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Election Battles 1945-1997
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1974
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1979
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1979: The Thatcher era begins
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Overview
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Results
1979: graph

Watch and listen 1979
The election results from BBC Radio
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The BBC looks back at Harold Wilson’s career after he resigns
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Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher attacks the unions
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Prime Minister James Callaghan defends his policies
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Margaret Thatcher: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony”
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Party vote share
Out of the Commons
Jeremy Thorpe
Shirley Williams
Barbara Castle

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives strolled into Downing Street with a solid Commons majority.

They took 339 seats to Labour’s 269, while the Liberals won just 11 seats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists totalled just four seats between them.

Under her leadership the party had polled over 13.6 million votes, three million more than last time.

Labour, battered by a series of political and economic storms, took three million fewer than the Tories, achieving its lowest share of the vote since before the war.

The turnout was high - usually a benefit for Labour - but the swing to the Conservatives was significant at around 5% nationally, although it was much heavier in the south east of England.

The Conservatives had benefited by securing the votes of many women, but perhaps even more worrying for Labour’s long-term future it had lost the majority of working class votes and many union members also left Labour, voting instead for the Tories.

The Scottish National Party - which had been instrumental in the calling of the election - lost nine of its seats, leaving only two, while Plaid Cymru was down one, on two seats.

The racist National Front made its largest ever appearance at a general election, fielding over 300 candidates but returning no MPs.