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United Kingdom general election, 1964
United Kingdom
1959 ←
members
15 October 1964 → 1966
members

All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 77%
  First party Second party Third party
  Harold Wilson Number 10 official.jpg Alec Douglas-Home (c1963).jpg
Leader Harold Wilson Alec Douglas-Home Jo Grimond
Party Labour Conservative Liberal
Leader since 14 February 1963 18 October 1963 5 November 1956
Leader's seat Huyton Kinross & Western Perthshire Orkney and Shetland
Last election 258 seats, 43.8% 365 seats, 49.4% 6 seats, 5.9%
Seats won 317 304 9
Seat change Increase 59 Decrease 61 Increase 3
Popular vote 12,205,808 12,002,642 3,099,283
Percentage 44.1% 43.4% 11.2%
Swing Increase 0.2% Decrease 6% Increase 5.3%

PM before election

Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Conservative

Subsequent PM

Harold Wilson
Labour

1955 election MPs
1959 election MPs
1964 election MPs
1966 election MPs
1970 election MPs

The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was won by the Labour Party with a majority of four seats. It was held on 15 October 1964, just over five years after the previous election, and 13 years after the Conservative Party had retaken power. Both major parties had changed leaders in 1963: after the sudden death of Hugh Gaitskell early in the year, Labour chose Harold Wilson (who was then thought of as being on the party's centre-left), while Sir Alec Douglas-Home (then the Earl of Home) had taken over as Conservative leader and prime minister in the autumn after Harold Macmillan announced his resignation. Douglas-Home shortly afterwards disclaimed his title under the Peerage Act 1963 in order to lead the party from the Commons.

Macmillan had led the Conservatives in government since January 1957 and despite initial popularity and a resounding election victory in 1959, had become increasingly unpopular in the early 1960s, and Douglas-Home faced a difficult task in rebuilding the party's popularity with just a year elapsing between taking office and having to face a general election. Wilson had begun to try to tie the Labour Party to the growing confidence of Britain in the 1960s, asserting that the "white heat of revolution" would sweep away "restrictive practices... on both sides of industry". The Liberal Party enjoyed a resurgence after a virtual wipeout in the 1950s and doubled its share of the vote, primarily at the expense of the Conservatives. Although Labour did not increase its vote share significantly, the fall in support for the Conservatives led to Wilson securing a overall majority of four seats.[1] This proved to be unworkable and Wilson called a snap election in 1966.

The election night was broadcast live by the BBC, and was presented by Richard Dimbleby, with Robin Day, Ian Trethowan, Cliff Michelmore and David Butler.[2]

Campaign[edit]

The pre-election campaign was prolonged, as Douglas-Home delayed calling a general election to give himself as much time as possible to improve the prospects of his party. The election campaign formally began on 15 September 1964 when Douglas-Home saw the Queen and asked for a dissolution of Parliament. The campaign was dominated by some of the more voluble characters of the political scene at the time. While George Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, toured the country making energetic speeches (and made the occasional gaffe), Quintin Hogg was a leading spokesman for the Conservatives. The image of Hogg lashing out at a Wilson poster with his walking stick was one of the most striking of the campaign. Many party speakers, especially at televised rallies, had to deal with hecklers: in particular Douglas-Home was treated very roughly at a meeting in Birmingham.

Opinion poll summary[edit]

NOP: Lab swing 3.5% (Lab majority of 12)
Gallup: Lab swing 4% (Lab majority of 23)
Research Services: Lab swing 2.75% (Con majority of 30)
Daily Express: Lab swing of 1.75% (Con majority of 60).[3]

Results[edit]

The election resulted in a very slim majority of four seats for the Labour Party, and led to them being in government for the first time since 1951. Labour achieved a swing of just over 3%, although its vote rose by only 0.2%. The main shift was the swing from the Conservatives to the Liberals of 5.7%. The Liberals won nearly twice as many votes as in 1959, partly because they had 150 more candidates. Wilson became Prime Minister, replacing Douglas-Home. The four-seat majority was not sustainable for a full Parliament, and Wilson called another general election in 1966. In particular, the small majority meant the government could not implement party policy of nationalising the steel industry, due to the opposition of two of its backbenchers, Woodrow Wyatt and Desmond Donnelly.

The election was also the only time in Britain's recent history when all seats were won by the three main parties: no minor parties, independents or splinter groups won any seats.

317 304 9
Labour Conservatives and Unionist allies Lib
UK general election 1964
Candidates Votes
Party Leader Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Labour Harold Wilson 628 317 65 6 + 59 50.3 44.1 12,205,808
  Conservative Alec Douglas-Home 630 304 5 66 - 61 48.3 43.4 12,002,642
  Liberal Jo Grimond 365 9 5 2 + 3 1.4 11.2 3,099,283
  Independent Republican N/A 12 0 0 0 0 0.4 101,628
  Plaid Cymru Gwynfor Evans 23 0 0 0 0 0.3 69,507
  SNP Arthur Donaldson 15 0 0 0 0 0.2 64,044
  Communist John Gollan 36 0 0 0 0 0.2 46,442
  Independent N/A 20 0 0 0 0 0.1 18,677
  Independent Liberal N/A 4 0 0 0 0 0.1 16,064
  Republican Labour Gerry Fitt 1 0 0 0 0 0.1 14,678
  Independent Conservative N/A 5 0 0 1 - 1 0.0 6,459
  British National John Bean 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 3,410
  Ind. Nuclear Disarmament Pat Arrowsmith 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,534
  Fellowship Ronald Mallone 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,112
  Patriotic Party Richard Hilton 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,108
  League of Empire Loyalists Arthur K. Chesterton 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,046
  Communist Anti-Revisionist Michael McCreery 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 899
  True Conservative John E. Dayton 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 709
  Agriculturalist N/A 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 534
  National Democratic David Brown 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 349
  Socialist (GB) None 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 322
  World Government Gilbert Young 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 318
  British and Commonwealth Miles Blair 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 310
  Christian Socialist None 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 265

All parties are shown. Conservative total includes Scottish Unionists, Ulster Unionists, and National Liberals.

Government's new majority 4
Total votes cast 27,657,148
Turnout 77%

Votes summary[edit]

Popular vote
Labour
  
44.1%
Conservative and Allies
  
43.4%
Liberal
  
11.2%
Independent
  
0.5%
Others
  
0.7%

Headline Swing: 3.1% to Labour

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Labour
  
50.3%
Conservative and Allies
  
48.3%
Liberal
  
1.4%
Others
  
0%

Regional Results[edit]

Great Britain[edit]

Party Votes % of vote Candidates Seats % of seats +/–
Labour 12,103,049 44.8 618 317
Conservative & Unionist 11,600,745 42.9 618 292
Conservative 10,292,974 38.1 599 286
Unionist 981,641 3.6 65 24
National Liberal 326,130 1.2 19 6
Liberal 3,081,929 11.4 361 9
Plaid Cymru 69,507 0.3 23 0 0.0 Steady
SNP 64,044 0.2 15 0 0.0 Steady
Communist 46,442 0.2 36 0 0.0 Steady
Other parties and independents 53,116 0.2 47 0 0.0
Total (turnout: 77.2%) 27,018,832 100.0 1,718 618 100.0 Steady
Did not vote 7,984,670
Registered voters 35,003,502
British population 52,608,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
England[edit]
Party Votes % of vote Candidates Seats % of seats +/–
Conservative & Unionist 10,106,028 44.1 511 262
Conservative 9,894,014 43.1 500 256
National Liberal 212,014 0.9 11 6
Labour 9,982,360 43.5 511 246
Liberal 2,775,752 12.1 323 3
Communist 24,824 0.1 22 0 0.0 Steady
Other parties and independents 48,287 0.2 42 0 0.0
Total (turnout: 77.0%) 22,937,251 100.0 1,409 511 100.0 Steady
Did not vote 6,867,376
Registered voters 29,804,627
English population 44,610,500
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
Scotland[edit]
Party Votes % of vote Candidates Seats % of seats +/–
Labour 1,283,667 48.7 71 43 60.6 Increase5
Conservative & Unionist 1,069,695 40.6 71 24 33.8 Decrease7
Unionist 981,641 37.3 65 24 33.8 Decrease1
National Liberal 88,054 3.3 6 0 0.0 Decrease6
Liberal 200,063 7.6 26 4 5.6 Increase3
SNP 64,044 2.4 15 0 0.0 Steady
Communist 12,241 0.5 9 0 0.0 Steady
Other parties and independents 4,829 0.2 5 0 0.0
Total (turnout: 77.6%) 2,634,539 100.0 197 71 100.0 Steady
Did not vote 759,352
Registered voters 3,393,891
Scottish population 5,209,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher
Wales[edit]
Party Votes % of vote Candidates Seats % of seats +/–
Labour 837,022 57.8 36 28 77.8
Conservative & Unionist 425,022 29.4 36 6 16.7
Conservative 398,960 27.6 34 6 16.7
National Liberal 26,062 1.8 2 0 0.0
Liberal 106,114 7.3 12 2 5.6
Plaid Cymru 69,507 4.8 23 0 0.0 Steady
Communist 9,377 0.6 5 0 0.0 Steady
Total (turnout: 80.1%) 1,447,042 100.0 112 36 100.0 Steady
Did not vote 358,453
Registered voters 1,805,495
Voting age population 1,805,925
Welsh population 2,676,400
Source: Rallings & Thrasher

Northern Ireland[edit]

Party Votes % of vote Candidates Seats % of seats +/–
Conservative & Unionist 401,897 63.0 12 12 100.0 Steady
Ulster Unionist Party
Labour 102,759 16.1 10 0 0.0 Steady
Independent Republican 101,628 15.9 12 0 0.0
Ulster Liberal 17,354 2.7 4 0 0.0
Republican Labour 14,678 2.3 1 0 0.0
Total (turnout: 71.7%) 638,316 100.0 12 100.0 Steady
Did not vote 252,236
Registered voters 890,552
Voting age population 891,043
Northern Irish population 1,458,000
Source: Rallings & Thrasher

Incumbents defeated[edit]

Conservative[edit]

Labour[edit]

Liberal[edit]

Televised declarations[edit]

These declarations were covered live by the BBC where the returning officer was heard to say "duly elected".

Constituency Winning party 1959 Constituency result 1964 by party Winning party 1964
Con Lab Lib Others
Cheltenham Conservative 19,797 14,557 7,568 Conservative hold
Salford West Labour 16,446 20,490 Labour hold
Billericay Conservative 35,347 33,755 10,706 Conservative hold
Exeter Conservative 18,035 16,673 8,815 Conservative hold
Battersea South Conservative 10,615 12,263 3,294 Labour gain
Liverpool Exchange Labour 7,239 16,985 Labour hold
Holborn and St Pancras South Conservative 13,117 15,823 226 Labour gain
North Devon Liberal 13,985 4,306 19,031 Liberal hold
Stockport South Conservative 13,718 16,755 7,107 Labour gain
Barons Court Conservative 14,800 15,966 2,821 Labour gain
Bolton West Liberal 13,522 16,519 10,086 Labour gain
Smethwick Labour 16,690 14,916 262 Conservative gain
Huyton Labour 22,940 42,213 899 Labour hold
Orpington Conservative 19,565 4,609 22,637 Liberal win
Torrington Conservative 16,889 5,867 14,831 Conservative hold
  • Orpington was won by the Liberals in a by-election in 1962 and held in the general election. When this happens, it is described as a "win" as opposed to a "gain" or "hold".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1964: Labour scrapes through BBC News
  2. ^ Election night 1964 results round-up
  3. ^ This summary of opinion poll findings from the last few days of the campaign is given early in the BBC's election night coverage.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barberis, Peter. "The 1964 General Election and the Liberals' False Dawn," Contemporary British History, (Sept 2007) 21#3 pp 373–387
  • Butler, David E. et al. The British General Election of 1964 (1965) the standard scholarly study
  • F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987
  • Denver, David. "The 1964 General Election: Explaining Voting Behaviour Then and Now," Contemporary British History (2007) 21#3 pp 295–307
  • Favretto, Ilaria. "'Wilsonism' reconsidered: Labour party revisionism 1952–64," Contemporary British History (2000) 14#4 pages 54–80 doi:10.1080/13619460008581603
  • Fielding, Steven. "Rethinking Labour's 1964 Campaign," Contemporary British History, (Sept 2007) 21#3 pp 309–324
  • Heppell, Timothy. "The Labour Party Leadership Election of 1963: Explaining the Unexpected Election of Harold Wilson," Contemporary British History, (2010) 24#2 pp 151–171
  • Morgan, Austen. Harold Wilson (1992) 625pp
  • Tomlinson, Jim. "It's the Economy, Stupid! Labour and the Economy, circa 1964," Contemporary British History, (Sept 2007) 21#3 pp 337–349
  • Wrigley, Chris. "Trade Unions and the 1964 General Election," Contemporary British History, (Sept 2007) 21#3 pp 325–335
  • Young, John W. "International Factors and the 1964 Election," Contemporary British History, (Sept 2007) 21#3 pp 351–371

External links[edit]

Manifestos[edit]


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