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Election Battles 1945-1997
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Feb
1974
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1979 1983 1987 1992 1997
1974 October: Wilson makes it four
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1974 October: Edward Heath
For Heath it was his third defeat as leader

Watch and listen 1974 Oct
The election results from BBC Television
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Harold Wilson talks up Labour's Social Contract
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Heath pitching for votes
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Wilson's after election speech
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1974 October: Thorpe pointing
Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe
 

This election campaign was the fourth between Edward Heath and Harold Wilson.

And it was a mark of the lack of voter interest in the leadership on offer that the two partiesí vote had slumped considerably from its highs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Heathís future rested on the outcome of this election. Should he fail he was all too aware that his political career would almost certainly be that of a backbencher, and yet his party failed to rally round.

Several key figures from his cabinet, including former prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home stepped down from frontline politics in the interregnum between elections.

And the future arch-Thatcherite Keith Joseph attacked the whole thrust of Heathís approach to the economy.

For Labour Harold Wilsonís position appeared much stronger. And his cabinet contained strong and well known figures such as Denis Healey, Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins. But not all was well.

Personalities in the government clashed over Europe. The strength of the anti-European bloc of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle and Peter Shore led to rumblings from such pro-Europeans as Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins that they might quit politics altogether should the planned referendum go against membership of the Common Market.