The 1979 General Election

  • Martin Holmes


The Labour Government fell on 28 March 1979 when it was defeated by a majority of one, 311 to 310, in a vote of no confidence. It is not the intention here to deal in detail with the parliamentary arithmetic following the Scotland and Wales referenda on 1 March which knocked away Nationalist support for the government which had been crucial since the formal ending of the Lib-Lab pact. However, as Leonard rightly points out, the failure to reach the 40 per cent hurdle in the Scotland referendum1 may be partly explained by the government’s unpopularity following the winter of discontent. The two to one majority in favour of devolution dissipated during the referendum campaign and the association in the electorate’s mind between devolution, the Labour Government and industrial militancy cannot be easily explained away. Leonard argues that ‘had the referendum been held in the previous December there is little doubt that a much higher positive vote (probably exceeding the 40% barrier) would have been obtained’.2


Closed Shop Postal Ballot Electoral Advantage Labour Voter Electoral Benefit 
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Notes and References

  1. 6.
    Ivor Crewe in The Times Guide to the House of Commons, May 1979 (London: Times Books, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    See David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1979 (London: Macmillan, 1979) for a comprehensive coverage of the campaign.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Max Beloff and Gillian Peele, The Government of the United Kingdom: Political Authority in a Changing Society (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980) p. 149.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dr. Martin Holmes 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Holmes
    • 1
  1. 1.Lady Margaret HallOxfordUK

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