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UK general election, 1983

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1979 election
1983 election
1987 election
The general election of June 9, 1983 gave the Conservativess and Margaret Thatcher the second most decisive victory since 1945. Thatcher had been extremely unpopular during her first two years in office but following a swift and decisive victory in the Falklands War and reasonable improvements in the economy her reputation was transformed.

Michael Foot was elected leader of the Labour party in 1980, replacing Callaghan. Foot was a sign that the core of the party was swinging to the left and the move exacerbated divisions within the party. In 1981 a group of senior figures including Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rogers and Shirley Williams left Labour to found the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP agreed a pact with the Liberals for the 1983 elections and worked as The Alliance.

The campaign displayed the huge divisions between the two major parties. The Conservative's key issues were employment, economic growth and defence. Labour's Manifesto pledged to leave the EEC, abolish the House of Lords, abandon Britain's nuclear deterrent by cancelling Trident and removing Cruise - a heady mix of far left thinking, dubbed by Gerald Kaufman "the longest suicide note in history", "although, at barely thirty-seven pages, it only seemed interminable" noted Roy Hattersley. Over the campaign Labour were repeatedly forced to moderate their views, especially on defence.

On the day the opposition vote was almost evenly split between the Alliance and Labour. The Labour vote fell by over 3 million from 1979, with a national swing of almost 4% towards the Conservatives. The Conservative vote actually fell slightly but the disarray of their opponents gave them a majority of 144 and Labour had its worst performance since 1918.

Foot resigned soon after the election and was succeeded by Neil Kinnock.

Party Votes Seats Loss/Gain Share of Vote (%)
Conservative 13,012,316 397 + 58 42.4
Labour 8,456,934 209 - 60 27.6
Alliance 7,780,949 23 + 12 25.4
SNP 331,975 2 1.1
Ulster Unionist 259,952 11 + 5 0.8
Democratic Unionist 152,749 3 0.5
SDLP 137,012 1 0.4
Plaid Cymru 125,309 2 0.4
Sinn Fein 102,701 1 1 0.3
Alliance (NI) 61,275 0 0.2
Ecology 54,299 0 0.2
Independent 30,442 0 0.1
National Front 27,065 0 0.1
Popular Unionist 22,861 1 1 0.1
Independent Labour 16,447 0 0.1
Workers' 14,650 0 0.0
BNP 14,621 0 0.0
Independent Liberal 13,743 0 0.0
Communist 11,606 0 0.0
Independent Socialist 10,326 0 0.0
Independent Conservative 9,442 0 0.0
Independent Communist 4,760 0 0.0
WRP 3,798 0 0.0
Loony Society 3,015 0 0.0
Wessex Regionalist 1,750 0 0.0

Total votes cast: 30,661,309. All parties with more than 1,500 votes shown.

N.B. The Alliance vote is compared with the Liberal Party vote in the 1979 election.

The Independent Unionist elected in the 1979 election defended and held his seat for the Ulster Popular Unionist Party. The United Ulster Unionist Party dissolved and its sole MP did not restand.

The Independent Republican elected in the 1979 election died in 1981. In the ensuring by-election the seat was won by an Anti-H-Block/Armagh Political Prisoner who then died and was succeeded by an Anti-H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner. He defended and lost his seat standing for Sinn Fein who contested seats in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1959.

This election was fought under revised boundaries. One significant change was the increase in the number of seats allocated to Northern Ireland from 12 to 17.

See also MPs elected in the UK general election, 1983.