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1977: Government wins no confidence vote

The government has survived a vote of "no confidence" in the House of Commons thanks to support from the Liberals.

The 13 Liberals voted in support of the government after a deal was made between Prime Minister James Callaghan and David Steel, the leader of the Liberals.

In return the Liberal Party will be able to scrutinise future government policies and contribute their own policy proposals as part of a joint consultation committee to be overseen by the Leader of the House Michael Foot.


"This government is more concerned to cling to office than it is to seek the verdict of the people"

Margaret Thatcher, leader of the opposition

Had the Labour government lost the vote a general election could have been called within a matter of weeks.

The government won the vote, which was motioned by the Conservatives, by 322 votes to 298.

Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party said the vote "showed clearly that this government is more concerned to cling to office than it is to seek the verdict of the people.

"They have concluded a shadowy deal with the Liberal MPs based on one single identity of interest - the common dread of facing a general election," she added.

Three Ulster Unionists abstained from the vote and two Scottish Labour MPs voted against the government, one other party member was unable to vote due to illness.

The four members of the Labour cabinet who expressed doubts about the union with the Liberals all voted in support of Mr Callaghan after he told them to make up their minds and advised them to think of the good of the party.

Under the agreement the consultation committee will meet every week and the Liberal's economic spokesman will have weekly meetings with the chancellor.

However, the agreed document also states "the existence of this committee will not commit the government to accept the views of the Liberal Party, or the Liberal Party to supporting the government on any issue."

In Context
In March 1979 the government was beaten by a vote of no confidence motioned by the Conservatives.

It followed the so called Winter of Discontent where power cuts and strikes led to a loss of support for the government.

In May 1979 there was a general election and the Conservatives came to power.

Their leader, Margaret Thatcher, became the first female Prime Minister in British history.

James Callaghan stepped down as leader of the Labour party in 1980 but remained active in politics. He became a member of the House of Lords until his death on 26 March 2005.


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