Alternate History

United Kingdom general election, 1983 (Election '78)

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The 1983 United Kingdom general elections was held on 5 May 1983. It gave the Labour Party under Denis Healey a landslide majority in the most decisive election victory since 1945.

The Conservative Party won its lowest number of seats since 1945, and its lowest share of the vote since 1918.

First Party Second Party Third Party
Healey 1985
David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood 1987-1997
Leader Denis Healey William Whitelaw David Steel
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader Since November 10 1981 November 1978 July 7 1976
Last Election 336 seats 273 seats 10 seats
Seats won 391 224 14
Seat Change +55 -46 +4
Percentage 46.5%


Denis Healey was elected Leader of the Labour Party in 1980 replacing James Callaghan. Despite an economic recession in 1980-1981, by the Spring of 1982 the economy was recovering and unemployment falling under 4%. Britain's victory in the Falklands War also helped boost Labour's poll ratings, with one poll in March 1983 putting Labour on 52%.

In contrast the Conservatives under Willie Whitelaw grew hopelessly divided between moderate, One-Nation figures such as Ian Gilmour and James Prior, and those inspired by the views of American Conservatives and the Chicago School of economists, such as Cecil Parkinson and Keith Joseph.

Labour Campaign

The Labour campaign focused on a strong economy, low unemployment and high public spending on public services.

Conservative Campaign

The conservative campaign was infamously muddled, with different factions of the party focusing on different issues. The divisions between left, right and centre of the party became more apparant as the campaign progressed, particularly on economic policy.

Liberal Campaign

The Liberals were still recovering from the Rinkagate scandal that had devasted the party in 1976.


The election was a landslide victory for the Labour party, and a huge disappointment for the conservatives. The Liberals managed a modest recovery, but still remained clearly a minority party.

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