United Kingdom general election, 1983

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UK Election Map 1983.png

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945.

The opposition vote split almost evenly between the SDP/Liberal Alliance and Labour. With its worst performance since 1918, the Labour vote fell by over 3 million from 1979 and this accounted for both a national swing of almost 4% towards the Conservatives and their larger parliamentary majority of 144, even though the Conservatives' total vote fell by almost 700,000.

Mrs Thatcher's first four years as prime minister of the United Kingdom had not been an easy time. Unemployment had rocketed in the first three years of her time in office as she battled to control inflation that had ravaged Britain for most of the 1970s. By the start of 1982, unemployment had passed the 3,000,000 mark - for the first time since before the Second World War - and the economy had been in recession for nearly two years. However, British victory in the Falklands War later that year sparked a dramatic rise in Tory popularity, and as Mrs Thatcher's new found popularity continued in 1983 the Tories were most people's firm favourites to win the election.[1]

The SDP-Liberal Alliance polled only a few votes behind the Labour Party but received considerably fewer seats. The Alliance gained over 25% of the popular vote, the largest such percentage for any third party since the 1923 general election. 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.

Labour leader Michael Foot, who had been at the helm since the resignation of James Callaghan (prime minister from 1976 to 1979) in late 1980, resigned soon after the election and was succeeded by Neil Kinnock. Although the election was one of the party's worst, the new crop of MPs included two future Labour Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The election night was broadcast live on the BBC, and was presented by Peter Snow, David Dimbleby and Robin Day.[2]


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