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United Kingdom general election, 1983: Map


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Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).

The 1983 UK general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945.

The opposition vote split almost evenly between the SDP/Liberal Alliance and Labour. With its worst performance since 1918, the Labour vote fell by over 3 million from 1979 and this accounted for both a national swing of almost 4% towards the Conservatives and their larger parliamentary majority of 144, even though the Conservatives' total vote did fall slightly.

Mrs Thatcher's first four years as prime minister of the United Kingdom had not been an easy time. Unemployment had rocketed in the first three years of her time in office as she battled to control inflation that had ravaged Britain for most of the 1970s. By the start of 1982, unemployment had passed the 3,000,000 mark - for the first time since before the Second World War - and the economy had been in recession for nearly two years. However, British victory in the Falklands War later that year sparked a dramatic rise in Tory popularity, and as Mrs Thatcher's new found popularity continued in 1983 the Tories were most people's firm favourites to win the election. [12232]

The SDP-Liberal Alliance polled only 675,985 votes behind the Labour Party but received 186 fewer seats. The Liberals argued that a proportional electoral system would have given them a more representative number of MPs. Changing the electoral system had been a long-running Liberal Party campaign plank and would later be adopted by the Liberal Democrats.

Labour leader Michael Foot resigned soon after the election and was succeeded by Neil Kinnock. Although the election was one of the party's worst, the new crop of MPs included two future prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.


The Conservatives won with a majority of 144 seats

Total votes cast: 30,661,309. All parties with more than 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 re-stand.

The Independent Republican elected in the 1979 election died in 1981. In the ensuring by-election the seat was won by Bobby Sands, 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 Féin who contested seats in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1959.

This election was fought under revised boundaries. The changes reflect those comparing to the notional results on the new boundaries. One significant change was the increase in the number of seats allocated to Northern Irelandmarker from 12 to 17.

Votes summary

Seats summary

Notional Election 1979

Following boundary changes in 1983, the BBC and ITN (Independent Television News) co-produced a calculation of how the 1979 general election would have gone if fought on the new 1983 boundaries. The following table shows the effects of the boundary changes on the House of Commons:

Background to Election 1983

Michael Foot was elected leader of the Labour party in 1980, replacing James Callaghan. The election of Foot signalled 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 Rodgers and Shirley Williams left Labour to found the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP agreed to a pact with the Liberals for the 1983 elections and stood as The Alliance.

The campaign displayed the huge divisions between the two major parties. Thatcher had been extremely unpopular during her first two years in office until the swift and decisive victory in the Falklands War, coupled with an improving economy, considerably raised her standings in the polls. The Conservatives' key issues included employment, economic growth, and defence. Labour's campaign manifesto involved leaving the European Economic Community, abolishing the House of Lordsmarker, abandoning the United Kingdommarker's nuclear deterrent by cancelling Trident and removing cruise missiles — a policy programme dubbed by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman as "the longest suicide note in history". "Although, at barely 37 pages, it only seemed interminable", noted Roy Hattersley. Pro-Labour political journalist Michael White, writing in The Guardian, commented, "There was something magnificently brave about Michael Foot's campaign — but it was like the Battle of the Somme."

The 1983 Election Campaign

Target Tables

Conservative Targets

  1. Isle of Wightmarker
  2. Oxford Eastmarker
  3. Cunninghame North
  4. Corbymarker
  5. Nottingham Eastmarker
  6. Hertfordshire West
  7. Mitcham and Mordenmarker
  8. Derbyshire Southmarker
  9. Leicestershire North Westmarker
  10. Southampton Itchenmarker
  11. Halifaxmarker
  12. Stockton Southmarker
  13. Lewisham Westmarker
  14. Edmontonmarker
  15. Stevenagemarker
  16. York
  17. Darlingtonmarker
  18. Ceredigion and Pembroke North
  19. Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber
  20. Bridgendmarker

Labour Targets

In order to regain an overall majority, Labour needed to make at least 65 gains.
  1. Birmingham Northfieldmarker
  2. Bury Southmarker
  3. Dulwich
  4. Liverpool Broadgreen
  5. Nottingham Southmarker
  6. Aberdeen Southmarker
  7. Stirlingmarker
  8. Hornchurchmarker
  9. Luton South
  10. Calder Valleymarker
  11. Pendlemarker
  12. Bolton North Eastmarker
  13. Cardiff Central
  14. Croydon North Westmarker
  15. Fulham
  16. Cambridgemarker
  17. Birmingham Erdingtonmarker
  18. Dudley West
  19. Welwyn Hatfieldmarker
  20. Glasgow Cathcart

Alliance Targets

  1. Roxburgh and Berwickshire
  2. Richmond and Barnes
  3. Montgomeryshiremarker
  4. Chelmsford
  5. Wiltshire North
  6. Cornwall Northmarker
  7. Herefordmarker
  8. Colne Valleymarker
  9. Gordonmarker
  10. Southportmarker
  11. Salisbury
  12. Devon North
  13. Gainsborough and Horncastlemarker
  14. Cornwall South Eastmarker
  15. Clwyd South West
  16. Liverpool Broadgreen
  17. Newbury
  18. Yeovil
  19. Pudsey
  20. Ross, Cromarty and Skye



See also


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