 members to the House of Commons. It was the first and only general election held at the end of a Parliament under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Local elections took place in most areas on the same day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2015 United Kingdom general election in England</span>

The 2015 United Kingdom general election in England was held on Thursday, 7 May 2015 for 533 English seats to the House of Commons. The Conservatives won a majority of seats in England for the second time since 1992.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2017 United Kingdom general election</span> General election held in the United Kingdom

The 2017 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 8 June 2017, two years after the previous general election in 2015; it was the first since 1992 to be held on a day that did not coincide with any local elections. The governing Conservative Party remained the largest single party in the House of Commons but lost its small overall majority, resulting in the formation of a Conservative minority government with a Confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2019 United Kingdom general election</span> Election to the 58th United Kingdom House of Commons

The 2019 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 12 December 2019. It resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a landslide majority of 80 seats. The Conservatives made a net gain of 48 seats and won 43.6% of the popular vote – the highest percentage for any party since 1979.


  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