All 635 seats in the House of Commons
318 seats needed for a majority
Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.
The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. It was the second general election of that year, and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson winning an overall majority of just 3 seats.
The election of February that year had produced an unexpected hung parliament. Coalition talks between the Conservatives and other parties such as the Liberals and the Ulster Unionists failed, allowing Labour leader Harold Wilson to form a minority government. The October campaign was not as vigorous or exciting as the one in February. Despite continuing high inflation, Labour was able to boast that it had ended the miners' strike, which had dogged Heath's premiership, and had returned some stability. The Conservative Party, still led by Edward Heath, released a manifesto promoting national unity; however, its chances of forming a government were hindered by the Ulster Unionist Party refusing to take the Conservative whip at Westminster, in response to the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973.
In the election the Labour Party won 319 seats, allowing it to form a majority government, albeit with a majority of only 3. The Conservatives and the Liberals each saw their vote share fall, and Conservative leader Edward Heath, who had lost three of the four elections he contested, was ousted as party leader in February 1975 and replaced with future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Scottish National Party won 30% of the Scottish popular vote and 11 of Scotland's 71 seats, its highest Westminster representation until 2015. Subsequently, Labour's narrow parliamentary majority disappeared by 1977 through a series of by-election losses and defections. It then required deals with the Liberals, the Ulster Unionists, the Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Nationalists.
This was the last general election won by Labour until 1997: the next four elections all produced an outright Conservative victory.
The brief period between the elections gave Wilson the opportunity to demonstrate reasonable progress. Despite high inflation and high balance-of-trade deficits, the miners' strike that had dogged Heath was over and some stability had been restored. Following the February election Heath had remained largely out of the public eye. As was expected,[by whom?] the campaign was not as exciting as the one in February and overall coverage by broadcasters was significantly scaled back. The Conservatives campaigned on a manifesto of national unity, in response to the mood of the public. Labour campaigned on its recent successes in government, and although the party was divided over Europe, their strengths outweighed that of Heath, who knew his future relied on an election victory. Devolution was a key issue for the Liberals and the Scottish National Party, and was now one that the two main parties also felt the need to address. The Liberals did not issue a new manifesto, simply reissuing the one they had created for the last election.
The Prime Minister Harold Wilson made a ministerial broadcast on television on 18 September to announce that the election would be held on 10 October, less than eight months since the previous election. The key dates were as follows:
|Friday 20 September||Dissolution of the 46th parliament and campaigning officially begins|
|Monday 30 September||Last day to file nomination papers|
|Wednesday 9 October||Campaigning officially ends|
|Thursday 10 October||Polling day|
|Friday 11 October||The Labour Party wins control with a majority of 3|
|Tuesday 22 October||47th parliament assembles|
|Tuesday 29 October||State Opening of Parliament|
Labour achieved a swing of 2% against the Conservatives. This was the first time since 1922 that a government had won an overall majority with less than 40% of the vote, albeit a majority of only 3. The Conservatives won just 36% of the vote, their worst share since 1945; and a slight drop in the Liberal vote saw them suffer a net loss of 1 seat. In Scotland, the SNP added another 4 seats to their successes in the previous election to become the 4th largest party.
|Party||Leader||Standing||Elected||Gained||Unseated||Net||% of total||%||No.||Net %|
|Labour||Harold Wilson||623||319||20||2||+ 18||50.236||39.2||11,457,079||+ 2.0|
|Conservative||Edward Heath||622||277||2||22||- 20||43.622||35.8||10,462,565||- 2.1|
|Liberal||Jeremy Thorpe||619||13||1||2||- 1||2.047||18.3||5,346,704||- 1.0|
|SNP||William Wolfe||71||11||4||0||+ 4||1.732||2.9||839,617||+ 0.9|
|UUP||Harry West||7||6||0||1||- 1||0.944||0.9||256,065||+ 0.1|
|Plaid Cymru||Gwynfor Evans||36||3||1||0||+ 1||0.472||0.6||166,321||+ 0.1|
|SDLP||Gerry Fitt||9||1||0||0||0||0.6||154,193||+ 0.1|
|National Front||John Kingsley Read||90||0||0||0||0||0.4||113,843||+ 0.2|
|Vanguard||William Craig||3||3||0||0||0||0.3||92,262||+ 0.1|
|DUP||Ian Paisley||2||1||0||0||0||0.3||59,451||+ 0.1|
|Alliance||Oliver Napier||5||0||0||0||0||0.2||44,644||+ 0.1|
|Independent Labour||N/A||7||0||0||1||-1||0.2||33,317||+ 0.1|
|Independent Republican||N/A||1||1||1||0||+ 1||0.2||32,795||+ 0.2|
|Republican Clubs||Tomás Mac Giolla||5||0||0||0||0||0.1||21,633||+ 0.1|
|Unionist Party NI||Brian Faulkner||2||0||0||0||0||0.1||20,454||N/A|
|Democratic Labour||Dick Taverne||1||0||0||1||- 1||0.1||13,714||+ 0.1|
|NI Labour||Alan Carr||3||0||0||0||0||0.0||11,539||0.0|
|Independent Ulster Unionist||N/A||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||4,982||N/A|
|United Democratic||James Tippett||13||0||0||0||0||0.0||4,810||N/A|
|More Prosperous Britain||Tom Keen and Harold Smith||25||0||0||0||0||0.0||4,301||0.0|
|Workers Revolutionary||Gerry Healey||10||0||0||0||0||0.0||3,404||0.0|
|Independent Liberal||N/A||3||0||0||0||0||0.0||3,277||- 0.2|
|Volunteer Political||Ken Gibson||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||2,690||N/A|
|Irish Civil Rights||7||0||0||0||0||0.0||2,381||N/A|
|Marxist-Leninist (England)||John Buckle||8||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,320||0.0|
|English National||Frank Hansford-Miller||2||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,115||N/A|
|United English National||John Kynaston||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||793||N/A|
|Marxist-Leninist (Ireland)||Carole Reakes||3||0||0||0||0||0.0||540||N/A|
|Mebyon Kernow||Richard Jenkin||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||384||N/A|
All parties shown.
|Government's new majority||3|
|Total votes cast||29,189,104|
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