Thursday, 10 December 2009

What can we learn from Last Time?

On the last day of February 1974 the country went to the polls. It was a bizarre election...

A three-day week, power cuts, a miners' strike and the worsening situation in Northern Ireland had led Ted Heath to call an early election on the issue of "Who governs Britain?", against a backdrop of Liberal and SNP electoral resurgence.

In response to Heath's fatuous question, amid rain and snow in many parts of the country, the electorate delivered an impenetrable answer.

Seats chg Votes chg
Con 296 -37 37.9% -8.5
Lab 301 +20 37.2% -5.9
Lib 14 +8 19.3% +11.8
SNP 7 +6 2.0% +0.9
UU 7 -1 0.7%
Oth (NI) 5 +1 1.3%
PC 2 +2 0.5% -0.1
Oth (GB) 2 +1 1.1%
Speaker 1 -

(seat changes based on notional 1970 result)

The Tories emerged from the election with the most votes, Labour with the most seats, although had the seven Ulster Unionists remained fully-fledged affiliates of the Conservative party (as they were in 1970), Heath could have legitimately claimed a seat plurality as well. The Liberals, with over 6 million votes, had insufficient seats to combine with either main party to form a majority (318 seats required).