1984 · members United Kingdom members · 1993
United Kingdom general election, 1988
All 650 seats in the House of Commons
9 June 1988
First party Second party Third party
102px DavidSteel1987 cropped Image
Leader Margaret Thatcher David Steel
(Liberal, above)
David Owen (SDP)
Neil Kinnock
Party Conservative Party (UK) SDP–Liberal_Alliance Labour Party (UK)
Leader since 11 February 1975 7 July 1976 (Steel)
21 June 1983 (Owen)
2 October 1983
Leader's seat Finchley Tweeddale (Steel)
Plymouth Devpt. (Owen)
Last election 443 seats, 40.4% 36 seats, 29.7%   150 seats, 25.3%
Seats won 392 123 112
Seat change 51 87 38
Popular vote 13,016,043 11,829,771 6,656,306
Percentage 39.5% 35.9% 20.2%
Swing 0.9% 5.1%

Previous PM
Margaret Thatcher
Conservative Party (UK)

Subsequent PM
Margaret Thatcher
Conservative Party (UK)

The 1988 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1988. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd Earl of Liverpool in 1820 to lead a party into three successive election victories. The Conservatives won a second landslide, although their majority was reduced from 207 to 134 seats.

The Conservatives ran a campaign focusing on lower taxes, a strong economy and defence. They also emphasized that unemployment had fallen and that inflation was at its lowest level (4%) in 20 years. Thatcher called the election soon after the Conservatives won good results in the 5 May local elections.

The previous election saw the Labour Party take less votes than the SDP-Liberal Alliance, though Labour had still won far more seats. This made it unclear which party was the primary challenger to Thatcher. The Alliance had finished in second place in the majority of constituencies and hoped to use these results (as well as by-election victories) as a springboard to gaining more seats. Under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, the Labour Party attempted to regain support by moving to the centre, but they suffered from internal divisions.

Due to the uneven distribution of economic growth in the country and tactical voting, Labour lost votes to the Alliance in constituencies Conservative-held constituencies in 1984. Likewise, there was a shift of votes from the Conservatives to the Liberals in Labour-held constituencies, but the former vote shift was stronger.

The Conservatives won nearly 1 million more votes than in 1984, though their vote share fell slightly due to increased turnout. Thatcher's government was decisively re-elected, with a net loss of 51 seats. The election was a big success for the SDP-Liberal Alliance, as they tripled their representation, narrowly overtaking Labour in terms of seats (though the difference in votes was far wider). Labour suffered the embarrassment of being pushed into third place and this led to the resignation of Kinnock as party leader.

In Northern Ireland, the main unionist parties maintained their alliance in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. However, the Ulster Unionists lost two seats to the Social Democratic and Labour Party. The election night was covered live on the BBC, and presented by David Dimbleby, Peter Snow, and Robin Day.

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