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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 graph

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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Party vote share
Out of the Commons
Gordon Campbell
Bernadette McAliskey
Enoch Powell
Richard Crossman
Tom Driberg
Patrick Gordon Walker

The results of the first election in 1974 were extraordinary. Not only was there a hung parliament, but for the second time since the war the party with most votes found itself the loser under the first-past-the-post system.

The Conservatives almost managed to hold on to power despite the hugely difficult conditions under which they fought the election. They polled 37.8% of the vote to Labourís 37.1%, Heath taking 297 seats to Wilsonís 301.

The Liberalsí share of the vote, 19.3%, saw them win just 14 seats - despite winning the support of over six million people.

The importance of this particular election - fought against the background of economic crisis - was reflected by the interest shown by the electorate as turnout rose to six points to 78.1%.

The nationalists in Scotland and Wales also made a clear breakthrough. The Scottish National Party won seven seats, while Plaid Cymru took two.

In a significant move for the Conservatives, in a situation where every seat counted, Heathís attempts to resolve the Troubles in Northern Ireland had led to the Unionist MPs being no longer willing to lend him their support.