1983 United Kingdom General Election

Election for members of the British House of Commons
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United Kingdom general election, 1983
point in time
June 9, 1983
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Commons category
1983 United Kingdom general election
Wikipedia creation date
9/4/2002
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Wikipedia opening text
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of the Labour Party in 1945. Thatcher's first four years as Prime Minister had not been an easy time. Unemployment increased during the first three years of her premiership and the economy went through a recession. However, the British victory in the Falklands War led to a recovery of her personal popularity; the economy had also returned to growth. By the time Thatcher called the election in May 1983, the Conservatives were most people's firm favourites to win the general election. The resulting win earned the Conservatives their biggest parliamentary majority of the post-war era, and their second-biggest majority as a single-party government, behind only the 1924 election (they earned even more seats in the 1931 election, but were part of the National Government). The Labour Party had been led by Michael Foot since the resignation of former Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1980. They had fared well in opinion polls and local elections during this time, but issues developed which would lead directly to their defeat. Labour adopted a platform that was considered more left-wing than usual. Several moderate Labour MPs had defected from the party to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP); they then formed the SDP–Liberal Alliance with the existing Liberal Party. The opposition vote split almost evenly between the Alliance and Labour. With its worst electoral performance since 1918, the Labour vote fell by over 3 million votes from 1979 and this accounted for both a national swing of almost 4% towards the Conservatives and their larger parliamentary majority of 144 seats, even though the Conservatives' total vote fell by almost 700,000. This was the last general election until 2015 in which a governing party increased its number of seats. The Alliance finished in third place but came within 700,000 votes of out-polling Labour; by gaining 25.4% of the vote it won the largest percentage for any third party since sixty years prior. Despite this, it won only 23 seats, whereas Labour won 209. The Liberals argued that a proportional electoral system would have given them a more representative number of MPs. Changing the electoral system had been a long-running Liberal Party campaign plank, and would later be adopted by the Liberal Democrats. The election night was broadcast live on the BBC, and was presented by David Dimbleby, Sir Robin Day and Peter Snow. It was also broadcast on ITV, and presented by Alastair Burnet, Peter Sissons and Martyn Lewis. Three future leaders of the Labour Party (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Jeremy Corbyn) were first elected at this election – two went on to hold the office of Prime Minister, whilst Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015. Former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers, Joan Lestor and Tony Benn left Parliament as a result of this election, although Benn would return in a by-election the following year, and Lestor at the following general election. In addition, two future Leaders of the Liberal Democrats were first elected (Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy), and one of the Conservative Party (Michael Howard).
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