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Election Battles 1945-1997
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1974
Feb
1974
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1979 1983 1987 1992 1997
1974 February: On balance, Wilson wins
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Overview
Battlefield
Campaign
Personalities
Issues
Results
1974 February: Manifesto
Wilson (centre) styles himself a conciliator

Watch and listen 1974 Feb
The highlights of election night from BBC Radio 1
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The miners' strike: Political leaders call for a settlement
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Lancashire textile workers and the 3-day week
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Heath "needed the miners' strike says Wilson
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Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe after negotiations with Heath
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Harold Wilson on the inconclusive results
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What they spent
Conservatives
£680,000
Labour
£440,000

There are some people involved in the mining dispute who have made it clear that what they want is to bring down the elected government - not just this government but any government
Edward Heath

The campaign in February 1974 may have been the shortest post-war but it was packed with drama.

The fact that it was conducted under the energy saving policy of the three-day working week made it unusual in itself, although controls were relaxed slightly to allow full TV coverage of the election campaign.

Heath’s decision to ask the country whether the government or the miners should govern looked as if it could swing either way. With both Labour and Conservatives having far from illustrious recent records on the economy the voters showed their distaste by flirting with the nationalists and the Liberals.

This rejection of Wilson and Heath showed up most clearly when the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe defeated his two rivals when pollsters asked voters who they thought would make the best PM.

Thorpe’s party also saw its popularity rocket during the month long campaign, reaching the 20% mark.

The Tory strategy of focusing the campaign on industrial relations proved unsustainable after the first week and a half.

As the campaign continued a string of bad news stories on the economy dealt the Tories blow after blow.

Price rises looked out of control, the balance of trade deficit was massive and inflation continued to rise.

To cap it all, the high-profile Tory MP Enoch Powell intervened in the campaign in the final few days asking people to vote Labour, and so have a choice to withdraw from the Common Market in a planned referendum.