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Election Battles 1945-1997
Intro 1945 1950 1951 1955 1959 1964 1966 1970 1974
Feb
1974
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1979 1983 1987 1992 1997
1974 October: Wilson makes it four
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Overview
Battlefield
Campaign
Personalities
Issues
Results
1974 October: Hovercraft
Thorpe (centre) takes to his campaign hovercraft

Watch and listen 1974 Oct
The election results from BBC Television
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Harold Wilson talks up Labour's Social Contract
real 28k
Heath pitching for votes
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Wilson's after election speech
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What they spent
Conservatives
£950,000
Labour
£524,000

The Labour government pledges that within 12 months of this election we will give the British people the final say, which will be binding on the government - through the ballot box - on whether we accept the terms and stay in or reject the terms and come out [of Europe]
The Labour manifesto

Coalition would mean Con policies, Con leadership by a Con party for a con trick
Harold Wilson

Unprintable, unenforceable and applying to no one
Jeremy Thorpe on Labour’s ‘social contract’

The second election in less than a year was bound to be greeted with mixed feelings by the voters.

Predictable election fatigue was reflected by the decision of some broadcasters to cut back heavily on their amount of election coverage compared with February.

Interest was also muted by the opinion polls - the knife edge election contest which had taken place earlier in the year looked much more predictable with Labour opening up a strong lead.

Edward Heath attempted to catch the national mood by floating the idea of a government of ‘national unity’. But it was an idea that failed to take off as no Labour politician would serve under him and Heath seemed unprepared to make the supreme sacrifice and give up the premiership should he win.

The former Conservative MP Enoch Powell made his by now customary intervention in the election campaign. He called on his supporters to vote Labour - in order to win the chance to vote in a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EEC - while standing for the Ulster Unionists in South Down.

By the time the campaign had creaked to a halt a working Labour majority looked a good bet.