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United Kingdom general election, 1978 (Election '78)

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The election was held on October 19th 1978.

James Callaghan had taken over from Harold Wilson as Labour Leader and Prime Minister in April 1976 during a period of economic recession and union discontent. However during 1978 Britain had experienced the beginnings of economic recovery, and an embarresing loan from the IMF was repaid. In September Callaghan took advantage of the recovery by calling a snap election.

First Party Second Party Third Party
James Callaghan and Carter crop
Margaret Thatcher 295
David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood 1987-1997
Leader James Callaghan Margaret Thatcher David Steel
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader Since April 5 1976 February 11 1975 July 7 1976
Last Election 319 seats, 39.2% 277 seats, 35.8% 13 seats, 18.3%
Seats Won 336 273 10
Seat Change +17 -3 -3
Percentage 44.5% 38.8% 11.3%
Swing +5.3% +3% -7%

Background

Campaign

Labour Campaign

The Labour campaign focused on the economic recovery and the personal popularity of the Prime Minister compared with Mrs Thatcher. The campaign was largely positive, with the main exception being the now infamous poster of a candle in a darkened room with the caption "Remember the last Tory government?", a reference to the three day week under the Heath government.

Conservative Campaign

Liberal Campaign

The ongoing "Rinkagate" scandal involving former leader Jeremy Thorpe deeply affected the liberals popularity, and most of the gains of 1974 were fading.



October 19th, 1978 General Election Results
Party Seats %
Labour 336
Conservative 273
Liberal 10
SNP 2
UUP 5
Plaid Cymru 2
DUP 3
SNP 3
UPUP 1
Total 635 1

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